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2014 Mazda Mazda3 Grand Touring Sedan Review By John Heilig

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2014 Mazda3 Grand Touring

By John Heilig

Reviewed Vehicle: 2014 Mazda3 4-door Grand Touring

Engine: 2.0-liter I4
Horsepower/Torque: 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm/150 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length x Width x Height: 175.6 x 70.7 x 57.3 in.
Tires: P205/60R16
Cargo: 12.4 cu. ft.
Economy: 29 mpg city/41 mpg highway/32.7 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gal.
Curb Weight: 2,797 lbs.

Sticker: $24,035 (includes $795 delivery charge, $495 in options (cargo mat, metallic paint, door sill scuff plates))

The Bottom Line: The totally redesigned Mazda3 is a very nice compact car with very good fuel economy and handling.

Mazda has completely redesigned its Mazda3 compact sedan for the 2014 model year, infusing it with the company’s Skyactiv technology, with is Mazda’s name for a suite of fuel efficient and performance driven components combined with a new manufacturing philosophy.

That sounds all well and good, but it don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing. The day before I began driving the Mazda3 I returned to my Pennsylvania home from New York’s JFK airport in a rental Mazda2 subcompact. It was cold and it had snowed (surprise!) so I wasn’t looking forward to a 50 or so mile trip in a rental subcompact.

Aside from the early trepidation of dealing at night with some roads I hadn’t raveled in more than 25 years, I was impressed with the Mazda2. It got me there with a minimum of fuss.

So I entered the Mazda 3 compact (it is a good bit larger) with less trepidation than I might normally have had. And I discovered that the difference in one number is amazing.

Mazda completely redesigned the Mazda3 for the 2014 model year. For example, the Mazda3 rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, which is 2.4 inches longer than the previous edition. Yet it is 1.8 inches shorter in overall length, meaning the wheels have been pushed out more to the corners, reducing overhang.

Overall, this results in good size for a compact car in a class where you don’t expect to encounter good size. I didn’t encounter it in the Mazda2, for example.

Front seats are comfortable with good side support for the class. They are also heated, which was a blessing in this season’s frigid temperatures. Rear seat legroom doesn’t live up to the promise of the front seats with the passenger’s seat pushed back to what is a comfortable position for my wife. On my side, with the seat back more vertical, there was more legroom. There are two assist handles/hanger hooks in the rear, and the rear seat back releases to expand the trunk are in the trunk.

Handling is very good with the Mazda3, which is to be expected from the combination of a Mazda and its compact size. The car remains relatively flat at sensible cornering speeds.

The 2.0-liter inline four has good power for the car. We encountered no problems entering traffic on Interstates or keeping up with the other vehicles. The 6-speed manual transmission was an aid in these maneuvers. At speed, we often had to use cruise control to keep the Mazd3 under the speed limit.

I liked the styling of the car with its Ford/Aston Martin-like grille and side profile. There’s a family resemblance to the Ford Fiesta.

We’ve had a wicked winter in the northeast, and the Mazda3’s heater was excellent in these conditions. I was also impressed with how quickly the rear defroster cleared the rear window.

The instrument panel is dominated by a large speedometer in the center. On the left is a small tachometer and odometers. Inside the tachometer dial there is a notification of which gear you are now in, something you don’t always get in a manual transmissioned vehicle. On the right is a nacelle with fuel economy, outside temperature and fuel level gauges.

For entertainment there is a very good sound system, although it takes a while to learn how to program it. There’s a knob on the center console that cycles among audio, navigation and home screens. There’s a smaller volume control knob to the left that removes the need to use the wheel-mounted volume controls. There’s a nice cubby at the base of the center stack that also includes the CD changer, while there are two USB plugs in the center console/arm rest.

After driving home in a Mazda2 rental beater, it was a pleasure to drive the Mazda3 for a week. It showed how Mazda’s Skyactiv technology can make the compact car experience a pleasant one.

2014 The Auto Page