2014 Mazda Mazda3 Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D i Touring I4

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2014 Mazda Mazda3
Tony Swan

Introduction

Redesigned for 2014, Mazda3 is Mazda’s entry in the overflowing compact class, offered in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles. The Mazda 3 is the company’s perennial bestseller, and the 2014 Mazda3 is the first to incorporate the full suite of Mazda’s Skyactiv Technology, a strange marketing name for a holistic approach to design aimed at reducing mass and optimizing powertrain efficiency to maximize fuel economy.

While that fundamental objective dominated every element of the new Mazda3’s development, the design and engineering team was also challenged to give the car contemporary good looks that would stand out from the herd, and also imbue it with a high fun-to-drive index, sustaining Mazda’s zoom-zoom image ethos.

Based on substantial drive time with several models in more than one venue, we’d say Mazda has achieved most of its goals. But perhaps not all.

Basics: New from floor pan to roof, the 2014 Mazda3 is roomier than the previous generation. Overall length (180.3 inches for the formal sedan, 175.6 for the hatchback) has actually shrunk slightly, and height is down just over a half inch, to 57.3 inches. But at 70.7 inches, the new car is 1.6 inches wider and that, plus a 2.4-inch wheelbase stretch, adds up to increased interior volume, particularly in the rear seat. For contrast, the Mazda3 sedan is bigger in every dimension than the Honda Civic four-door.

Bigger is only part of the story. Mazda claims a 30 percent increase in torsional rigidity for the unibody, an impressive improvement since the previous generation was noteworthy in terms of its chassis stiffness (and consequent agile handling). Even more impressive, Mazda also claims reduced curb weights, 60 to 100 pounds, depending on body style and trim levels.

The styling that surrounds these roomy interiors echoes the new Mazda6, crisp and eye-catching, with distinctive character creases in the body side sheetmetal, and, mercifully, a new grille, replacing the ugly plastic smile that afflicted the previous generation. The hatchback is the more appealing of the two body styles, to our eye, but the designers have managed to make the sedan stand out, too, which isn’t always true in the compact class.

Inside, the Mazda3’s redesign is readily visible in new instrument clusters (they vary, becoming fancier in higher trim levels), a new dashboard with improved secondary controls in the center stack, and upgraded materials, even in the basic i SV model. Forward sightlines are better than average, the front seats are sporty and supportive, and of course there’s an array of available infotainment features.

As with the 2013 version, the 2014 Mazda3 has two engine options, both four-cylinders, both naturally aspirated, both with direct fuel injection: a 2.0-liter (standard) and 2.5-liter. The 2.0-liter’s output is essentially unchanged, although the torque peak occurs much earlier in the rpm range, whereas power from the 2.5-liter is increased in the 2014 Mazda3 by 17 horsepower and 17 pound-feet of torque.

The 2.0-liter engine is the line’s fuel economy champ when paired with the optional 6-speed automatic in the sedan’s basic Mazda 3i trim level: 30/41 mpg City/Highway, according to the EPA. The standard 6-speed manual gearbox loses only one mpg on the EPA’s City cycle and substantially increases the fun-to-drive factor, so the manual is our preference. A Mazda 3s sedan with the 2.5-liter engine and automatic transmission is rated at 28/39 mpg. A 6-speed manual is not available with the 2.5-liter at launch, but will be offered later.

Like the previous generation, the new Mazda3 is exceptionally agile, and a pleasure to guide down a twisty two-lane highway. It’s smooth, quiet, and refined in most operating situations.

There isn’t much to criticize. Power is on the tepid side, especially with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission, and the lack of a manual transmission option for the 2.5-liter engine, although temporary, is disappointing. There is no hybrid version, nor is one on the visible horizon. This also goes for a diesel variant. Similarly, the bad boy Mazdaspeed3, one of the hot rods of the compact car world, may not be renewed in the latest generation.

Nevertheless, the new Mazda3 raises the ante in its class on several fronts: fuel efficiency, dynamics, quality, and style.

Model Lineup

The 2014 Mazda3 comes in two body styles: four-door sedan and five-door hatchback. Mazda 3i models come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, Mazda 3s models come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Each offers a choice of 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. Trim levels range from basic SV to Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring.

