Five First Impressions: New Mazda3 2.5 Grand Touring

If you’re Mazda, you should be screaming and shouting about your cars.

You should be making passionate pleas to those who think modern cars are boring and all the fun is gone. After all, they can even make an enormous three-row SUV at least somewhat entertaining. If life were fair, there’d be a Mazda3 on every corner, because it’s a relatively inexpensive car that’s still fun to drive in every situation.

Instead, Mazda made a bunch of changes this year to its compact entry in the hopes of chasing a more premium clientele. I’ve been driving a 2017 Mazda3 in 2.5-liter Grand Touring trim. Here are some other thoughts about it.

Never change

Mazda gave the 3 a mid-life facelift for 2017, but I dare you to spot the changes. Apparently the grille, headlights and rear bumper were changed, but apart from the lights, it’s hard to tell a 2016 and 2017 version apart even when placed side by side. That’s fine, because even though the current 3 debuted nearly four years ago, it still looks good and more expensive than its rivals.

Odds and ends

The refresh budget was clearly spent mostly on the interior, where the 3 feels a little more grown-up than before. But while the CX-9 got upgraded gauges, the 3’s dials and infotainment screen still feel dated. And the redesigned center console means my elbow no longer has a comfortable spot on the armrest.

Joy of driving

Go for the standard six-speed manual on this s model with the 2.5-liter four, however, and your right arm will be plenty entertained. The shifter is still a joy to use and the 3 is a very happy car. Somehow, Mazda can make a mainstream car that makes even afternoon commutes in LA tolerable.

Ease of use

Part of that joy comes from how easy the 3 is to drive. It’s pretty impossible to stall it, even if you’re a terrible manual driver. Every new driver should learn on this car.

Attack hatched

But the 3’s not the only hatch game in town anymore. The 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback is wonderfully refined and efficient, and costs roughly the same as the Mazda. So does the Chevy Cruze Hatch, based on the surprisingly refined sedan. Skip the optional automatic transmission to avoid hitting $30,000, but the 3 can get far from cheap.

Still, it’s always a blast to be in this car and a reminder it doesn’t have to be a hot hatch to be a fun hatch. What questions do you have about the 2017 Mazda3? Sound off in the comments.

Photos: Zac Estrada, Mazda

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  • WG

    I read that a lot of reviewers are split on the issue of noise insulation. Is Mazda’s improvement to reduce cabin noise noticeable compare to the pre-facelift model?

    • Pauly

      No it’s not. Mazda is most of the most popular car brands in Australia. With the Mazda 3 being one of the best selling cars. And Noise Vibration and Harshness (NVH) was a big problem and still is.

      Apparently the CX-9 is the only Mazda on sale that has its NVH sorted. Here’s hoping the upcoming CX-5 and future 3 and 6 models follow in the CX-9 footsteps.

    • Matthijs

      We had a 2003 Mazda3 and we loved it but after a few years the NVH got to us. It was just uncomfortable. Mazda has been struggling with it for way too long

      • CarbonPhiber

        If it was 2003, then you had a Mazda Protege, not a Mazda3. And, yes, back then NVH was an issue because those cars were very basic, yet good, metal boxes with little to no sound insulation and an old iron block 4cyl. Saying that, I had a 2003 Protoge5 for 12 years, the precurser to the Mazda3, and it was an incredibly good driving/handling car. Of course, it rusted into oblivion. But nothing built today could turn like that car, save maybe a Lotus..

        • Matthijs

          not everyone is from the US 😉 We bought the 1st generation new in november 2003. Very basic is a strong word though.. plus there were (European) competitors from that year that were much more quiet.

    • Aj

      the ride noise in my brand new Mazda3 is considerably better than the previous generation Mazda3 hatch that I just traded. I love my new car, it’s a huge leap forward by comparison. Much love has gone into this car and it shows

  • ctk4949

    Did they really get rid of the center arm rest?!?!

    • Matthijs

      No it is just shaped differently.

  • NICE.

  • Tex

    Mazda will never get the due respect by building inexpensive, underpowered and noisy cars. It is time to move to the 200+ horses for all their models and I dare say some should be in the 300+. It is a game for wannabes out there, and Mazda has to play its part.

