THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Remarkable handling and road manners for a sedan that starts at $15,900
- What’s Worst: Coal bin back interiors on base and mid-trim need a splash of colour
- What’s Interesting: Mazda is just a step or two away from offering affordable semi-autonomous driving to the masses
ESTEREL, PQ: In a bold marketing move, Mazda will make torque vectoring standard across its entire model line-up, starting with the 2017 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback.
Mazda calls it G-Vectoring Control (GVC) that essentially blends braking, steering and acceleration for a more precise and stable feel to the driver and passengers.
The result of eight years of development, GVC is billed as the “world’s first technology to adjust engine torque in response to steering inputs in order to control these forces in a unified way and optimize the vertical loading of each tire to realize smooth and efficient vehicle behavior.”
GVC takes in steering inputs and shifts torque as needed while also reducing engine torque, if required, resulting in a more linear response that feels more stable to the senses.
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Mazda did years of studying the human body and found our heads move a bit side to side and back and forth when we walk, but our brains are wired to cancel this out.
When it comes to driving, Mazda engineers found the use of GVC quells body roll and pitch and yaw and eliminated much of the unconscious driver muscle corrections, making for a much more relaxing ride as well as on-centre precision that is greatly increased.
Also available with GVC is Mazda’s suite of driver and safety aids called i-Activsense, that includes Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC), Smart Brake Support (SBS), Advanced Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) with pedestrian recognition, Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Traffic Sign Recognition System (TSR), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM).
If this sounds like the ingredients for semi-autonomous driving, you’re correct. It only lacks one or two technologies such as low speed movement acquisition to be truly driverless.
My wife owns a 2016 Mazda3 GS hatch, so driving the new car with GVC was a great comparison.
In the forests north of Montreal all alight in autumn colours, the roads snaked through the Laurentians where steering and braking inputs required one’s full attention.
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Driving the GVC 2017 required less steering effort than my wife’s vehicle, plus I could actually feel the power being put down on the pavement.
The version I drove also had i-Activsense and it dutifully steered me back to straight and narrow when I purposefully tried to cross the pavement line on either side of the car.
As for the 2017 Mazda3, powertrains are unchanged with a 2.0-litre direct injection four-cylinder producing 155 hp and 150 lb/ft of torque. The other is a 2.5-litre direct injection inline four-cylinder with 184 hp and 185 lb ft.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard with a six-speed automatic with manual shift an option at $1,300 (no cost on GT model).
I drove both transmissions and found the manual had long throws for a Mazda, but my one beef was with the clutch that had all of the pressure plate bite at the top of the pedal travel.
The auto was just fine and no differed from my wife’s 2016.
Braking on the new Mazda3 is commendable, with the pedal just firm enough and easy to modulate, which came in handy more than once on the blind switchbacks on the drive route.
On the automatic transmission models, all trim levels come with a “Sport” button just to the left of the shifter that enhances engine and transmission response.
Also offered on automatics is the i-ELOOP regenerative braking system — now a standalone option.
For 2017 Mazda revised the front and rear damper structure making it tauter along with new front stabilizer bushings.
My co-driver, who occasionally drives too fast unless admonished, gave it his best with the GVC soaking up whatever he had to give.
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Mazda has made some subtle, but effective, exterior design changes, starting with a bigger and lower grille treatment and even more cat-like highlights.
At the rear, some of the character lines have been smoothed out for a more rounded look, with the black lower valance panel practically eliminated.
Inside there were detail changes to the gauge cluster, steering wheel and panel trim but the most noticeable is a new heads-up display that is now in colour with more information displayed.
Cargo volume on the sedan is 350 litres. On the hatchback, cargo is 572 litres with the back seat up and 1,334 litres folded.
Pricing is also big news, with the base Mazda3 sedan with GVC and manual transmission starting at $15,900. The mid-range GS starts at $20,300 and the toptrim GT starts at $24,000.
For a hatchback, or Sport as Mazda calls it, add $1,000.
Above all, the Mazda3 with its improved handling still retains what it calls the “Soul of a Sportscar”.
Want a Miata sportscar that seats up to five?
Then the 2017 Mazda3 with GVC is for you.
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Mazda3 Sedan/Hatchback 2017
BODY STYLE: Compact sedan or hatchback
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, six–speed manual transmission standard, six-speed automatic transmission optional
ENGINE: 2.0-litre DOHC direct injection inline four-cylinder (155 hp, 150 lb/ft); 2.5-litre DOHC direct injection inline four-cylinder (184 hp, 185 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) Sedans, 2.0-litre manual, 8.5/6.2L/100 km city/highway; 2.0-litre auto, 8.4/6.4; 2.5-litre manual, 9.3/6.9L/100 km; 2.5-litre auto, 2.5-litre w/i/Eloop, 8.5/6.4. Sport Hatchbacks, 2.0-litre manual, 8.6/6.4L/100 km; 2.o-litre auto, 8.4/6.4L/100km; 2.5-litre manual, 9.6/7.0L/100 km; 2.5-litre auto, 9.0/67L/100km; 2.5-litre w/i-Eloop, 8.7/6.6L/100 km
TOW RATING: Not Recommended
CARGO VOLUME: Hatchback, 572 litres behind the back seat, 1,334 litres folded; Sedan 350 litres
PRICE: (Sedans) GX, $15,900; GS, $20,300; GT, $24,000. Hatchbacks add $1,000.
WEB SITE: www.mazda.ca
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