2024 Mazda 3 Sport GT 6MT
Price: $32,850 CAD
Colour: Machine Grey Metallic
I’m old enough to remember a time when the cars people drove to work, the grocery store or to the pub of an evening were manuals. They used to be as ubiquitous as a corner grocery store. It wasn’t all cars of course as automatic transmissions have been around forever, but manuals were there in equal measure. Approximately 30 years ago there was a marked change in the demands of consumers when the ease and convenience of an autobox started pushing manuals into a little corner that is currently almost exclusively occupied by enthusiasts only. There are very few new cars you can buy with a manual transmission outside of the aforementioned enthusiast offerings. Every manufacturer used to offer a manual throughout the range, then it was more a base model offering and now you have to dig deep to find one on a normal everyday car. Mazda have bucked the trend and still offer a proper manual on their entry-level car. The 2023 Mazda 3 can be had in a manual across the range with the exception of those models specified with the turbo engine. When the opportunity to drive a 6MT 3 presented itself, I raised my hand immediately.
The Mazda 3 is offered with 2 engine choices. Both are 2.5L 4-cylinder power plants. One is an old school mouth breather and the other has a turbo that adds extra grunt. If you prefer a manual however, you can only have the naturally aspirated option. This delivers 191hp and 186 lb/ft. This is a really pleasant amount of power for a relatively small car. Once you stop being gentle with it and realize it wants you to put your foot down it pulls really well in any gear. The lack of a turbo also means the power delivery is very linear and predictable. This car wants you to thrash it and really wring out that manual transmission.
When you combine an engine and transmission combo like the one in the 3 with Mazda’s natural inclination to build cars that handle well, you get a very potent driving experience. It doesn’t make a big deal about it but every time you shift the car it gives you an appreciative little kick. I connected with this car during my week with it. I was reminded just how unique the manual transmission driving experience really is.
Mazda offers an AWD option on the 3. If you want that feature however, you need to go the auto route. I understand the money-based reasons for this. If you’re only going to sell 7 manual 3’s with AWD that’s not good business. I do like to dream however about what that would be like to combine this 6MT with the grip of AWD. What a world that would be…
I’ve driven most of the Mazda 3 variants available and, while the technology suite could use a little attention, I liked them all. They’re well made, beautiful cars (the hatchback in particular) that drive well. While it’s still available to us, I would love to own a 6MT version. I would opt for a lower trim level because you don’t get much for the extra money you’re spending on the GT trim and it brings it closer to the cost of the Civic Si and that’s a different animal. A GS trim at around $27k is the bargain of the century.
If you, like me, remember when a stick used to protrude from the floor of most cars and you miss those times, go take a 2024 Mazda 3 for a spin and demand the 6MT. It will take you back to the good old days when you were young, you didn’t pull a muscle getting behind the wheel and fun was always found north of 4000 rpms.