2018 Mazda 3 Grand Touring new car reviews

For years Mazda has given us pint-sized cars with enough room for four people. Remember the RX-3? Or the GLC? Or, more recently, the Mazda2?

Mazda’s smallest sedan these days is the Mazda3, and it has also grown in terms of both style and stature. And it’s grown in importance, too, as today it’s Mazda’s most popular model.

The Mazda3 received some updates for 2018. All Touring-spec cars receive the 2.5-liter Skyactive-G engine plus dark silver wheels. Touring and Grand Touring models get a new deck lid spoiler, too. The assorted packages get more content.

We sampled the top-o-the-line Grand Touring sedan, meaning the 2.5-liter engine, leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control and more. How much more? How about heated front seats plus a heated steering wheel. Sounds excessive? Go live in Minnesota for a winter and get back to us.

The Grand Touring sedan starts at $24,195, while options bumped ours to $28,385. The two big options were a $1300 Appearance Package (front air dam, mirror caps, rear bumper skirt and side sill extensions) plus $1600 for a Premium Equipment Package (navigation system, paddle shifters, radar cruise, heated wheel, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and a few others niceties.)

Looking to spend less? The six-speed manual Sport sedan starts at $18,095; the wagon, with a stick, starts at $19,345.

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I drove this one while out in San Francisco for a few. It wasn’t a Tesla, the standard car for the Bay Area, but it was pretty close to perfect for the mission.

The Mazda3 is a good size. There’s room for four people easy, five in a pinch, plus plenty of cargo room. But at the same time it’s easy to park. I parallel parked it into the perfect spot in Haight-Ashbury–right around the corner from the restaurant my friend picked.

And once nestled in said spot, did I realize that I had blocked someone’s driveway. Hey, let’s call it practice. By the way, laugh at backup cameras, but they’re super-awesome when parallel parking into a tight space.

The Grand Touring package adds in all of the extras usually found in higher-end cars. Yeah, the heated steering wheel sounds frivolous, but I turned it on one evening. Warmed me right up. The updated nose and aero add-ons gave our tester a higher-end look, too.

Seats were perfectly comfortable. The ride is quiet. It does everything you’d expect from a smaller sedan–although, really, it’s not that small any more.

Knocks against it? The automatic transmission is slow to react, especially on downshifts. Automatics keep improving, and this one felt a bit antiquated. Mazda’s navigation system can also be a little clunky to use. Last time we had a Kia, it took me 3 seconds to figure it all out. After a few days in the Mazda, I still found myself searching around for things. I’d love an updated/improved interface.

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View comments on the GRM forums
z31maniac MegaDork
8/21/18 12:30 p.m.

I dig the appearance package. It makes me desire to see it hammered to the ground on huge touring car wheels.

_ New Reader
8/21/18 3:01 p.m.

Kinda wish you could take the cx3 awd and graft it. Then You’d have a subie competitor. 

poopshovel again
poopshovel again MegaDork
8/21/18 3:09 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

“The wagon?” I’m confused.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/22/18 8:29 a.m.
poopshovel again said:

In reply to David S. Wallens :

“The wagon?” I’m confused.

The five-door version.

Kreb UberDork
10/11/18 12:48 p.m.

Funny 0-60 gets left out of a review for a performance car magazine.

CyberEric HalfDork
10/11/18 2:19 p.m.

According to Car and Driver, 0-60 is about 6.8-6.9 in the 2.5 with the auto trans, a bit more in the manual (not sure if it's because the auto shifts faster or because of the ratios). 

I just spent a month driving my dad's around. It's an auto 2015 Grand Touring sedan, and I absolutely loved it (although I haven't driven most of the latest DCT cars except an E90 M3 which felt terrible). The trans uses a torque converter with a lock-up clutch. It's definitely tuned for economy in the Normal drive mode, but a click of the Sport button changes all that. It feels more direct than any other auto trans I've driven. Also, I loved how I could downshift with the paddle shifters even in Drive. It allowed me to control exactly when I downshifted when approaching a hill or when I wanted to pass. Lastly, it will hold a gear even at redline.

Power in the 2.5 felt nice, not crazy fast, but definitely enough to have fun and had a nice torque curve. Chassis felt great. Definitely understeery on the meh OE Dunlops, but it seemed like the rear might come around if you gave it the right inputs, not sure though as this was all street driving. 

Knocked down 33mpg in mixed use driving. Pretty cool.

My only complaint, I sometimes had a hard time get comfortable in the seat, it felt a little hard on my butt and I couldn't decide if it was better to sit with the pelvis in anterior rotation, or posterior (laid back). My wife had no issues though. 

10/11/18 2:38 p.m.

In reply to CyberEric :

My wife's DD is about the exact same car except a manual. I have the exact same problem with the bottom seat cushion not working with my butt. Replacing the OE Dunlops with some Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ woke up the feel of the car a bit as well.

Kreb UberDork
10/11/18 2:46 p.m.

Hmmmm, maybe it's time to turn in the CX-7. We don't usually go for all the bells and whistles, but need a proper suspension. I passed on a Rav-4  7 years ago, because the base vehicle was too plush, and we had to pay several grand more for the sport version. 

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