HEELS ON WHEELS: 2014 MAZDA3 REVIEW
HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel
INTRO TO THE MAZDA3 VEHICLE
The redesigned Mazda3 makes for an aggressive compact car choice with two Skyactiv technology engines that are as equally focused on high performance as fuel efficiency. Available as a five-door hatchback or four-door sedan, sleek and unique looks both inside and out makes the Mazda3 an easy sell for its segment.
I drove a five-door 2014 Mazda3 with the larger 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv engine matched to the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed manual transmission. Five levels are available: iSport, iTouring, iGrand Touring, sTouring and sGrand Touring. My top-of-the-line sGrand Touring test drive came with the following standard features: almond-colored leather upholstery; leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls; leather-wrapped shift knob; six-way power driver’s seat; front heated seats; push-button start; seven-inch touchscreen display with navigation and a backup camera; roof spoiler; upgraded nine-speaker Bose audio system; XM and HD Radio; Bluetooth connectivity; paddle shifters; nineteen-inch wheels. Total price as described came to $26,495.
Due to style and performance, the Mazda3 competes best with the Hyundai Veloster, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Focus and even the Lexus CT200h. Skyactiv performance technology helps keep the Mazda3 abreast of the new compact car trend of delivering impressive highway paired with excellent fuel economy numbers at 28 miles-per-gallon city and 38 highway with the 2.5-liter.
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: It’s a sporty and somewhat tight fit inside the hatchback. Cabin materials see an upgrade from models past, paired to an inviting dash design that features an upscale flow with the climate dials, audio system controls and seven-inch touchscreen. Fold the second-row seats and you get 47.1 cubic inches of cargo space. Options for my test drive included a $300 Soul Red exterior paint job, $100 rear bumper guard, $125 scuff plates, and $1,800 GT Technology Package (the i-ELOOP regenerative braking system for improving gas mileage and active grille shutters).
Reliability & Safety Factor: Both the 2014 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback are a Top Safety Pick with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). You can view crash results on their website. The vehicle has not yet been rated by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Cost Issues: A base Mazda3 iSport starts at $18,945 with my fully loaded iGrand Touring plus options coming in at $28,690. The also-sport 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer starts at $17,195 with the aggressively built Ralliart (turbocharged engine, Active Center Differential for tough terrain, and a six-speed twin-clutch Sportronic transmission) at $28,395.
Activity & Performance Ability: Road noise is evident during highway driving, which may the only grip you’ll have – the 2.5-liter holds impressive acceleration, the brakes are sharp and the handling is trustworthy. In the past, I have tested the smaller 155-horsepower Skyactiv-G 2-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s an applaud-worthy powertrain with noticeable torque, better efficiency and a strong fun-to-drive factor, but clearly not yielding the same fun-to-drive results as the 2.5-liter.
The Green Concern: Overall, both engines deliver impressive fuel economy numbers. The 2-liter brings 30-city and 40-highway with the automatics transmission; and the 2.5-liter 28-city and 38-highway when equipped with the i-ELOOP regenerative braking system and automatic transmission. Note this is a $1,800 upgrade.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
The 2014 Mazda3 stands out in an oversaturated sporty compact car market for offering sleek looks, great powertrain performance and a reasonable price. Skyactiv performance technology delivers 38 miles-per-gallon highway and with it, tons of fun.
©2014 Katrina Ramser