I’m not even going to pretend that a Mazda was high on my list of cars I would like to test drive for a week. Shortly after the 2015 Mazda3 s Grand Touring 4-Door was dropped off though, I was surprised at all the tech that crammed into this sporty little compact sedan that made it more than a pleasure to drive.
First off, let me just say the design of the Mazda3 s Grand Touring 4-Door is very aggressive to be considered a compact car. You can tell Mazda has history in racing after doing a walk-around of this ride. I especially like the big air dam up front and the low-profile spoiler in back. This was a fully-loaded Mazda 3, so it came with upgraded sport rims, fog lights, and moon roof that took the design to the next level. The bright-red color not only topped off its speedy looks, it added 5 extra horsepower too (not really).
Driving it for the first time took me back to high-school and college as this Mazda’s configuration came with a 6-speed manual transmission. I’m lying, my high-school hooptie and my college car that a “shade tree mechanic” practically built from spare parts only had 4 speeds, but that feeling of actually “feeling” the car as I progressed through the gears brought a little smile to my face shortly after every green light. For a compact sedan, the 2.5 Liter, 185 horsepower Mazda 3 with SKYACTIV-G technology let me sprint through local traffic all while maximizing fuel efficiency.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get into the tech side of things. This Mazda3 was loaded with the kind of features I expected to find on $60,000+ vehicles luxury vehicles. Right out of the gate, I was welcomed by keyless entry and push-button start. That meant I never had to pull the keys out of my pocket to enter or warm the car up because it could sense the proximity of the chip inside of the key fob.
After entering the Mazda3, the main touchscreen display was positioned above the dashboard for easier viewing. This “Heads-Up” concept makes it safer to adjust settings while driving versus looking down at a buried console. You have the choice of interacting with the touchscreen manually. However, I preferred to use the command controller located beneath the shift lever as my method of interaction. After some time getting used to twisting, turning, and clicking the controller without looking at it, using the command controller felt safer than reaching over to touch the screen.
That brings me to the Mazda Connect technology that has the most seamless smartphone connectivity of all the cars I’ve driven. After pairing my iPhone 6, my contacts were quickly uploaded, and using the steering wheel audio controls, I could quickly make calls with surprising accuracy. In other words, I didn’t have to repeat myself fifty-eleven times like some of the other phone-connected cars I’ve driven and owned.
Controlling the audio on my phone was an equally seamless experience. After pairing my iPhone 6, the ability to thumb through my phone’s entire music library could be accomplished completely though Mazda Connect and the command controller. Again, this makes it safer while driving, versus staring at my phone for that perfect “no traffic rush hour” track.
The list of additional safety technology that Mazda calls i-ACTIVSENSE crammed in the Mazda3 is pretty long. Some of the features that caught my eye included the blind spot monitoring system located on the side-view mirrors that blinked when cars entered my blind spot, LED adaptive front lighting system where the headlight’s turned in the direction of the wheel, and rear camera with markings that helped me see if people where behind me…and made it a breeze to back into parking spaces.
Again, these are not “supercalafragalistic” technology features that only Mazda implements in their vehicles. I just didn’t expect them all in a sub $30,000 vehicle.
What did blow my mind, and probably is my favorite feature on the Mazda3 was the little transparent screen that sits between the steering wheel and windshield that pops up when I started the car. Yes, the Mazda3 I drove featured an actual “Heads Up” display that allowed me to keep an eye on my speed, as well as offered next turn instructions, all without taking my eyes off the road. Pretty dope and pretty safe if I do say so myself.
Probably the one feature I was missing that I take for granted in my other vehicles I own is the remote engine start. Comes in handy when you want to hop in a already warmed up car. Remote engine start is an available option on the Mazda3, but it wasn’t an equipped feature on my ride, so didn’t get the chance to use it during my week…boo
Of course, when the time came to give the car back, my feelings were a little hurt. I had initial reservations about the Mazda brand, but they were quickly overcome after week of whipping this little rocket around for a week. My kids, who affectionately named the Mazda3 s Grand Touring 4-Door “rental” had some choice words to share with me when I dropped them off at school in “Daddy’s old car” the next day.