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Many car enthusiasts appreciate the approach of Mazda, that of offering sports cars, but also being practical, all at a reasonable price compared to the level of luxury obtained. They are not so numerous, however; Mazda becomes, partly by choice, a niche brand. It does not focus so much on achieving the largest possible market share at any price. Rather, it works to design products that offer a fun and engaging driving experience.

The result is that you find a Mazda3 that takes seriously the leg in terms of North American sales vis-à-vis the Honda Civic, for example, in the category of compact cars. And yet, many swear by it and we can easily understand why.

The Mazda3 GT (GT for Grand Touring) is available in sedan or five-door hatchback version. Both versions are at the top of the hierarchy in front of the basic Sport model and the Touring variant. My test model was a sedan, which comes with a starting price of $ 25,910.

Simple, but stylishly styled, the 2018 edition is identical to the 2017 edition, which had undergone a slight refresh. Let’s take the opportunity to recall that the last overhaul of the Mazda3 goes back four years, but that the products of the competition are still in catch-up mode. It is probably the most beautiful creation in its category, and possibly the one with the most homogeneous proportions. His style remains athletic, without being forced. The front, in particular, thins harmoniously towards the muzzle without it has a look too sharp. From there, the lines stretch along the hood to reach the rear in a very smooth way. The stylists were able to give us the impression that the car was a powered configuration, an effect that serves the sedan very well.

GT features distinctive features such as a black metal grille, a subtle rear spoiler, 18-inch silver-alloy wheels, and LED headlights and lights

Inside
Mazda has worked so that the driver’s environment is designed for him without waking his claustrophobic side. This means that the space for the legs, elbows and shoulders is generous, and that the instrumentation behind the wheel is not intrusive. The GT variant comes with an excellent Bose audio system, dual-zone climate control, head-up display and sunroof. A panoramic roof would have greatly improved the quality of a cockpit already very well, but at the price at which the Mazda3 is sold, this is an unrealistic wish. Finally…

Regarding the head-up display, it appears on a small plasticized screen that unfolds at the top of the windshield at startup. The system works well, but said screen is a bit small. Fortunately, it is possible to adjust, via the multimedia system screen, the height of the retransmitted information. I must admit that the system made me fear the worst from the start. He seemed rather fragile, as if he could give way at the slightest touch. I may be paranoid, but I did not dare to check its solidity.

On a more positive note, I ADORED the wheel located near the gear selector. This allows us to navigate through the menus of the multimedia system screen. In fact, it is not tactile, which requires us to use the wheel. Its manipulation is intuitive and its judicious location makes that one does not have to extend the arm to reach it, which would force us suddenly to leave the eyes of the road. It also reduces the risk of false maneuvers, such as selecting your teen’s favorite metal channel while all you want to join is the navigation system menu. Any vehicle that places this type of control in this place is immediately in my good favors.

My test car also benefited from the Premium Equipment Package, which includes a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddles, the Mazda Navigation System, front heated seats, and a variety of driver assistance features. (lane departure warning, intelligent emergency braking, lane keeping, etc.) Adaptive Cruise Control was also in the mix. I warmly appreciated the latter when I found myself on the highway in a traffic all the same busy. This adjusts the speed of the car to the one before it and accelerates to resume the cruising speed when the way is released.

Driving
As well as the Mazda3 can be from the outside and the inside, its bowels are also interesting. The GT version, like the Touring, gets the biggest of the two available engines with this model, a SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. A manual gearbox is, surprisingly nowadays, served as standard with all variants. My car was equipped with the SKYACTIV-DRIVE automatic transmission.

What these elements manage to do is provide the driver with a set that responds to the finger and the eye, which makes even the daily commute to work very pleasant. Of course, this car is not such a sporting creature as pocket bombs like the Volkswagen Golf Type R, the Ford Focus ST or the WRX version of the Subaru Impreza, but it is much better than n any other similarly priced item in its category. Remember that Mazda is one of the few manufacturers not to have a range of models dedicated to performance; the company rather makes all its models pleasant to drive. The mind vroum vroum is perpetuated.

So, what makes his conduct so pleasant? First, the steering is just heavy enough that the feeling is excellent and it gives us the assurance to place the 3 where you want while having confidence in the final result. At acceleration, even if it’s nothing explosive, the thrust is smooth and linear as the transmission passes. By selecting the Sport mode, everything gets a bit tighter, from the engine speed to the steering, via the gear changes that are delayed. Although we perceive the transformation, I have taken a little more by switching to this mode, to fully enjoy the winding roads and bends that have been offered to me. Just a little more …

In the end
Overall, the Mazda3 GT Sedan is attractive from the outside and advances well-balanced proportions. His facies, in my opinion, is particularly superb. Inside, the quality of assembly is almost irreproachable and the ergonomics of the controls is perfect.

The driving sensation, meanwhile, is sporty, well felt and thought to make every trip fun. If Mazda adds a little nerve to its sport mode, it will end up with a practically unbeatable compact in this segment and this price range. I must admit that the engine of 184 horses contributes to the approval and performance of this GT version; people who consider a basic model have an interest in remembering it.

Highlights
The most committed driving in this category
Superb snout and good overall proportions
Comfortable cabin with good ergonomics
Quality and performance at the rendezvous with regard to price
Well equipped with safety features

Weaknesses
A simple sunroof seems stingy nowadays
Space a little tight to the rear seats
Sport mode could be more

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