$9,330 - $13,963

2015 Mazda Mazda3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2015 Mazda Mazda3 was new.


Performance: 9.3

Test drivers say that the 2015 Mazda Mazda3 demonstrates excellent performance. They think its engine options and precise handling make it one of the most fun-to-drive cars in the class.

  • "The 2015 Mazda3 is both fun and fuel-efficient, thanks to Mazda's Skyactiv chassis and powertrain technology. With its enthusiastic engines and satisfying steering and brake feel, the Mazda3 is sportier than nearly all its rivals." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "First and foremost, the Mazda 3 is a great choice for any compact-car shopper who enjoys driving. Strong acceleration, sharp steering and a well-tuned suspension make the 3 truly come alive when you want it to, even if it's just zipping around town for errands." -- Edmunds
  • "In fact, aside from edgier (and pricier) performance compacts like the Ford Focus ST, Honda Civic Si, or the VW Golf GTI, the new Mazda 3 just might be the most rewarding car to drive in the class." -- Road and Track (2014)
  • "In short, this is a commuter car that can keep up with genuine sports cars, and not just because the 2.5-liter variant is pretty peppy." -- Left Lane News (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The 2015 Mazda Mazda3 comes with a 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission. There is an available 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which is also paired with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic transmission is available with either engine. When equipped with the manual transmission, the base Mazda3 gets up to an EPA-estimated 29/41 mpg city/highway, which is excellent for the class. When equipped with the 2.5-liter engine and automatic transmission, the Mazda3 earns up to 29/40 mpg city/highway.

Automotive journalists say the Mazda3’s base engine is strong enough for most driving situations. However, they think the 2.5-liter engine is the better choice because it’s quieter, more powerful and delivers smooth acceleration. Also, it offers nearly identical fuel economy to the base engine. Critics think both transmissions are excellent, as the automatic shifts responsively and the manual makes the car even more fun to drive.

  • "The base 2.0-liter engine in the Mazda 3 sounds a bit raspy under hard acceleration but provides better-than-average acceleration and has useful midrange torque output, making it a completely viable pick. Nevertheless, it's still tempting to stretch your budget for the larger 2.5-liter engine. It's quicker, smoother and slightly quieter, and there's a minimal impact to overall fuel economy." -- Edmunds
  • "The 6-speed automatic transmission is eager to downshift, and the 6-speed manual is rewarding to use. Drivers desiring extra oomph can get it in Mazda3 ‘s’ versions, which have a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that offers 29 more horsepower than the standard 2.0." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The manual transmission on the 2.0-liter is a reminder that choosing your own gears is a reward unto itself." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)
  • "Acceleration isn't exactly strong in the base 3 i, but the 155-hp engine has enough muscle to pull itself to freeway speeds without eliciting any worry from the driver. Engine noise is kept distant, and the note doesn't really change as the revs increase. There's no waiting for the power to arrive, but rather a smooth, steady stream of pull." -- Car and Driver (2014)

Handling and Braking

Reviewers think the Mazda Mazda3 is one of the most fun-to-drive cars in the class. They write that it handles admirably, has precise steering and feels secure on the highway. The 2015 Mazda3 also has a solid ride quality, critics note, but that wind and road noise is more audible than in other compact cars. Some auto writers report that in Mazda3 s models, bumps can be felt on uneven roads, in part because of their 18-inch wheels.

  • "The Mazda3 is satisfying to throw into corners, yet still compliant on the highway." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 2015 Mazda 3 is one of the most engaging vehicles to drive in its price range, as it handles well and offers responsive and precise steering. And for the most part, the 3 has a refined, substantial-feeling ride quality. The exception would be the 3s models, which can be rather stiff and bumpy when driven over rutted roads due to their 18-inch wheels and tires. Wind and road noise are also more noticeable in the 3 than they are in other small cars." -- Edmunds
  • "We struggle to think of another car in the compact segment that is this much fun to drive or feels as solid on the highway. If you don't enjoy driving the Mazda3, you're doing something wrong." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)
  • "The Mazda, however, is good for plenty of smiles from behind the wheel, simply because of how willing it is to be driven hard. The 3 is, without question, the best-driving car in the segment." -- Autoblog (2014)
  • "The steering feel is simply the best I've sampled in a front-drive car (having not yet tried VW's newest Golf or the Focus ST, about which many also rave). … its steering effort builds nicely all the way up, giving some subtle tugs and jiggles as the road surface changes. You take the good with the bad -- there's modest kickback on bumps when the lateral gs are up -- but the trade-off is well worth it." -- Motor Trend (2014)

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