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From Edmunds.com
2016 Mazda  Mazda3 Picture
PROS
  • Precise handling when going around turns
  • Very good fuel economy
  • Quick acceleration
  • Top crash test scores
  • Refined interior with intuitive controls
  • Available hatchback body style
  • Many advanced features are available
CONS
  • Above-average wind noise
  • Ride quality can be choppy with the optional 18-inch wheels

If you're shopping for a compact sedan or hatchback these days, you're likely expecting it to be fuel-efficient, reliable, safe, roomy and packed with the latest features and technology. At this price point, a lot of cars can meet these requirements, but only a few can do it and offer an engaging driving experience. The 2016 Mazda 3 happens to be one of the few.

The 2016 Mazda 3 brings a sporty touch to the compact car segment.

It starts with what's under the hood. Both the standard 2.0-liter and upgrade 2.5-liter engines deliver high fuel economy, yet they're also powerful enough to make the Mazda 3 one of the quicker cars in its class. Once you're on the move, you'll find most versions of the 3 ride comfortably, but when the road gets twisty, the 3's carefully tuned, borderline-telepathic steering works in unity with the well-sorted suspension to deliver unrivaled driving dynamics. The Mazda 3 also stands out from the crowd with its extensive list of standard and available features and upscale interior design.

Of course, there are a lot of great choices in the compact car class this year. The similarly sporty 2016 Ford Focus is a solid alternative to the 3, with sedan and hatchback body styles also available in addition to a high-performance ST version. The updated 2016 Honda Civic is roomy and comfortable, while the 2016 Kia Forte offers a wide range of features at an attractive price. But for a car that can do everything well and liven up your day with an entertaining drive, the Mazda 3 stands as the best.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016

For the 2016 Mazda 3, the SV trim level has been dropped, so the 3i Sport trim is now the base model. Mazda has also added more standard features this year. A rearview camera is on every Mazda 3, while automatic headlights, automatic wipers and a sunroof are standard on trim levels higher than Sport. A manual transmission is no longer offered on the 3s Touring.

2016 Mazda  Mazda3 Picture

TRIMS & EQUIPMENT

The 2016 Mazda 3 is available in four-door sedan and hatchback body styles. Both are available in 3i (2.0-liter four-cylinder) and 3s (2.5-liter four-cylinder) models that are broken into different trims.

The versatile 2016 Mazda 3 is available as a hatchback or sedan with two engine and transmission choices.

The base 3i Sport comes with 16-inch steel wheels, power-folding mirrors, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a 7-inch touchscreen display with knob-based controller, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and voice controls. On the entertainment front, there is a six-speaker audio system with a USB port, an auxiliary input, HD radio and smartphone-enabled internet radio. The available Preferred Equipment package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, premium cloth upholstery, a rear-seat armrest, automatic headlights, automatic windshield wipers and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alerts.

The 3i Touring includes all features from the 3i Sport's Preferred Equipment package and adds foglights, a sunroof, a rear lip spoiler (on the sedan), keyless ignition and entry and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The optional Popular Equipment package adds dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a CD player, satellite radio and a premium nine-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system.

The 3i Grand Touring expands upon the Popular Equipment package, adding a six-way power driver seat (with manual lumbar adjustment), heated front seats, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery and a navigation system.

The 3s Touring takes those features and adds a more powerful engine, 18-inch wheels, a gloss-black grille insert, a digital speedometer, a head-up display and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

The 3s Grand Touring completes the lineup with adaptive xenon headlights, LED taillights and daytime running lights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and full leather upholstery. The Technology package includes the i-Eloop regenerative braking system, active grille shutters, a forward collision warning and mitigation system, a lane-departure warning system, automatic high-beam headlight control and adaptive cruise control.

2016 Mazda  Mazda3 Picture

INTERIOR & SAFETY

The interior of the 2016 Mazda 3 is one of the best in its class. During our long-term test of a 2014 Mazda 3, the cabin was frequently praised for its intuitive layout and high-quality panels, materials and switches. Certain features, like a head-up display, adaptive headlights and adaptive cruise control are simply not offered in many of the Mazda 3's competitors.

Quality materials in the 2016 Mazda 3 eclipse those of its competitors.

All Mazda 3 trim levels come with a color display mounted atop the dash and a knob-type controller on the center console, much like those found in pricier cars like Audis. Mazda actually goes a step further by making that display a touchscreen. This added level of redundancy helps make this electronics interface easy to figure out and use on a daily basis, although the touchscreen capability is disabled while the vehicle is in motion. Overall, it's one of the better systems out there.

