$11,423 - $15,738

2016 Mazda Mazda3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Mazda Mazda3 was new.


Performance: 9.6

The 2016 Mazda3 boasts impeccably sporty handling, and overall is one of the most fun to drive cars in the class, according to reviewers. A comfortable ride quality and high fuel efficiency also work in the Mazda3’s favor. Critics recommend the optional larger engine, which provides better power and acceleration.

  • "With a peppy engine and satisfying steering and brake feel, the Mazda3 is among the most fun-to-drive cars you can buy for under $20,000." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Mazda3 is a lot of fun to drive, too. Its acceleration is excellent, especially with the optional 2.5-liter engine. The real fun comes in turning corners, where the Mazda3 boasts some of the best driving prowess around." -- Autotrader
  • "The 3 is, without question, the best-driving car in the segment." -- Autoblog (2014)
  • "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)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Mazda3 i models have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 155 horsepower, while Mazda3 s models come with a 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with either engine, and a six-speed automatic is available. When equipped with the automatic transmission, Mazda3 i sedans get an EPA-estimated 30/41 mpg city/highway, which is excellent for the class. Mazda3 s sedans get 28/39 mpg. Mazda3 s sedans with the Technology Package achieve 29/40 mpg thanks to aerodynamic active grille shutters and Mazda’s i-ELOOP system, which uses regenerative braking technology normally found in hybrids.

Reviewers agree that the Mazda3's base engine provides decent power for the average commute, but say the larger engine's comparable fuel economy and added power make it the better choice. Reviewers report that the automatic transmission shifts quickly and the manual is a pleasure to use.

  • "The 6-speed automatic transmission is eager to downshift, and the 6-speed manual is among the best." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2015)
  • "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." -- Car and Driver (2014)

Handling and Braking

Due to its incredibly nimble handling, responsive steering and powerful brakes, reviewers say the 2016 Mazda3 offers some of the best driving dynamics in the class. Test drivers add that its ride is comfortable. 

  • "More impressive, this 5-passenger compact sedan and hatchback don't compromise ride quality, fuel efficiency or practicality for performance. The Mazda3 is a joy to throw into corners, yet is 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." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "Strong brakes reign things in when needed, while the s model's 18-inch alloy wheels impact ride quality only slightly." -- Left Lane News (2015)
  • "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." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)

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