It has been a year since we last test drove a Mazda3. What a difference a year makes. While the 2013 Mazda3 carried certain admirable traits, the 2014 Mazda3 blows the previous version out of the water. All new for 2014, the Mazda3 has moved decidedly more upscale and modern.
Our tester was a 5 door hatchback equipped with the a 2.5L four cylinder Skyactiv engine good for 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. The car is rated at 28 mpg city and 38 highway for a combined 32 mpg. It was relatively easy to hit those numbers if you are not heavy handed with the pedal. From West Los Angeles to Downtown San Diego, I averaged 38.6 mpg and completed the drive in 2 hours. Around town, I typically averaged between 25 mpg and 28 mpg.
The exterior follows the company’s Kodo design language and follows closely the lines of the 2014 Mazda6. The attractive lines on the car flow nicely from front to back. One passenger took a look from the rear and immediately thought it looked like a miniature version of the Infiniti QX70. The design of the interior is quite attractive as well. The simple and effective layout utilizes better materials than the 2013 model. The navigation, stereo, and phone are controlled with a circular knob similar to BMW’s iDrive. The climate control buttons were easy to reach and are straight forward to operate. Our tester was also equipped with heads-up display, lane departure warning, satellite radio, regenerative braking system, and active grill shutters.
The longer track and wider wheelbase provide for more stability when cornering. The car felt at home on winding roads as well as in normal traffic. Put the car in sport mode and you can feel it come alive as the engine is kept in the meat of its powerband. There was always plenty of power to move the Mazda3 around. The paddle shifters were a nice touch for a car in this category. Probably, the only complaint was the amount of road noise that was coming into the cabin, especially at higher speeds. Other than that there really is not much to complain about. A fuel sipper that is fun to drive!
Pricing for the Mazda3 starts at $18,945 for the base vehicle which is equipped with a smaller but more fuel efficient engine. Add in the options and a bigger engine like our tester, and the price can swell to $29,185. The Mazda3 certainly holds its own in a very competitive compact segment competing with the likes of VW, Ford, Toyota, and Hyundai. The sleek and stylish package both inside and out provide a compelling reason for the Mazda3. Add in the driving dynamics and this car quickly rises to the top.