The 2017 Mazda 3 is a compelling value, even among competitors that offer compact sedans with an impressive number of features.
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 an impressive list of features, especially the touchscreen, which would garner a 7 out of 10 on our scale for base equipment. So how'd we get down to 6? Mazda's infotainment isn't very intuitive and can be frustrating to use. We deducted a point for the less-than-friendly system and hope Mazda catches up with the rest of the industry in offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as a quick fix. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Aside from infotainment quibbles, the Mazda 3 is well-equipped for a car that costs less than $30,000.
Stepping up to Touring models adds 18-inch wheels, body-colored side mirrors, dual-zone air conditioning, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, and a suite of advanced safety equipment that we cover separately starting at $22,330 for the sedan or $23,080 for the hatchback.
Grand Touring models sit atop of the pile and boast a head-up display, leather seats, an upgraded Bose stereo, and a bigger 2.5-liter inline-4 under the hood.
Mazda's made some changes to its optional packages that better aligns with buyers' habits and should streamline shopping for the car.
A $1,000 preferred options package adds blind-spot monitors, premium cloth seats, and automatic headlights for Sport models. A popular options package adds a moonroof, upgraded stereo, satellite radio, and decklid spoiler for $1,500 on Touring models. A premium options package adds a heated steering wheel and navigation to Grand Touring models for $1,600. Grand Touring models can also add active lane control, and automatic emergency braking for $1,100 or a regenerative braking system, dubbed i-ELOOP, for $800. We don't recommend the latter package only because it doesn't demonstrably improve fuel-efficiency numbers.
The navigation system is clear and straightforward, and we like the point-of-interest integration. However, when we were moving along, it wouldn’t let us pan over to an alternate destination while we were using the map view—a function that you have in nearly every other system. It's frustrating enough that we found ourselves simply using our smartphones. Simply put, navigation is an option we'd probably skip on the 3.
The display is crisp, colorful, high in contrast, and it’s quick and responsive, with no lag whatsoever—a big improvement over the systems Mazda has used previously. The layout of the menus is better, too, and you can either navigate through them on the touch screen or use the controller to move between the tabs and screens. We like how it offers multiple controls and redundancies, yet the lack of a simple "back" button within some screens is frustrating and it's time consuming to program radio presets.