2016 Mazda3 i Grand Touring – a sweet-driving machine
My best gift during this holiday season was the opportunity to drive a 2016 Mazda3 i Grand Touring, a luscious blue reflex mica four-door front-wheel-drive sedan with a business-like black interior. At mid-point in the Mazda3 model lineup the i Grand Touring sedan has everything I want in a car.
Blessed with Mazda’s 2-liter Skactiv-G 4-cylinder engine that uses direct injection to produce 155 horsepower at 6000 rpm and a near-identical 150 lb-ft of torque at 4000, the engine happily revs to its 6800 rpm redline – yet still uses regular unleaded fuel. It’s rated at 29/41/33 from its ample 13.2-gallon tank.
In this case the engine is mounted to a silky smooth, short-throw 6-speed manual transmission with shift points that are perfect for Los Angeles County’s cut-and-thrust daily traffic and over the road travels. I never grew tired of using all three pedals during this week-long encounter.
Mazda’s chassis are known for being tight and responsive. With MacPherson strut and multilink suspensions front and rear, accompanied by stabilizer bars, this is a driver’s car that lacks the harshness one might expect from a performance-oriented, “zoom’zoom” sedan. Its brakes are superb all-wheel-disc units and Mazda completes the goodness quotient with electric power assisted steering that has no numbness, unusual in that category. This car has Bridgestone 205/60R rubber on 16-inch 10-spoke alloy rims.
Where it pertains to size and weight, Mazda has perfected the lightweight but strong theory, with the Mazda3 i Grand Touring coming in at 2869 pounds. The Mazda has doors that close solidly and seams that are uniform throughout, showing no corners were cut to attain the right package. Cargo volume is an enviable 12.4 cubic feet of usable space, with 60/40 folds to assist in luggage carrying and a mini-spare below the carpeted floor.
Mazda has tidied the cabin of its Mazda3 mid-size sedan and includes, on this model, an 8-inch navigation screen, free-mounted at dash-central. Navigation is standard on the 2016 i Grand Touring editions of the Mazda3 as is satellite radio, free for four months, along with a dual-mode sunroof. In fact, the car driven here only has a single billable option on it, floor mats, giving the 2016 Mazda3 i Grand Touring a list price of $23,435 complete.
Leatherette seating is comfortable and handsome in black with red piping. Power seating is provided for the driver, albeit with manual lumbar adjustments; passengers fend for themselves. Door storage exists solely to contain bottles or cans; Mazda does have a central covered bi-level tunnel storage container with a removal, carpeted upper tray and single 12V, USB. auxiliary plugs and the SD slot for navigation. It does have a grippy floor to contain phones. There’s a single seat-back storage for rear passengers but no air outlets.
The steering wheel contains customary settings for audio, trip info and phone on the left and cruise control on the right. My iPhone is easily paired and the master cruise control can remain on through several drives. Mazda fits excellent lights on the Mazda3 i Grand Touring and fog lights are included. There are carbon fiber accents about the cabin that inform the driver this isn’t just another jellybean shaped compact sedan; it’s a Mazda. The company’s gaping smile grille out front also stands out from the crowd.
While I’m definitely a Mazda fan and have owned their cars in the past, I do have some quibbles. I don’t understand why, even though Mazda includes a multi-media wheel at the base of the tunnel for navigation, why it uses a stand-up Garmin unit instead of placing navigation safely in the dash. It’s inconsistent with the rest of the car which is elegant and refined. It’s not a terribly intuitive system either. I also lament that it’s difficult to see ancillary gauges (like the tachometer and fuel gauge) in direct sunlight.
On the plus side, this is a great driving car, as are all Mazda vehicles, and I truly believe that Mazda has hit a lot of positive points in this compact segment. For convenience there’s the ability to keep the key in my pocket at all times, signals and blind-side warnings in the mirrors, a clear and crisp backup camera, a separate button for audio and lots of soft plastics throughout the cabin.
When I sold and serviced BMW cars, we used to say that Mazda vehicles were for the folks that couldn’t quite afford to buy Bimmers. Not much has changed over the years as Mazda cars kept pace with technology and has refined driving experiences. Rather than looking at the same ol’ compact sedans, take a look at the Mazda3 i Grand Touring – it’s a major player.
Words and Photos By Anne Proffit