2014 - 2016 Mazda3 Sport GS | review #1

2014 - 2016 Mazda3 Sport GS | review #1

So, are the third generation pre-'16 Mazda3 Sport's better than the post-'16's? Yes... sort of... well, there are some questions you'd have to ask yourself before making the final choice between the two. What kind of driving experience do you like? How long are your daily drives? What are your design preferences? Deciding to go for a Mazda3, regardless of generation, means going for a sporty compact car. Unfortunately, "sporty" is being thrown around quite often to describe pretty much every vehicle now. However, in this case, the 3 really does continue to bring true meaning to the word. 

In the video (above), I show my almost-raw driving experience with the car along with other things like Mazda's motorsports heritage, car's ergonomics, and butt jokes (but only two, I promise).

I asked my good friend, Nalin, if I could take a look at his '15 Mazda3 Sport. He said yes! So, I rushed to him to finally get a glimpse of what all the hype was all about. I've heard so many good things about it, since its worldwide debut in 2013. Unfortunately, my time with the car was quite limited; so this review will be short(ish). Nonetheless, while I wasn't able to check out everything, my driving experience with the car was long and wild enough for me to have had difficulty articulating my thoughts to the video camera... seriously. Even though I planned the driving route, I had no idea what I was really getting myself into.

Here's the thing, I live in Toronto and before this drive, I never found the time to truly experience the curvy countryside roads of Ontario. So, when I finally got the chance and did so, I immediately felt both anxiety and exhilaration. This is due to the fact that... well... OK, I'm just going to come out and say it... this is my first car review ever. This is something that I wanted to do for quite a while. So, those emotions were there partly due to the fact that I never experienced such wild roads before. In the video (above), I had a case of the jitters and it very clearly showed. I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep those clips in but I did anyway; best to keep it honest. It's still cool to be genuine... right?

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Speaking of genuine, that's also how I would describe the car. While the curvy roads definitely contributed to that factor, the car did the rest. The route (left) Nalin and I took, near Milton, Ontario, was about 20 kilometers. The starting point was 4316 Derry Road West and ended at a Rexall parking lot in Milton. This route consisted of long straights, hairpins, S-shaped turns, steep hills, and the car took it all like a champ!

Honestly, I wasn't all that surprised. The car drives superbly, beautifully, delightfully, gracefully, playfully... use whatever positive adjective you want, that's how it goes. Am I taking this too far? I don't think so. Again, if you haven't already, watch the video (above). Throughout the drive, I had my eyes wide open with a very clear smile on my face.

Before I go any further, I should mention Mazda's "G-Vectoring Control" (GVC) technology that will be standard in all of their cars in the near future. I say this because GVC was not installed in the car that I drove, nor is it installed in any Mazda3 before 2016.

What does it do? Long story short, Mazda say it improves driving dynamics and reduces fatigue and nausea on long distance drives. The technology is all software based. So, if you absolutely want to, I assume it can be disabled. If you want to know more about GVC, check out the brand's video about the technology (right)... just remember to mute the video as there's no narration, just techno music. Now, where was I? Right! Downsides, does the car have any?

Yes, the car has three fairly noticeable downsides: interior space, visibility, and noise. Drive over 70km/h and you'll encounter some drama with the wind noise inside the cabin. On short trips, it might not be so bad but it's something that should definitely be considered if to be used on longer journeys. I also talked about the cabin space in the video (above) and, in short, tall people like me will surely have difficulty making themselves comfortable in the rear passenger seats but the front seats are suitable for everyone. As for the visibility, it's not horrible but definitely worse than its closest competitors. However, that's what happens to many cars with a well-proportioned exterior design. Actually speaking of design...

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If you haven't heard already, they call the latest design language "Kodo" (soul of motion). Except when I say they, I really mean Ikuo Maeda; Mazda's global head of design. He's the one who led the company to make all of their latest cars look like the sketch above. So, what about Kodo? Is it any good? And to that, I dare say, yes! You see... before Kodo was the Nagare design language which was first seen on the Nagare concept car (below). Which fun fact: was led by then North American director of design Franz von Holzhausen who also designed the RX-8 and Tesla Model S. I must say, the language must've been incredibly fun to create because there were hard lines everywhere.