Mazda 3i SV 4-door sedan ($16,945) comes with air conditioning; cloth upholstery, power windows, mirrors, and door locks; tilt/telescope steering column; 3-spoke steering wheel; 4-speaker AM/FM audio; USB ports; 2 12-volt outlets; 16-inch steel wheels. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard; it’s also available with a 6-speed automatic ($17,995).

Mazda 3i Sport upgrades with pushbutton start; CD player; illuminated steering wheel controls; split-folding rear seatbacks; cruise control; tachometer; map lights; body-color side mirrors; Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity; USB ports. Mazda 3i Sport 4-door sedan comes with manual transmission ($18,445) or automatic ($19,495). Mazda 3i Sport 5-door hatchback also comes with manual ($18,945) or automatic ($19,995).

Mazda 3i Touring adds 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels; heated side mirrors with turn signal repeaters; rear decklid spoiler; keyless entry; rear seat armrest. As with other models, Mazda 3i Touring 4-door sedan is available with manual ($19,595) or automatic ($20,645).

Mazda 3i Grand Touring upgrades with leatherette upholstery; heated front seats; three-way power driver’s seat; dual zone auto climate control; MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system; satellite radio; Pandora and Stitcher internet radio; navigation; Bose premium audio; power moonroof; rearview camera. Mazda 3i Grand Touring comes with manual ($22,745) or automatic ($23,795).

Mazda 3s Touring 4-door sedan ($24,595), in addition to the 2.5-liter engine with paddle shifter 6-speed automatic transmission, upgrades to 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels; bi-xenon headlights; halogen foglights; LED daytime running lights; Active Driving Display.

Mazda 3s Grand Touring 4-door sedan ($25,995) upgrades further with perforated leather-trim seats; 7-inch touch-screen control; multi-function Command control system; rain-sensing windshield wipers; adaptive auto on/off bi-xenon headlights with auto leveling.

Mazda 3i Sport 5-door hatchback is equipped same as Sport sedan plus center-mounted high stop light; rear spoiler; rear wiper; intermittent wipers. Mazda 3i Sport 5-door hatchback is available with manual ($18,945) or automatic ($19,995).

Mazda 3i Touring 5-door hatchback is equipped same as Touring sedan plus leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift lever, and hand brake handle; sport seats; blind spot warning; rear cross traffic alert. Mazda 3i Touring 5-door hatchback is available with manual ($20,995) or automatic ($21,145).

Mazda 3i Grand Touring 5-door hatchback ($23,245), Mazda 3s Touring 5-door hatchback ($25,095), and Mazda 3s Grand Touring 5-door hatchback ($26,495) are equipped similarly to the comparable sedans.

Walkaround

Although they're roomier than the previous models, both versions of the new 2014 Mazda3 are shorter than the previous generation, the sedan by just over a half inch, the five-door hatchback by 1.8 inches. Reduced overall length and a longer (by 2.4 inches) wheelbase reduce front and rear overhangs, giving the new car a more athletic appearance, enhanced by the raked windshield.

The new fascia on the 2014 Mazda3 discards the ugly plastic smile of the previous version, and the slanted headlamps emphasize the wings of the new grille. The body side panels are prominently sculpted, and the net achievement of the design is exemplary aerodynamic efficiency: a coefficient of drag of 0.26 Cd for the sedan, 0.28 Cd for the five-door. Mazda's optional i-ELOOP system, employing capacitor-based regenerative engine braking and active grille shutters, reduces those numbers to 0.255 and 0.275, respectively, according to the carmaker, and these gains improve EPA fuel economy ratings in the 2.5 hatchback by 1 mpg.

The bottom line: hatchback or sedan, the new Mazda3 continues to be one of the most eye-catching designs in the compact realm.

Interior

The Mazda 3 interior is simple and verges on elegance, especially in the higher trim levels.

Our Mazda 3s Grand Touring five-door, the highest trim level, came with a sporty black interior (almond is also available), tastefully picked out with piano black and a little satin chrome. The leather-trimmed bucket seats were supportive, with generous thigh and torso bolsters, and the additional elbow room of the widened body is appreciated.

