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2014 Mazda3 - 38 MPG and Maybe the Best Compact Sedan on the Market

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2014 Mazda3

2014 Mazda3 Rocky Mountain Review
By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

2014 Mazda3, a beautifully executed update to a great little car. One of the best compact sedans on the market, if not THE best.

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The 2014 model year brings us the much-anticipated and beautifully executed update of Mazda’s 3, their compact sedan. Following in the footsteps of the Mazda 6, also new and released as an early 2014 model, the new Mazda 3 is actually a bit shorter although the wheelbase is longer. It’s also wider, and carries a lower roofline than its predecessor. Gone is the goofy-looking smiley face worn by the outgoing model – this new Mazda 3 represents Mazda’s Kodo design language – soft curves, yet sharp contours. Relatively short overhangs forward of the front wheels and behind the rear wheels, but arched front fenders. The aggressive-looking five-sided grille at the front. The vehicle is a study in design contrasts, and pulls it off well. The hint of the RX-8 is clearly present. The Mazda 3 looks fantastic – something we can’t typically say of a compact sedan.

Our test vehicle came to us in 3i Grand Touring configuration. This means that it features the base engine (more on that in a moment) and a number of uplevel options, including dual-zone automatic climate control, blind spot warning system, a 7-inch display used for navigation and control of the Bose surround-sound audio system, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming center rearview mirror, backup camera, sunroof, and a six-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

Inside the cabin, front passengers are treated to comfortable front seats with excellent lateral support. Owing to the Grand Touring package, the driver’s seat is power-adjustable with a manual lumbar control, and the front passenger’s is manual. Rear seat space is a touch cramped – not unexpected – but the split-folding rear seats are comfortable for short trips.

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Control layout for the driver is excellent, with everything neatly within reach. The 7-inch display for navigation and entertainment can be controlled either via direct touch on the screen, or via Mazda’s clickwheel Commander control located between the front seats. Regardless your choice of how to control, either mechanism works well – the Commander control wheel gets a bit tedious for longer inputs like entering an address to navigate to, but it’s extremely convenient for basic radio and map zoom control at highway speeds. The screen itself looks a bit out of place, sitting atop the dash next to the instrument cluster, as if glued on as an afterthought; it’d be nice if it were a bit better integrated into the dashboard. The instrument panel is particularly compact, with an analog speedo front and center, digital tach to the left, and other digital readouts to the right; it’s important to note that fonts used for digital readouts in the instrument cluster are, well, tiny. It’s a challenge to see if your vision is less than perfect, and they disappear in direct sunlight.

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As mentioned, our tester was equipped with the base SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter inline 4 which carries over from last year, good for 155 hp and 150 ft-lbs of torque. That doesn’t sound like a lot. But much to our surprise, it’s more than sufficient for the Mazda 3. The throttle is exceptionally responsive, and the 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly, never hesitating to let the engine rev high before going up, and never hesitating to drop down a gear when the driver so requests. Even with what today is a fairly low-output engine, the car is engaging and just downright outstanding fun to drive. It feels good. Its steering is relatively light, but retains good feedback and effort, particularly during corners, and is one of the most enjoyable electric power steering setups we’ve seen yet. Body roll is nicely controlled. The only thing we’d ask for is quieter tires, as road noise is fairly pronounced at highway speed.

Also of note is the Mazda 3’s fuel economy. Even with all the fun we’ve had flinging this little sedan around corners, we averaged an astonishing 38 MPG in mixed real-world driving during our time with the Mazda 3, against EPA estimates of 30 / 41 (city / highway). While other manufacturers turn to alternative fuel like Diesel or to hybrid powertrains to make this happen, the Mazda 3 does neither, cranking these numbers out on simple regular unleaded. This easily bests other compact sedans we’ve recently reviewed.

All told, the 2014 Mazda 3 represents a beautifully executed update to an already good car, making it one of the best compact sedans on the market. Given its base price of $17,740 and an as-tested price still just shy of $25,000, it’s a good value as well. We expect to see many of them on the roads soon.

2014 Mazda 3

Base Price: $17,740.00
Price as Tested: $24,985.00
Engine Type: SKYACTIVE-G DOHC 4-cylinder
Engine Size: 2.0-liter
Horsepower: 155 @ 6,000 RPM
Torque (ft-lbs): 150 @ 4,000 RPM
Transmission: SKYACTIV-DRIVE 6-speed shiftable automatic
Wheelbase / Length (in): 106.3 / 180.3
Curb Weight: 2,866 lb
Pounds per HP: 18.5
Fuel Capacity (gal): 13.2
Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded
Tires: Yokohama Avid S34; P205/60HR16
Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / Solid disc
Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson strut / Multi-link
Ground clearance (in): 6.1
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / observed: 30 / 41 / 38
Base Trim Price: $23,795.00

Options and Charges

Cargo Mat: $70.00
Snowflake White Pearl Paint: $200.00
Scuff Plates / Door Sill Trim Plates: $125.00
Delivery: $795.00
Price as tested: $24,985.00