- Phenomenal exterior
- Perky performance
- Good base equipment
- Solid safety record
- Relatively disappointing interior
- Small-ish space
- Mixed interior materials
The 2017 Mazda 3 is near the top of our favorite compact cars on sale today. It's good performance, good fuel economy, and good value make for a very good car.
The 2017 Mazda 3 improves on what made the compact car endearing in the first place. Its looks have only gotten better after a subtle interior and exterior refresh, and its drivability improves in several small areas, rather than a wholesale engine change or remapped sport button.
Whether starting at the budget Sport model, or opting for a Touring or Grand Touring edition, the Mazda 3 is a compelling package against other small-sizers.
We give the 2017 Mazda 3 an overall score of 7.5 out of 10 for its good looks, spunky performance, and fuel efficient powertrains. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
This year's Mazda 3 improves on one of the car's best attributes: it's outward style. This year's new front bumper shapes the lower fascia a little better than last year's models and directs eyes toward a slightly better nose and grille that keep their sleek appearances. In back, a new lower bumper for hatchback models removes some of the cladding we didn't much care for, and the interior layout received a very slight once over to make it a little sharper.
The Mazda 3's bright performance and overall responsiveness have remained, thanks to Mazda leaving well enough alone. Sport and Touring models make do with a 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. Grand Touring models (and a version of the Touring hatchback) get a bigger 2.5-liter inline-4 with more punch (184 hp) and more twist (185 lb-ft).
Both engines can be mated to either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission that makes the most of the available power.
The Mazda 3 succeeds in getting all the little things right to make a big difference. For 2017, the automaker has added an additional power control that modulates torque based on steering wheel input. We'll admit that we're skeptical about the overall impact, but history tends to be in Mazda's favor here.
Comfort, safety, and features
The Mazda 3's shortcomings show up in its overall size (it's a compact car, after all) and some of its materials (it costs less than $20,000 to start, after all). For 2017, Mazda says it has added more sound isolation material, which should help quiet the ride down a little.
We say the front seats are generally good and supportive, with plenty of cushioning for long legs. We've noticed some suspect material in the headliner and door inserts that feel decidedly bargain-bin, but in other places the Mazda 3 shines with quality materials. (We suggest a Marxist approach in a more equal distribution of wealth in this car.)
The Mazda 3's impressive safety scorecard and advanced safety features make it one of the safer picks in the segment. Both federal testers and the IIHS agree that it's a safe pick—the latter dubbed it a Top Safety Pick+—and the Touring and Grand Touring models come standard with blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking. All versions come with a standard rearview camera.
Other safety measures such as active lane control and automatic headlights are also available.
In base Sport configuration, the Mazda 3 offers 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, power doors and windows, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless ignition, a rearview camera, steering-wheel mounted stereo controls, internet radio streaming, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen for its infotainment controls.
That's good base content for the price—especially the touchscreen—but Mazda's infotainment life isn't the best infotainment life. We'd implore the automaker to visit the Apple store and adopt the popular user interface system in its cars, but maybe that letter hasn't been delivered yet?