You probably know by now that we’re smitten with the Mazda3. The third-generation Mazda3 was voted the best vehicle in our 11-car comparison test of compact cars and is a perennial favourite in our individual test drives with a slight edge going to the hatchback (Sport) for its increased practicality and stylishness.

It’s not a perfect car though: Mark Stevenson’s Long Term Test: 2014 Mazda3 Sport GS, (Update 1, Update 2, Update 3) revealed a few ergonomic problems that aren’t immediately obvious in a shorter test drive. But really, we’re nitpicking.

Changes to the 2015 Mazda were minimal, but it did receive a significant warranty upgrade (as did all other Mazdas): its 3-year basic and 5-year powertrain warranties now come with unlimited mileage, up from the previous 3-year/80,000 km basic warranty and 5-year/100,000 km powertrain warranty in 2014. You can now drive to the Yukon three times a year if you wish and still be covered under warranty! It certainly demonstrates the company’s confidence in the durability and reliability of its cars.

Our ‘Soul Red’ test vehicle is a 2015 Mazda GS sedan. As before, 2015 Mazda3 sedans come in three trim levels, GX ($15,995), GS ($19,795) and GT ($25,995). 2016 Mazda3s add a new base G trim starting at $15,550. The base 2015 GX and mid-level GS trims have a standard 155-hp 2.0L four-cylinder SkyActiv engine while the GT gets a 184-hp 2.5L four-cylinder SkyActiv power plant. SkyActiv refers to Mazda’s new generation of lighter, more advanced and more fuel-efficient powertrains and mechanical components. Personally, I think they could have chosen a better name.

All three 2015 Mazda3 trim levels come with a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic with manual shifting mode (additional paddle shifters on GT trim). (The 2016 Mazda3 G trim is only available with a manual transmission.)

Equipped with the standard 155-hp 2.0L engine and optional automatic transmission, the Mazda3 GS offers adequate, if not exceptional acceleration. Its 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.0 seconds is about a second slower than the Mazda3 GT with the 184-hp 2.5L engine, according to AJAC acceleration tests. The upside for the smaller engine is better fuel economy: 7.0 L/100 km combined vs 8.0 L/100 km combined (with manual transmissions), as published by Natural Resources Canada. During our week with the Mazda3 GS automatic, average fuel consumption varied from 6.8 L/100 km in suburban/highway driving to 8.5 L/100 km in stop-and-go city/highway driving.

Head-to-head: Comparison Test: 2014 Mazda3 vs 2014 Toyota Corolla

The Mazda3’s SkyActiv-G 2.0L DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection revs in a smooth, even progression to its redline and has enough power to pull away cleanly from traffic lights and merge comfortably onto the freeway. The engine is a bit ‘buzzy’ on acceleration, but once up to cruising speed, it’s barely audible. At a steady 100 km/h in top gear, the engine turns over just 1,800 rpm. In truth, a manual transmission is better suited to this engine’s torque curve, but the optional six-speed automatic transmission proved just fine for our everyday driving: it responds quickly to kick-downs and changes quickly and unobtrusively. A manual shifting mode is included – just move the shift lever to the left gate and move forward and back to change gears up and down.

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