MAZDA 3 SKYACTIV R | BOTH PRAGMATIC AND CHARISMATIC
From the 2 to the 6, all the way to the CX and MX, automotive turn-ons the whole lot of them. Sure, it may not yet reach tantric levels, but the current crop of Mazdas deliver a constant three-pronged attack on the senses that’s definitely hard to dismiss. Let me attempt to translate feelings into words with this review of the mid-level 2017 Mazda 3 SkyActiv R.
There’s just something about the way Mazda does sedans that’s simply ooh-la-la. It starts with the updated grille that’s so much wider than before and with a lower chrome trim to give its “face” more strength and presence.
Mazda calls it “defragmentation thematic,” which is just a fancy way of saying “three-dimensional styling” to give the façade, especially the grille and headlamps, more depth. The rest of the body takes after a cheetah’s form with its hunched-down slim body, which makes for an awesome profile, and those broad shoulders represented by oh-so-shapely fenders.
The rear, which oftentimes is an afterthought, is more expressive here with the lip spoiler and those elongated tail lamps shaped like a feline’s eyes.
To keep it up to date, Mazda equipped the 3 sedan with LED auto leveling, auto front sensing headlamps with daytime running lamps (DRLs) and rain-sensing front wipers.
The sensual experience starts in the cabin. Somehow making the pragmatic and the charismatic mesh, Mazda beautifully combines plastic, leather and chrome on a layout that’s as easy on the users as it is on the eyes.
An overall black interior motif is generally never a bad idea, although the carmaker could have done better sans the hard plastic. Still, touches of chrome on the dashboard, door handles and even the steering wheel, plus the copious application of leather where it’s needed makes spending inordinate amounts of time behind the wheel constantly inviting and so much more pleasant.
The buttons on the steering wheel for audio, cruise and telephone controls are a bit cheesy, I’ll give you that, but all else is a big YES!
The crowning jewel is the seven-inch touchscreen LCD monitor that occupies the center of the dashboard and is operated by the Command Control dial on the center console. It plays MP3 files and can connect to devices using an Aux-In jack, USB ports, and Bluetooth connectivity.
There’s the auto dimming rearview mirror, auto dual-zone climate control, and it also comes with a DVD player.
The interior is far from flamboyant and even seems understated, but incorporating lines and curves on the interior panels, Mazda has been able to give the cabin texture and shape you’d be proud to put your grimy paws on.
That’s all it takes.
It surely isn’t the fastest or nimblest, but the driving experience sets the 3’s overall performance apart. Mazda’s 2.0L SkyActiv-G with i-STOP (Idling Stop System) and i-ELOOP (regenerative braking system to power auxiliary systems) mated to a SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic with manual mode sends the 3 sedan sashaying under the power of 151hp and 200Nm of torque.
A 13:1 compression ratio allows the engine to keep the upshifts roughly at 2,000rpm in Normal mode for fuel efficiency without sacrificing power. Sending it to Sport Mode adds an extra thousand to the rpm, making it feel just a tad more responsive – but its newfound prowess doesn’t seem to justify the fuel costs that will be incurred.
The 3 sedan doesn’t lose its poise with the old steroid jerk from Sport, but it just seems more at home and calmer without the added torque. With higher rpm, the engine roar is more audible and each minute I hear it means less kilometers per liter in the long run.
In Normal, which is always on by default, there’s a certain sexiness in its measured movements that gave me confidence behind the wheel. That lead to so many more positive things like safety, spatial awareness, making the right decisions and perhaps more importantly, pogi points.
With a silhouette like no other in such a crowded category, that means a lot. Ditto with exterior fashion all its own and an interior loaded with modern amenities young and old can appreciate and take advantage of.
A larger displacement engine may seem like a liability but SkyActiv does well to tone down consumption to 9.8 kilometers per liter on combined usage. These outstanding traits may not jump off the page individually but together, it creates a striking P1.248 million package that’s hard to ignore. It may not be at orgasmic level just yet, but these qualities of the 2017 Mazda 3 SkyActiv R definitely put the three in 3some.
Positives: Gorgeous and sexy inside and out
MAZDA 3 SKYACTIV R
Negatives: It could do better sans plastic interior trimmings, but we’re nitpicking