    • SteersUright

      I agree. At least in the USA, Americans like cars with powerful engines. Its good that Mazda has the thrifty-fun category covered, but when the Accord (vs Mazda6), Escape (vs CX-5), Golf (vs Mazda3), even Yaris(!) and other competitors all offer bigger engines, Mazda leaves this part of the market out to dry. For such a tiny company, the CX-9 is truly an amazing effort as are most of its cars. But its becoming clear Mazda needs to find a or some big buck investors to back some further R&D into ride quality (NVH) and additional engine/motor technology development. They’re also the only ones without a dedicated hybrid, electric vehicle (forgetting even Hydrogen). I think most of us would love to see Mazda do well. Hope they get it figured out sooner than later.

    • Lucas Vigor

      Mazdaspeed 3.

  • CharmOffensive

    I just purchased a 2017 Mazda 3 Grand Touring with the Premium Equipment Package and iActiveSense. I have found driving it to be very quiet for the most part. From Mazda – “Mazda3 is back in the competition within its segment with a quieter cabin environment for the 2017 model year. With added noise suppression and a retuned suspension, Mazda3 provides a 3db quieter ride at 25 mph over rough roads, complementing Mazda3’s redesigned, upscale interior.”

    • Aaronius

      i have a 2016. no problems.

  • Zack

    Why can’t they bring the Mazda speed3 and speed6 back. Those are what I want to see, new versions of the old AWD turbo charged beast that they used to be instead of these pussy wanna be luxury cars… Sad to see Mazda go way of the forgotten but that’s where they are headed….

    • Lucas Vigor

      The speed is one of the most unique and awesome cars ever built. I am s huge fan!

  • Aayush Gupta

    Thanks for the great first impressions. I have a mazda 3 2014, hence my question is if the improvements in the 2017 warrent or even worth an upgrade?

  • Sean

    The one issue I’m not hearing enough addressed at all by reviewers or Mazda at all is the lack of intention to bring Android Auto or Apple to their lineup of vehicles. Having recently purchased a 2016 Mazda 6 I had hoped this issue would have some answers soon yet all I hear is crickets. Now that my wife is considering a new vehicle as well, I will need to look at alternatives that are offering better smart phone interface.

    • The-Fez

      All we have for now is “coming soon.” How soon? Nobody knows.

    • Robbstar

      Not much experience with other makes but my new 2017 Mazda3 HB GT literally synced itself to my iPhone and does so through Bluetooth every time I sit down to drive. My music from my Apple Music subscription automatically starts playing, and the Bose audio surround sounds killer. Hope this helps.

      • Sean

        My 2016 model does as well, but that’s not complete compatibility with Android Auto or Apple.

  • Sukhoi31m3

    Part of Mazdas’ problem with NVH is the tires they put on the cars. My last Mazdaspeed 3 had Dunlops on it and they were the sorriest tire I’ve ever encountered. Switching to Continental DWS tires transformed the car. Quieter, smoother riding with little loss in steering feel. I was looking at a Mazda 6 on line recently and what do I see? Those lousy Dunlop tires, which of course means I’d have to add $800 to the price of the car to get rid of them. Note to Mazda: look to names like Michelin, Continental or Bridgestone for your new car
    tire suppliers…

    • Lucas Vigor

      I am using hankook evos right now, do you have the exact name/number of those continentals? I agree, the stock dunlops were expensive, but not great.

  • caruso81

    Manual transmission in L.A. traffic? Are you insane?

    Have you ever noticed that the only people who actually care about manual transmissions are auto writers? Normal people realize that modern automatics can shift faster and more efficiently than humans and that 90% of driving is not done on some twisty mountain road on your way to a ski chalet.

    • Lucas Vigor

      A stick is a great anti-theft device. I prefer it. Stop and go traffic sucks, though

    • Joseph Ditchkus

      You can keep your 2/10th’s of a second faster shift of an automatic.
      “Normal” people who don’t have a passion for driving, and want a modern lazyman auto are not Mazda’s target demographic. Mazda makes cars for driving enthusiasts.
      Many of us enjoy driving manuals because they keep the driver engaged and simply bring us pleasure. There are more than enough cars out there for you and others to drive and have faster, non-human, controlled, and slightly faster shifting transmissions.

  • Aaronius

    It really is insane that everybody isn’t driving the Mazda3. The company is having a genuine, bona-fide moment of automotive excellence, and the Mazda3 is probably Mazda’s best representation of what they’re all about. It’s like being in 1984, having the means to buy a BMW 325i…and NOT buying one.

    Seriously. the 2L model is the Integra that Acura stopped making. Hell, the 2.5 GT is the LEGEND that Acura stopped making.