When I acquired my first-gen Mazda 3 ten years ago, it was not the car I initially wanted. I had another vehicle in mind, but things happened that led me to walk into that Mazda dealership and sign the paperwork. I have never looked back since and after a decade and 70,000km of motoring, I still proudly own the car that has given me absolute joy at every opportunity that I get to drive it.
However, I have always wondered what my beloved steed’s latest iteration would be like. With the current-gen Mazda 3 getting all sorts of accolades around the world, I became genuinely intrigued about it. My curiosity was soon satisfied when I was given the opportunity to test one for a few days. And it was not just any Mazda 3. This was the Edition 100, created to commemorate the centenary of its maker.
I have heard of people calling the white-and-red combo paint job a bit tacky, but I think it looks great. The Mazda 3 Sportback is already a good-looking car. The Kodo design language gives it a clean, sleek profile that makes even the base variants turn heads. But the Edition 100, based on the Speed trim level, stands out with its Snowflake White Pearl Mica body and Soul Red Crystal accents down below. The 18-inch alloys are finished in gloss black which is a fitting match to the special livery.
As I opened the door, I was greeted by one of the best interiors I have ever been into. Soft touch materials are everywhere, and everything felt premium. I felt cocooned inside it, though claustrophobic people might have issues with the window size that is much smaller than most of its competitors. While I am partial to all-black interiors, I found the lashings of red on the dashboard and seats quite tasteful. The instruments even have this welcome song and dance when you start the car, which is a nice touch.
The cabin allows just the right amount of wind and tire noise from the outside, giving you that sense of movement. As an audio enthusiast, I appreciated the sweet-sounding music from the 12-speaker Bose audio system. Admittedly, the absence of a touchscreen can be a bit jarring, but there is something about how the infotainment system’s controls, and user interface were designed so that everything felt natural after you spend some time with it. The simplicity of the car’s overall interior design isn’t something one will get tired of easily.
At the heart of this car is the same, yet tweaked, 2.0-liter SkyActiv mill and six-speed automatic gearbox from the last-generation 3. The engine has modest output and torque figures, but the power unit-and-transmission pairing offers excellent response and is quite fuel efficient. Light taps on the accelerator are all you need to get the car moving. Play with the go pedal with gusto and you will find that this engine is more than happy to explore the entirety of its rev range. It feels faster and more powerful than it actually is, which was pleasantly surprising.
The torsion beam rear suspension is considered by purists as a downgrade from multilink set up of yore, but all that talk vanishes the moment you come across winding provincial roads. The Mazda 3 truly personifies jinba ittai, or the unity between the horse and its rider. Definitely one of the best compact cars in the handling department. Each time I was behind the wheel, I felt that the car knew what I want to do and how I want to do it. It had me grinning from ear to ear the entire time.
The ride is on the firm side but not bone-jarring. Steering is light but has ample feedback, allowing you to easily place the car to where you want to be. Electronic aids like the Dynamic Stability Control and the G-Vectoring Control Plus helps you put the car where you would want it to be. The 3 felt so stable that I felt confident carrying speed into corners that I usually take very gingerly. The lack of body roll is a reassuring feeling as I get close to the apex.
The 3 is equipped with several active and passive safety systems. The radar cruise control, lane departure and lane keep assist makes highway driving a breeze. Blind spot monitoring and the front and rear cross-traffic alerts are there to keep that sculpted body remain flawless. In fact, the car’s autonomous braking kicked in when a reckless driver darted across the spot I was reversing toward.
But the Mazda 3 is not perfect. The stylish yet huge C-pillar is a massive blind spot. Although the operation of the auto stop-start feature was smoother than I expected, I just turned it off because it was annoying having the engine cut out during traffic stops. The low ride height concerned me as well especially at the sight of speed bumps and parking ramps. And at P1.61 million, this is not the most affordable compact car out there. The same amount of money can also get you a crossover, the obvious choice of most people these days.
But as my colleague Manskee Nascimento best puts it, “it’s the way the car makes you feel; that’s what matters.” No matter how bad traffic is, how poorly our roads are made, or notoriously negligent other motorists are, the Mazda 3 made me fall in love with driving again. And just for that, I would get one for myself in a heartbeat like I did 10 years ago.
MAZDA 3 EDITION 100
|Engine||2.0-liter four-cylinder DOHC gasoline|
|Power||152hp @ 6,000rpm|
|Torque||200Nm @ 4,000rpm|
|Dimensions||4,460mm x 1,795mm x 1435mm|
|Upside||Good looks, equipment list, premium interiors, and great driving dynamics.|
|Downside||Steep price and low ground clearance.|