Mazda Showroom Preview: Mazda 3 & Mazda 6

You’re a male, probably around the age of 16 years old, and you’re wise enough to make good decisions, but young enough to still say “let’s just have some fun.” You’ve got new neighbors. Tradition in the community means your family hosts a dinner party at your place to welcome the new residents in the neighborhood. The parents meet and mingle, and then two young ladies also join. You, an only child, are introduced to these new neighbors who are about your age, and this is where things get difficult. Which one do you choose to converse with and get to know? Which one gets the most of your attention? Welcome to the same plight that befalls the Mazda 3 and Mazda 6.

The Mazda showroom is always an exciting place to be. The MX-5 has owners and journalist alike equally smitten with its back-to-basics attitude, and natural athleticism. That’s not the only car where this fun can be found, though, as the Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 are two of the highlights of the showroom as well.

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I have to start off with one key feature of both cars, the interior. The Mazda 6 is pictured above, but the 3 has a similar layout with the entertainment controls just aft of the shift lever, perfectly placed where your wrist naturally falls. Not only is this way better than leaning forward for a touch screen (even though you can do that in both, there’s no need to), but it also cleans up the lines on the dash-board, making it look very simplified and elegant, rather than overloaded with a sea of grey buttons. It’s also made in such a way that makes you think you’re in a car with a much higher price tag. This simplified layout is shared with both the 3 and the 6, with the 6 having an edge in contrasting color materials, more room, and some polish aluminum trim scattered throughout.

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There’s a reason why am talking about the inside of the car at such a length. You want to spend time in there. You want to watch the head-up display pop up its little translucent screen from on top of the gauge pod. You want to sink into the Bose stereo. You want to find out what it can do in the corners. As you can tell from the intro to this article, they take on the corners quite well.

First, we’ll take a look at the 3 and then see what is different on the 6. The 5-door hatchback of the 3 adds some versatility, but doesn’t detract from sporty nature at all. Back gloss trim looks great over Soul Red, a color shared by both the 3 and the 6. It sits on 18 inch wheels, and just like the 6, uses the 2.5 liter 4-cylinder Skyactiv motor. It sends 184 horsepower and 165 lb/ft of torque through a 6-speed automatic to the front wheels. There’s no option for all-wheel drive on either car, which could be seen as a possible oversight in the mid-west. That Skyactiv engine works well in the lighter hatchback, providing spirited acceleration, but nothing that will have you yearning for the next time that you can send it screaming to toward red-line.

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Both are great in terms of handling. The 3 is slightly stiffer overall, and the 6 caters more toward those who want a more comfortable ride. Between the two, you can tell that there’s some shared DNA, but at the limit they show where they differ. You’ll run into push from the front end a little easier in the 6 than you would in the 3, likely due to the longer wheel base, or possibly from the different tires. Both, however, are competent to the point that almost all other competition fails to engage the driver quite like these do.

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Considering that both were Grand Touring models – the highest trim level – and only separated by $3,000 in the price tag, it makes it difficult to pick which one I’d want to take home with me. The 3 is fun, and practical, and cool looking and less costly, but the 6 is more grown-up, just a little bit better looking, and more efficient, and is really impressive once you start to examine the details. Which one would I choose? I still don’t know. How do you choose between a really good car and another really good car?

Stats: 

2016 Mazda 3 S 5-door Grand Touring
Color ext/int: Soul Red/Almond 
Engine: Skyactiv 2.5 liter 4 cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed sport automatic
Horsepower: 184 
Torque: 165 lb/ft
MPG city/hwy/comb: 27/37/31

Base MSRP: $26,495
As Tested: $30,270

2016 Mazda 6 Grand Touring
Color ext/int: Soul Red/Parchment
Engine: Skyactiv 2.5 liter 4 cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed sport automatic
Horsepower: 184 
Torque: 165 lb/ft
MPG city/hwy/comb: 28/40/32 (More efficient than the 3, despite being heavier. Interesting)
Base MSRP: $30,195
As Tested: $33,695

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