2016 Mazda MAZDA3 Driving Impressions

The driving experience is very satisfying overall with the athletic Mazda3. On paper, the power with the 2.5-liter engine isn’t the best in the class. However, with either engine or transmission, the responsiveness is better than that of most compact cars, as the driver is never caught without enough power. The throttle response is consistent, unlike some cars that sometimes are either too slow or too quick on the draw with the gas pedal.

The handling dynamics are excellent in hairpins, the suspension doesn’t allow much body motion, and the disc brakes inspire confidence. However there’s a lot of noise and harshness in the cabin.

The electric power steering is one of the better systems in this class. It feels precise most of the time, with a strong sense of center at lower speeds but not on the freeway where the steering requires adjustments from the driver. Also, on steeply crowned roads, it doesn’t do well.

The transmissions seem well-suited to the engines. The manual gearbox is neat and precise like the automatic, with a clutch that’s easy and clean. Mazda3 2.5s comes with the 6-speed automatic, and paddles for shifting, which is great because the transmission shifts with the precision and confidence of a dual-clutch system. There’s a tall overdrive that keeps the rpm down near 2000 at 70 mph. However the ratios leave a noticeable gap between first and second.

There is a Sport mode for quicker throttle response and later gearshifts. That Sport mode also relaxes the stability control, giving the driver more control over the car when driving hard.

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