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Actually, the Nagare language can still be seen on the 2017 Mazda5 (left). Unfortunately, the language was considered to be immature and too playful. As a result, cars that used it have not aged very well. Which brings us back to the '15 Mazda3 Sport because the Kodo language is without a doubt more mature than its predecessor. It also has some pretty cool design cues. For example, the front (below) features a moderately large, heptagon-shaped grille highlighted by this chrome line that I'd say kind of resembles to horns of a Kabuto; which is a type of helmet that was used by ancient Japanese warriors. As for the side, (below) there are two keys lines that gives the car a dynamic, accelerating motion look... which now that I remember, is actually the theme of the Mazda3... huh. Of course, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to looks and that is totally cool but here's the big question... does the exterior design have purpose? Is it justifiable? Yes, absolutely. Though, while it does have a few common visual elements that can be found in other cars in its class, its looks has enough original design cues for it to differentiate itself from the others.

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As for the 2017 model, while the face and buttlifts are minor they are definitely noticeable. The pre-'16's have a moderately-sized front grille strongly pronounced by the chrome line. Its sharp ends confidently point outwards and in harmony with the headlights and bonnet shutlines. The post-'16's have a larger front grille but, this time, the sharp ends are now inside the headlights. As for the rear, the changes are there but super subtle and simple. The pre-'16's have more black plastic in the bumper while the post-16's have less, that's it. Check out the differences:

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Now, about the interior... the changes are even more significant. Below on the left is a top-of-the-line pre'16 and on the right is another top-of-the-line post-'16. The pre-'16's have faux carbon fibre panels on the steering wheel and on the doors. The post-16's completely got rid of those and replaced them with gloss and matte black panels. The steering wheel remains the same size but the similarities end there. The post-16's have a brand new steering wheel with more aggressively styled but also more hand-friendly buttons. As for the infotainment screen, there were people that have complained about the screen looking as if it were an after thought; honestly I don't blame them. So, in the post-16's, while the screen remained the same size, the housing it's in has completely changed to make it look more integrated into the dashboard. Also, the speedometer design has gone for a slightly more minimalist and elegant look, compared to the pre-'16's. 

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The changes that Mazda made to the 2017 models makes me confused. The company has always been about the sporty driving experience and letting their consumers make the most out their products. So, what's going on? The 2017 models have an electric handbrake and the speedometer has been redesigned to look more simple (or elegant or boring, depends how you see it). That means Mazda's moving more towards a luxurious feel, right? Mazda's North American operations boss, Masahiro Moro, even said, "Mazda brand has become more mature, more upscale, more sophisticated and we have a new transition of the brand to relate that direction. So if we were to introduce some kind of performance model, that may be different to what we have done in the past." Ok, I was right... less "sport" and more "luxury". Gotcha!

That also explains the changes made to the post-'16's. They hid the sharp points of the chrome line because the brand found the element to be too intimidating. OK, but what about the wider grille and wider fog lights? Designers do that to make a vehicle look like it has a lower and more aggressive stance. I have so many questions! But, in the end, it comes down to you and your personal preferences.

One last thing I should probably mention is that, if you're a fan of Mazda, and wondering if there will be a Mazdaspeed version of the newest 3 hatchback, there won't be one, unfortunately. You'll have to wait until they reveal the next generation, probably in 2021. However, I have faith and think that they will at least make a very special, sporty version of the current generation 3 for their 100th birthday. Yup! In less than three years, Mazda is going to be 100 years old. So, there's no way that a car company like Mazda won't celebrate with a special product release, right? Maybe they will and I just thought I'd do a render of what a 2020 Mazda3 Sport might look like. And here it is:

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Here are the design updates I want Mazda to make for their 100th anniversary Mazda3 Sport: rx-vision-concept-inspired grille, a subtle bonnet intake, and carbon fibre front splitter, side skirt, extended arches, and rear wing.  I could possibly be a little bit too optimistic, as the render shows, but a guy could dream. 

And there you go, the 2014/15/16 Mazda3 Sport GS. Is it sporty? Is it fun? Is it king of pricey? Is it worth it? Yes. Yes to all. So, what do you think? Would you rather go for a 2016, 2017, or 2020 Mazda3 Sport? Or why not at all? I'd love to know your thoughts on this. So, comment below, eh? Many thanks for taking your time to read this article. I'll see you next time!

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