An available hatchback body style increases the 2016 Mazda 3's comparatively small cargo space.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the sporty bolstering nicely complements the car's nimble handling abilities. The rear seats also have some contouring to them, but all-around space is pretty average. Competing sedans like the Toyota Corolla or Volkswagen Jetta offer more room for adults to get comfortable or to install bulky child car seats. The sedan's 12.4-cubic-foot trunk is a bit small for the class. The hatchback, meanwhile, offers 20.2 cubic feet behind its rear seat, while folding the seats yields 47.1 cubic feet. Both are average figures.

Standard safety equipment on the 2016 Mazda 3 includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, a rearview camera, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts comes standard on Touring and Grand Touring models. The available Technology package for the 3s Grand Touring includes a lane departure warning system, forward collision warning and Mazda's Smart City Brake Support, which is a forward collision mitigation system that can automatically brake the car to a stop at low speeds if the driver doesn't react to an imminent collision.

In Edmunds testing, a Mazda 3i Grand Touring hatchback came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet, while a 3s GT did it in 121 feet. Both are average numbers for the segment.

In government crash testing, the 2016 Mazda 3 received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for total frontal crash protection and five stars for total side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 3 the highest possible rating of "Good" in its moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset crash tests. The 3 also earned a "Good" rating for the side-impact, roof-strength and seats and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests.

2016 Mazda  Mazda3 Picture

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

The 2016 Mazda 3i models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. In Edmunds testing of a Mazda 3i sedan with the automatic transmission, we recorded an 8.3-second 0-60-mph time, which is quicker than average for this class of car.

The EPA's estimated fuel economy is also excellent. The sedan checks in at 34 mpg combined (30 city/41 highway) with the automatic transmission. The sedan with the manual earns just slightly less at 33 mpg combined (29/41), and you can expect similar numbers for the 3i hatchback. On the 116-mile Edmunds.com evaluation route, the 3i hatchback with the manual transmission returned 39.4 mpg.

Mazda 3s models get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine generating 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. The 3s Touring comes standard with the six-speed automatic transmission, while the 3s GT comes with the manual standard and has the automatic as an option. A Mazda 3s hatchback achieved a 0-60-mph time of 7.5 seconds, which puts it near the top of its class. With the 2.5-liter engine and the manual transmission, in both the sedan and hatchback, the EPA estimates 29 mpg combined (25/37 for the sedan and 26/35 for the hatch). Paired with the six-speed automatic, the 3s achieves an estimated 32 mpg combined (28/39) in four-door configuration and 31 mpg combined (27/37) as a hatchback.

The available 2.5-liter engine gives the 2016 Mazda 3 a 0-60-mph time of 7.5 seconds, making it one of the quickest compact cars.

Optional for the 3s is the "i-Eloop" system that captures and redistributes braking energy. So equipped, fuel economy rises to 33 mpg combined (29/40) on the sedan and 32 mpg combined (28/39) with the automatic.

While it sounds a little raspy under hard acceleration, the Mazda 3's base engine is powerful enough to make the 3 one of the quickest cars in its class. But if you're at all passionate about driving, it's going to be tempting to pay a little extra for the 2.5-liter engine. There is a negligible impact to fuel economy, and the bigger engine is even stronger and smoother than the 2.0-liter. No matter which one you pick, the automatic transmission is superb, with quick shifts and rev-matched downshifts.

The 3 has more character than the average economy car and is the driver's choice in this segment. The exceptionally well-tuned steering and suspension encourage the driver to tackle even the tightest corners, and the car's refined and substantial ride quality make it enjoyable for highway travel as well. Equipped with 18-inch wheels and tires, the Mazda 3s models trade some road comfort for handling performance, as the ride can be bumpy and stiff over rough pavement.

VERDICT

Are you looking for a small sedan or hatchback that does more than just serve as basic transportation? The versatile 2016 Mazda 3 offers powerful yet fuel-efficient engines, sporty driving dynamics and a comfortable ride. Read more to learn what else makes the 3 one of our top choices.

Copyright Edmunds.com, Inc. All rights reserved. First published on www.edmunds.com and reprinted with permission. Edmunds and the Edmunds.com car logo are registered trademarks of Edmunds.com, Inc.
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