2015 Mazda3: SkyActiv plus KODO equals Zoom Zoom Fun [Review]


The Soul of Motion. That is the translation of KODO, Mazda’s design language. Its goal is to create an emotional connection to the car, in both styling and performance. The 2015 Mazda3 is an excellent example of this design philosophy, featuring a dynamic driving personality and an exterior with enough style to thump the heart of even the coldest observer.

This Mazda3 S Grand Touring test model gets a 2.5L SkyActiv 4-cylinder engine, good for 184 hp and 185 lb/ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission, although a 6-speed shiftable automatic with sport mode is also available. EPA fuel ratings are 26 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined.

STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2015 Mazda3 S Grand Touring $25,545 $28,385 184/185
EPA Rating MPG As Tested MPG
Rating: BUY IT! 26/35 Combined 29

A 2.0L SkyActiv 4-cylinder is also available on lower trim lines, with 155 hp and 150 lb/ft of torque.

The Mazda3 is available as a sedan, but it looks much better as a five door. The hatch is where it’s at. The smiling grill from a few years ago has been replaced with a much more aggressive front end – a sculpted hood and bi-xenon high intensity discharge headlamps. The rear gets a spoiler and dual exhaust. The 18″ wheels, wrapped in all-season rubber, are attractive, complimenting the fluid lines of the car.



The cabin features two tone black and cream upholstery with red trim. It’s a very clean and distinctive design that along with the abundance of soft touch materials gives the Mazda3 a more upscale look.

The cockpit is driver focused, with an analog tachometer front and center. A smaller digital speed readout is in the bottom right, still easy to read. There is a heads up display, but it is not projected on to the windshield like other cars. Instead a heads up screen pivots up from its place in the dash. You can turn the system off if you’d like, but the screen does not retract back to the dash when you do. Some consumers might find this distracting.


There is a 7″ touchscreen which is also controlled from a knob on the center console. The system is pretty easy to use, but it once deleted all my presets for no good reason. The navigation system is very intuitive, but you have to be stopped to input anything. This is understandable, as distracted driving is a problem. However, a passenger can safely use the navigation system while the car is moving, and since the seat belt warning will go off if the passenger does not buckle up in a timely manner, one can assume that the car knows when there is a passenger. Yet still with two in the car, the navigation system will only allow inputs when stopped. It’s an annoying and over the top safety protocol that should be eliminated.

Still the S Grand Touring offers plenty of features and it’s a nice place to spend some time. Heated front seats, 6-way power adjustable driver’s seat, dual zone climate control, push button start, back up camera, satellite radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, and a multifunctional steering wheel are all standard, as is a sunroof.


Behind the rear seats is 20.2 cubic feet of space, which turns into 47.1 cubic feet when those 60/40 split rear seats are folded down.

The Mazda3 uses SkyActiv technology in its engine, transmission, and chassis. SkyActiv engines are more efficient and create less emissions, all while enjoying an increase in low and mid range torque. Additionally, in the automatic models, the energy produced while braking is harnessed and used to power the electronics. This means all the power from the engine is used to get those wheels turning, not siphoned off to run the air conditioning or stereo. The SkyActiv transmissions all feature an advanced control module, which increases responsiveness and reliability. The chassis in the SkyActiv models are lighter and enjoy 30% more rigidity with an increase in safety. Additionally, the suspension makes these chassis more nimble at slower speeds and more stable at higher speeds.


All this technology combines to make one hell of a fun ride. Front and rear stabilizer bars and a well tuned suspension make this car a joy to toss around the corners. It rides a bit rough on the 18″ wheels, but if you have a fun-loving heart you won’t care. The electric powered steering feels much more like a hydraulic set up. It’s very quick and direct, with more road feel than in other electrically assisted systems. The wheel itself has a good solid feel in your hands, encouraging you to push it just a bit in the corners.

The Mazda3 has a love affair with the 6,500 rpm red line. Peak horsepower comes in at 5700 rpm, but the acceleration is so strong you may find yourself bouncing off the rev limiter very quickly. The SkyActiv technology gives you great mid to low end torque, with the peak coming in at 3250 rpm. It’s easy enough to zip around traffic with a minimal amount of downshifting. The 6-speed shifts smoothly and quickly and clutch pedal has a decent weight and a proper engagement point.


The hatch hasn’t been as popular in America as it has been overseas, but that seems to be changing. The Ford Focus is a few thousand less than the Mazda3, but it has less power and torque and it’s manual option is a 5-speed. Those wanting a diesel should look at the VW Golf, as the mid-trim SE is comparable in price. You only get 150 hp but a whopping 236 lb/ft of torque. However, neither give you the same emotional connection to the road as the Mazda3.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

The Mazda 3 S Grand Touring is a very enthusiastic Buy It!

Starting at $25,545, with a few options it comes out at $28,385. It’s one of the few cars that allow you to get a manual transmission in the top trim line, it’s a blast in both the city and the mountain roads, and the hatch gives it personality and utility. Zoom Zoom indeed.

If you’re looking for a bigger Mazda, check out this 0-60 test of the 2014 Mazda CX-5 from one mile above sea level.



emme hall tflcar


Emme is a driver, reviewer, rabble rouser, and Gazelle who can be found online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and either one of her blogs.