Most significant changes: Additional standard equipment by trim level, now including a low-speed front collision system with emergency braking standard on the base Sport model and the larger 2.5-liter engine standard on all the midrange Touring models
Price change: None for the top Grand Touring trim; slight decreases or increases on some Touring and Sport models.
On sale: August
Which should you buy, 2017 or 2018? A 2018. For about the same starting price, the base Sport trim adds key standard safety technology, the midrange Touring trim gets a standard engine upgrade and the top Grand Touring has a better deal on safety options.
Mazda brings more safety for the new model year to the budget buyers of its 2018 Mazda3 compact sedan and hatchback, adding a standard low-speed front collision system with automatic emergency braking to even the base Sport trim. While the cars are otherwise nearly unchanged from the refreshed 2017 models, Mazda also has added other standard features while holding down price increases for the base models, trimming the price for the volume trim and holding the line on the top of the three trims.
Related: 2017 Mazda3: Our View
The base Sport models start at $18,970 for the sedan (all prices include an $875 destination charge) and $20,220 for the hatchback, each up $250. But highlighting the additional features on the base Sport models is Mazda's low-speed front collision system with automatic braking as standard equipment. The Sport again is powered by a 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder and six-speed manual or automatic ($1,050 additional).
It has cloth seats, a 7-inch media display with knob controller, Bluetooth phone pairing, keyless entry and push-button start. A $1,000 option package adds 16-inch wheels for the sedan (they're standard on the hatchback), blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, heated mirrors and chrome interior trim.
The most notable added feature for the midrange Touring volume trim is that the standard engine now is the 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder. New dark silver alloy wheels, lighted vanity mirrors and a sunglasses holder also are newly standard. The 2.0-liter engine was standard in 2017 for the Touring sedan and for the Touring hatchback with automatic. The bigger engine was offered with either transmission in a separate, more expensive Touring 2.5 hatchback model.
The Touring sedan with the bigger standard engine and more popular six-speed automatic ($1,050) starts at $22,015 for the sedan and $22,765 for the hatchback; each is down $355 from comparable 2017 models. Touring models also come with leatherette seats, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-way power driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
A $1,500 option package adds a sunroof and a premium Bose audio system with satellite radio. You can get Touring models with the six-speed manual but only if you also add this option package, so with a manual, they effectively start at $22,465 for the sedan and $23,215 for the hatchback, albeit with additional features.
The top-of-the-line Grand Touring trim again has the 2.5-liter engine standard and offers six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. New standard features include formerly optional self-leveling LED headlights, and daytime running lights and taillights. As before, it also adds leather seats, a head-up display and LED foglights.
A reconfigured Grand Touring Premium Equipment Package ($1,600) has more equipment, now including at that price some safety technology previously offered in a separate package. For 2018, the package includes in-car navigation, heated steering wheel, paddle shifters with the automatic, auto-dimming rearview interior mirror, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and a more sophisticated front collision system with automatic braking.
The 2018 Grand Touring with the automatic transmission starts at $25,070 for the sedan and $25,820 for the hatch, both the same as 2017 models. As with the Touring, you can have the six-speed manual on Grand Touring but only if you also order the premium package, so effective starting prices with manual and the package are $25,620 for the sedan and $26,370 for the hatchback.
Both front collision systems earned good marks in 2017 from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with the base system rated advanced and the upgrade rated superior. The 2017 Mazda3 sedan and hatch rated IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus when equipped with a collision system plus the LED headlights that earned an acceptable rating in the new lighting tests. Compare with rivals here.
The 2018 Mazda3 continues to be unavailable with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration — offered on most of its compact car rivals except the Toyota Corolla — though Mazda has announced that they are coming and says the capability will be available as a retroactive upgrade for most current models. The Mazda3 is also a bit smaller than rivals, which weighed against it in Cars.com's 2017 Compact Sedan Challenge. But the judges continued to rank it as a driver's choice among compact cars.