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Ace of Base: Mazda3 i Sport

Mazda 3 i Sport

Base model. What does that image conjure to mind? Vinyl seats? Tinny AM radio? A low rent penalty box on wheels? A few years ago, you’d be right on the money. Driving misery was available for voluntary purchase at the showrooms of just about every major car maker.

Now, though … it’s tougher to find, but there are entry-level vehicles out there that, in their cheapest guise, won’t make you cringe with each pull of the driver’s door handle. These base models? They’ve aced it. Here’s a good example.

Third instalments in a series are rarely the best, with the possible exception of Super Mario 3 on NES. The third-gen Mazda3 showed up in 2013 with Mazda’s snazzy KODO design language and a colour palette including hues other than grey, white, and black.

Allow me an aside here. It drives me to arson when manufacturers penalize the thrifty by only offering drab colours on their base models. Or, if we are deemed worthy of a vibrant shade, it often costs a few hundred dollars. At this end of the price spectrum, it adds a Texas-sized percentage to the MSRP. Weighted, a $300 paint option on a $17,485 car is roughly equal to paying $1,200 for paint on a fully loaded F-150 Limited (limited only, of course, to however many they can build). Mazda charges $0 for the Deep Crystal Blue Mica is shown here. Members of the Brown Car Appreciation Society may appreciate the $0 Titanium Flash Mica.

Keyless entry, Bluetooth, tilt and telescopic steering wheel … features once paid for dearly by Mercedes customers are now standard for us proles buying a base-model Mazda3. Air conditioning is along for the ride, as is cruise control and a backup camera.

Two optional equipment packages dot the options list: a $1,000 preferred equipment package brings heated body-color mirrors, electronic driving aids, and 16-inch alloys to the party. Buyers who spring for the $1,300 Appearance Package will find their Mazda3 i Sport adorned with a black front air dam and — what’s this? — a completely superfluous rear diffuser. A rear diffuser is about as necessary on a Mazda3 as condoms in a convent. Mazda’s 3 drives quite well for an economy car, but it ain’t a LaFerrari. Leaving these option packages on the shelf will net a sticker price of $17,845 plus a $835 destination fee.

Sure, Mazda is a sales Hindenburg right now, but that doesn’t mean the 3 is a bad car. As our own Tim Cain points out, popularity contests don’t provide a clear understanding of class leadership.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, BB? Let us know in the comments. And of course, feel free to eviscerate today’s choice.

The model above is shown in American dollars with American options and trim — apple pie and bald eagles not included. As always, your dealer may sell for less. In the case of Mazda, they probably will.

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