Take 2 with the 2016 Mazda3

2016 Mazda3
Mazda twins. Photo by Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

The 2016 Mazda3 adds pizzazz.

When my oldest daughter was car shopping, a 2013 Mazda3 basically fell in her lap. My mother could no longer drive and the buy back on the lease was a great deal. Done. And the car has proved to be perfect: reliable, safe, affordable. I drove the car extensively when my mother owned it and have been in it many times since my daughter bought it.

2016 Mazda3

Seeing double; it’s not unusual to see many of these Mazdas around town. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

So I was excited to see the improvements Mazda has made over the years, particularly in a more tricked out model. The much lauded and popular 2016 Mazda3 Grand Touring I took on a recent road trip from Chicago to Cincinnati had all the latest technology and safety features, in a soul red metallic body.

Compact in name only

2016 Mazda3

On the way to airport, we consolidated, and still had plenty of trunk space. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

We drove around Chicago with our youngest daughter in the back seat. Granted, she is only 5′ 3″, but I made my husband sit back there, too. OK, he’s only 5′ 7″, but we could tell there was leg and head room to spare. And we easily fit all our crap – er, stuff – in the car; two large suitcases, two carry-ons and all the extras that somehow accumulated during 36 hours in Chicago.

2016 Mazda3

The rear seats are comfortable. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Three adults in the back would be a tight squeeze, but two would be comfortable, particularly with the pull down cup holder in the middle. And if you wanted to bring something oversized home, the rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split. There’s no need to feel claustrophobic back there; a large moonroof offers an expansive sky view.

Compact luxury

2016 Mazda3

Heated seats were a welcome luxe touch. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Besides the power opening moonroof, the Grand Touring Mazda3 boasted heated seats in the front, rain sensing wipers, leather steering wheel and gear shift, paddle shifters and heads up display.

2016 Mazda3

The heads up display was a surprise. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

The cabin was quiet enough for us to enjoy the Bose nine speaker audio system. My phone connected easily by Bluetooth and there is Sirius XM satellite radio.

Safety upgrades

2016 Mazda3

The blind spot monitor makes me feel secure. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

The Mazda my daughter owns doesn’t have a rear view camera, but since they will soon be required in all new vehicles, the 2016 has one and it works fine. I also thought the blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert were appropriately sensitive, though we didn’t test either in heavy traffic. I’ve become accustomed to having this extra set of eyes and the features are standard in the Grand Touring trim (they are optional in the base level sport model). I wish I could retrofit my daughter’s 2013 Mazda with these.

Navigation system was a huge problem

2016 Mazda3

Once we got an address entered, the nav system worked smoothly. Note the speed limit icon. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

When I picked up the 2016 Mazda3, I asked if there was anything I needed to know, and the specialist told me that it could take awhile for the navigation system to recognize my voice. In almost a week of driving, the system could understand neither me nor my husband and entering addresses manually was equally frustrating; there is no auto fill, so if you wanted, say Starbucks, you have to type every letter. You can, of course, search for a coffee shop, but when we wanted to go to O’Hare, we had to have the exact wording of the airport. We couldn’t get the voice recognition software to understand the address we gave and this was at the end of our six days.

That being said, once we actually had an address entered, the navigation worked quite well; it gave a warning about an exit two miles ahead, then a mile ahead, and noted which side an exit was on, along with the exit number. And the audible turn warning came with enough time for you to actually make the turn.

I also appreciated the speed limit display on the touchscreen, which turned to red if you exceeded the limit. Since we were on mega-highways with a 70 mph speed limit, I was (mostly) able to control my lead foot, but I tested the color changing icon for, you know, journalistic purposes.

Who is this car for?

2016 Mazda3

2016 Mazda3 twins; our friend’s daughter owns the one on the left. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

My 24 year old says this is perfect car for her, and when we visited my husband’s high school friend, her 24 year daughter was also there, with her 2016 Mazda3. But you don’t have to be a Gen X-er to appreciate this car’s charms: price, frugal fuel use and sporty look.

2016 Mazda3

Having fun at the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

What I Loved

  • The sparkly red metallic exterior really stands out
  • Heated front seats
  • Range counter so you know when you need to gas up
  • Moonroof
  • Heads up display
2016 Mazda3

A pop of red in my shirt matches the car. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

What You Need to Know

  • Base price: $26,495; price for the model I drove, with mobile start, appearance package and that special paint job, $30,270
  • Fuel economy: 27 miles per gallon in the city, 37 on the highway, 31 combined
  • Takes regular gasoline
  • Major problems with the navigation system

Img_6763Note: Mazda loaned us the sporty red 2016 Mazda3  for review purposes; opinions expressed are my own.

Judy Antell, who is TravelingMom.com's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell