2017 Mazda 3 Driving Impressions

The standard 2.0-liter engine is reasonably perky, with a consistent and linear throttle pedal, but it has a high torque curve (max torque 150 lb-ft), so the power doesn’t come on strong until 4000 rpm.

The power in the 2.5-liter is more available at lower rpm, while the torque max is 185 lb-ft. The 2.5 liter never gets caught flat-footed. Literally, as throttle pedal is hinged at the bottom like the pedals of an organ (or a Mercedes-Benz).

A 6-speed manual gearbox comes standard with either engine. It snicks neatly and precisely between gears, and the clutch take-up is easy and clean. We also like the 2.5-liter engine with 6-speed automatic transmission because it shifts with paddles, and with the decisiveness of a dual-clutch transmission.

The ride is a bit busier than most compact cars, and a bit harsh. We’ve found it’s smoother with the standard 16-inch wheels and tires.

The electric power steering, like other steer-by-wire systems, does not enhance dynamic driving due to its lack of feedback to driver, and the electro-hydraulic system in the previous generation was better in that regard. The new system offers a strong sense of center at lower speeds and out of corners, but it doesn’t do well on oddly crowned roads, and it doesn’t track all that well at highway speeds, calling for frequent small adjustments to keep the car straight. (Some of that could be due to tires.)

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