Rear-seat legroom makes for comfortable seating for a pair of adult-size people. This can't be said of the center seat, though that's true for all compacts. The hatchback's rear seats fold flat to expand cargo space exponentially.

Mazda3 offers an extensive array of infotainment and connectivity features, via its new MAZDA CONNECT system. Noteworthy under this heading is the new nav system option, whose 7-inch touch screen pops up from the center of the dash, a big improvement over the previous generation. There's also a small pop-up (Active Driving Display) in front of the driver with vital info like vehicle speed, a new approach to head-up displays that works well an undoubtedly costs less to manufacture.

Overall, the new interior exudes quality, versatility and comfort.

Driving Impressions

Mazda emphasizes nimble dynamic responses in all its vehicles, the essence of the corporate zoom-zoom image-building, and the new Mazda3 is another excellent example of that ethos, building on the agility of the previous generation.

The steering is quick, 2.6 turns lock-to-lock, and accurate, although it suffers from the too-common problem of marginal feedback. High chassis rigidity allows suspension tuning that keeps body roll to a minimum and delivers eager responses in quick transitions. And the combination of stiff chassis and lengthened wheelbase keeps ride quality firm with enough compliance to soften the hard edges of warty pavement.

Power isn't a particularly strong suit. Acceleration is sluggish with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission, the best combo for fuel economy, a little better with a manual transmission, which is a pleasure to operate with its short throws and positive engagements.

The 2.5-liter engine is a better bet for sorting out the daily drag races of commuting: 0-to-60 mph in the low seven-second category. The optional paddle shifters, available only with the 2.5, help make the most of this engine's power. It should be more fun with a manual gearbox.

Braking performance, with vented rotors up front, solid at the rear and standard ABS, matches the Mazda 3's generally sporty persona. We were unable to provoke fade in our drives, and pedal feel was firm in every episode. Operating on the theory that there is no such thing as too much brakes, we'd opt for the Mazda3 s model, which has bigger front rotors.

In addition to its agility and Euro firm ride quality, the new car is also distinguished by reduced interior noise levels, an improvement on the previous Mazda3.

Summary

The all-new 2014 Mazda3 stands out in several areas that count: fuel economy, refinement, styling, and responsive handling. For most, that will cover the important bases.

Tony Swan filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Mazda3 in Michigan.

Model as tested
Mazda 3s 5-door Grand Touring ($26,495)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Hiroshima, Japan
Destination charge
795
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
16945
Price as tested
28390
Options as tested
GT Technology Package (i-ELOOP regenerative engine braking system, active grille shutters, $1600); scuff and door sill trim plates, $125; rear bumper guard, $100; cargo mat, $70

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Mazda 3i SV 4-door sedan MT ($16,945); Mazda 3i Sport MT ($18,445); Mazda 3i Touring MT ($19,595); Mazda 3i Grand Touring MT ($22,745); Mazda 3s Touring AT ($24,595); Mazda 3s 2.5 Grand Touring AT ($25,995)
Safety equipment (standard)
anti-lock brake system, electronic stability control, traction control, side curtain airbags, brake force distribution
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve direction injection inline-4
Transmissions
6-speed automatic with manual shifting

Specifications as Tested
leather-trimmed seats, power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, leather-wrapped gearshift and steering wheel with secondary controls, dual-zone auto climate control, navigation system with 7-inch touch-screen display, multi-function Commander control, 9-speaker Bose premium audio with Pandora, USB ports, Bluetooth smart phone connectivity, SMS text messaging, cruise control, bi-xenon auto-leveling headlamps, fog lights, heated power side mirrors, power moonroof, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve direction injection inline-4
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
184 @ 5700
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
28/38
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/disc with ABS, EBD, brake assist
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson struts, antiroll bar
Tires
215/45R18
Suspension, rear
independent, multilink, coil springs, twin tube shock absorbers, antiroll bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
38.6/55.5/42.2
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.6/53.5/35.8

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
47.1
Wheelbase
106.3
Length/width/height
175.6/70.7/57.3
Turning circle
34.8
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
61.2/61.4
Ground clearance
6.1
Curb weight
3002

2014 Mazda Mazda3
NADAguides Test Drive Review
Overall Score

56/70

Pros

Great overall handling and styling, well equipped, fun to drive and fuel efficient.

