by John Davis
The 2014 model year marks the 10th anniversary of the Mazda3 compact series. And in that brief time it’s not only become one of our favorite small cars, but Mazda’s biggest seller. For its 3rd generation, it undergoes the most changes in its brief history, being all new from the ground up.
For starters the Mazda3’s wheelbase is over 2-inches longer than before, but the overall length is almost 2-inches shorter. We think the new proportions work great with Mazda’s slick KODO “soul of motion” design theme. It’s easily the best looking car in the compact segment, particularly as a 5-door hatchback. A more conservative 4-door sedan body style is also available.
The interior of the Mazda3 has been completely reworked. The result is a cleaner layout with much improved materials. In our testing we sampled a highly equipped Grand Touring model. The 2014 Mazda3 left us wanting for little with navigation, a Bose sound system, leather-trimmed sport seats, dual-zone climate control, and even push button start are all included. Our car even had a head-up display which is most unusual for the compact class.
The GT Technology package adds a lane departure warning system, automatic high beam control, active grille shutters, and Mazda’s new i-eloop system that stores braking energy to help run the car’s electrical components.
A pair of SKYACTIV-G 4-cylinder engines are also available; a 2.0-liter and a 2.5-liter. With this vehicle there’s very little fuel economy penalty for stepping up to the larger four, and its stronger 184-horsepower and 185 lb-ft. of torque will be welcomed no matter what kind of driving you’re planning. As to fuel economy, the 2.5 engine has very acceptable numbers with Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 28 MPG City, 38 MPG Highway, and 32 MPG Combined.
Though a performance car by any stretch, the Mazda3 has always been a well performing one and that continues with the 2014 model. SKYACTIV body and chassis enhancements make the new 3 both stiffer and lighter, and the fully independent suspension setup consists of MacPherson struts up front with a multi-link setup in the rear, with twin-tube shocks all around. Brakes are all-discs on all models while most rivals still sport standard drum brakes at the rear.
Available advanced safety features include blind spot monitoring, backup camera, and rear cross traffic alert. The Mazda3 also features a new Mazda Connect infotainment system which merges all of your connectivity needs into a dash top screen with an easy to use central controller.
Our only real reservation about the Mazda3 is that, depending on how it is equipped, it can be rather pricey for a small car. That said, the 2014 Mazda3 offers style, fine fuel economy, advanced features, and a fun nature that’s hard to find in this segment. That makes the Mazda3 one small car we could really learn to love.
For more of our exclusive Road Test of the 2014 Mazda3 be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3314. This program begins airing on December 7, 2013. For a complete listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, click the “About the Show” tab at the top. MotorWeek also airs Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable channel.