2014 Mazda3 Heels on Wheels Review


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HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

KATRINA SAYS: One of the sportiest hatchbacks on the market , the 2014 Mazda3 injects some fun into your daily driving routine at an extremely modest asking price in terms of what you get for a top-of-the-line trim.

INTRO TO THE MAZDA3 VEHICLE
The redesigned Mazda3 is a more aggressive compact car choice, sporting sleek and unique looks both inside and out. Versatility is another key selling point, with two Skyactiv technology engines equally focused on high performance and fuel efficiency, as well as the available to own as a five-door hatchback or four-door sedan.

For this review I drove a five-door 2014 Mazda3 with the smaller 155-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv engine matched to the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed manual transmission. Six trims are available: iSV, 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 rearview 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 $23,245.

I have also tested the Mazda3 with the larger 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv engine also matched to the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed manual transmission. The Mazda3 competes best with the Hyundai Veloster, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Focus and even the Lexus CT200h.

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 few exterior accents, like a $100 rear bumper guard and $125 scuff plates. There is a $1,800 GT Technology Package that features an i-ELOOP regenerative braking system for improving gas mileage.

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 an overall rating of 5-Stars with The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).Standard safety includes an advanced airbag system, dynamic stability control and anti-lock brakes. My trim featured such safety technology as Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and a rearview camera.

Cost Issues: A base Mazda3 iSV starts at $16,945 with my fully loaded iGrand Touring plus options coming in at a very reasonable $23,540. The also-sporty 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: The smaller 155-horsepower Skyactiv-G 2-liter four-cylinder engine has an applaud-worthy powertrain with noticeable torque, better efficiency and a strong fun-to-drive factor, but clearly does not yield the same fun-to-drive results as the 2.5-liter which I have also test-driven this year. Road noise is evident during highway driving with both, which may the only gripe you’ll have – the 2.5-liter holds impressive acceleration, the brakes are sharp and the handling is trustworthy.

The Green Concern:Overall, both engines deliver impressive fuel economy numbers. The 2-liter brings 30-city and 41-highway with the automatics transmission; and the 2.5-liter 29-city and 40-highway for a combined 33 miles-per-gallon with the six-speed manual.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
The 2014 Mazda3 is arguably one of the sportiest hatchbacks on the market with an extremely modest asking price in terms of what you get for a top-of-the-line trim. Skyactiv performance technology delivers efficiency ladled with fun – so go ahead and inject some excitement into your daily driving routine.

2014 Katrina Ramser

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