Cons

Could use more power, quicker shifting, and rear leg and headroom, and at nearly $30,000 as tested, pricing is at the high end for this segment.

What's new for 2014

In both the sedan and hatchback configurations, the Mazda3 is all-new for 2014. This includes a complete redesign, inside and out, more powerful and efficient engine options, and new convenience and safety features.

Exterior Impressions

From the exterior, the 2014 Mazda3 S 5-Door Grand Touring exhibits a modern and attractive silhouette; its appearance being that of a tightly-wrapped package, with tight and aerodynamically-oriented lines, short overhangs front and rear, and arches filled with relatively aggressive wheels and tires. The exterior fit and finish of our test vehicle appeared to be very good.

Exterior Features

The 2014 Mazda3 S 5-Door Grand Touring is motivated by 2.5 liter, 184 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, and its power is routed to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission, which features both a sport mode, and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Standard on our test S Grand Touring-spec Mazda3 is an independent front and rear suspension, electrically-assisted rack and pinion steering, 18" alloy wheels (fitted with 215/45 R18 all-season tires), and 4-wheel disc brakes. Other standard features include auto on/off bi-xenon headlights, halogen foglights, LED taillights, heated and powered side mirrors with integrated turn signals, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a color-matched roof spoiler. Our test vehicle's GT Technology Package adds (among other items) Mazda's i-ELOOP regenerative engine braking system, as well as active grill shutters.

Exterior Summary
Fit&Finish
4/5
Styling
5/5
AttentionToDetail
4/5
Interior Impressions

A modern and attractive design with very good fit and finish both carry through to the interior. The 2014 Mazda3 S 5-Door Grand Touring offers good cockpit ergonomics, comfortable and supportive seating, a thick leather-wrapped steering wheel that feels great in the hands, and high-quality switch gear and materials. Also notable is the Bose sound system, which for standard equipment in a vehicle at this price point, sounds very good. This all being said, for any passenger approaching 6 feet in height, rear legroom is a bit tight, as is rear headroom, due to the downward-sloping roofline.

Interior Features

Standard interior features on 2014 Mazda3 S 5-Door Grand Touring include leather-trimmed seats (the fronts have variable heating, and the rears fold down with a 60/40 split), a 6-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustability, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with integrated media/phone controls), dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power moonroof, cruise control, power windows and door locks, keyless entry and push button engine start. There is a dashboard-mounted heads up display that shows current vehicle speed, and both upcoming turn and lane departure warning information. Also standard is an infotainment system that includes navigation, mobile phone connectivity with text messaging, and a 9-speaker Bose sound system that is able to access the Pandora, AHA, and Stitcher Internet radio services, HD radio, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Control of this infotainment system is via a 7" color touchscreen display and a center console-mounted multi-function dial with adjacent buttons. This display also serves the standard rearview backup camera.

Interior Summary
Ergonomics
4/5
Technology Effectiveness
3/5
Audio/Entertainment
5/5
Materials
4/5
Comfort and Romminess
3/5
Driving Impressions

The 2014 Mazda3 S 5-Door Grand Touring simultaneously offers great overall handling, a compliant and solid ride, and very good fuel mileage. Corner turn-in is great and steering feel is very good (especially for an electrically-assisted system), as is the brake system, which besides some slight rear end wander under medium to hard braking, offers nice pedal feel, and respectable stopping distances. Yes, more top-end power and quicker shifting while in sport mode would be nice-to-haves, and road noise is mildly excessive at highway speeds, but overall, this Mazda3 would certainly be a satisfying and sensible automobile to drive and own.

MPG Experienced

24.3 MPG (mostly city driving conditions)

Driving Impressions Summary
NVH
4/5
Steering
4/5
Braking
4/5
Power/Acceleration
3/5
Handling
5/5
Overall Score
4/5

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