2014 Mazda3

Review reveals why the 2014 Mazda3 competes with more expensive vehicles

Our take on the 2014 Mazda3 is that it is so good its competitors are really the much more expensive German and Japanese luxury brands like Audi, BMW, and Lexus.

Our test of the 2014 Mazda3 i 5-Door Grand Touring left us very impressed with how far Mazda has come with its new generation of vehicles. This affordable compact car is newly designed and was released late last year as a 2014 model. The look is entirely new compared to the previous generation, and the car no longer shares Ford’s platform. Mazda is now creating vehicles that are decidedly more upscale, and they exist in their own space. They are near-luxury cars and should be compared to the Japanese and German luxury brands’ cars of this size.

The Mazda3 can come either as a 5-door hatchback, or a 4-door sedan with a conventional trunk. There are two engine offerings. A 2.0 liter four-cylinder and a larger, 2.5 liter engine. A manual 6-speed is offered on just the 2.0. The 2.0 can also come with an automatic 6-speed transmission which is what all of the 2.5 liter cars have. The turbocharged rocket called the MazdaSpeed3 has been discontinued (temporarily we hope).

Our test vehicle came with the 2.0 liter, 155 horsepower engine that produces 150 lb-ft of torque. The little “i” in the model designates the 2.0 liter engine. This power was sent to the front wheels of our test car by a gem of a 6-speed manual transmission. Being a Grand Touring model, this well-equipped car had most of the luxury features that one would expect in a loaded Lexus CT 200h, or Audi A3. Throughout our review, we are going to mention the competition a lot, and most of the competitors are premium vehicles costing literally 50 percent more. This car punches above its weight class. Way above.

Exterior Design
The 2014 Mazda3 5-door hatchback looks best from the front. Here we see the company’s new corporate front end. It is a flat-front design, which many manufacturers are adopting to meet pedestrian impact safety mandates. The long hood is part of this but also gives the car a great look, not the snub-nosed look some compact cars have (Ford Focus). The prominent grill area is flanked by slit-like halogen headlamps that give the car a nicely menacing look. There is no “carp mouth” or “smiley face” to be seen in this front end. Mazda was wise to move away from those looks. There are low-mounted fog lamps (driving lamps actually) that look good, and would otherwise be black blanks on lower-spec. models.

The side design language is called the Kodo “soul of motion” design. The car has flowing lines that sweep upward. The side windows are rather small by today’s standards, and that does become apparent when one drives. The B-pillar is very thick, and it gives one hope that this compact could withstand a solid side impact. It is about four times the thickness of any car in its class from 5 years ago.

The side of the car ends just after the rear door. This is the only area of the car we feel could use a bit more visual impact. The rear end is rounded and looks good to our eye. There is a smallish winglet integrated across the top above the glass and the glass bows out slightly. The hatch opens widely to reveal a very large trunk area that is completely hidden from the outside. My son commented, “Cool car, but no trunk?” He was very surprised when I made him open the hatch. Under the cargo floor is a compact spare (yeah!). The cargo cover lifts with the hatch as it goes up. A nice touch.


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Impressive review. It’s nice to get the perspective of a fellow Miata owner. I’ve read almost universal praise for this car. I like the Infotainment screen on top of the dash with a backing camera, very German in its presentation. No mention of a lack of an engine coolant temperature gauge and that funky digital tach and fuel gauge; hopefully not a big issue. One thing you mentioned, I was concerned that the rotary control for the Infotainment system pushed the manual stick forward and into a less comfortable position. Picking nits in what appears to be a homerun for Mazda.
Thanks GL. I noticed those things you pointed out too. It is hard to decide what to put into a review in general, but when the car is this good it is even harder. You have now helped make it better! Thanks again. BTW, I found I could drive about 32 miles before the gas meter would move off of full. I actually love that. I like to drive a while "full."
42 MPH This is amazing awesome superb gas mileage on highway , excellent vehicle report
This is a very thorough, thoughtful, and useful review. Another nitpick is that Mazda needs to offer that nice leatherette in a light color. They offer the choice of a light color upholstery This is a very thorough, thoughtful, and useful review. One additional nitpick is that Mazda needs to offer that quality leatherette in a lighter color, not just black. The trim levels that come with cloth or leather (the GT s) offer the option of lighter upholstery with some exterior colors. I'm also curious whether Mazda provided any information on a possible forthcoming 2.5 manual.
Thanks Evan. I too like light colored interiors now. They cheer me up. I did ask the Mazda rep I work with about a 2.5 with the stick and she would not comment on future products (none ever do). However, she is one of the best in the business and she looked into the numbers for me. The current 3 with the 2.0 only garners 5% of Mazda 3 buyers. That is typical actually. The Corolla is like that as well. Financially, Mazda would be crazy to offer a stick in the larger engine size, but they may do it because it is the right thing to do for fans of the brand. Honestly, having tried this car, I say drive the 2.0 stick and see what you think. It may be enough for you and you will save some money. - As the former owner of a Supra, Integra, Civic SI, Miata and other cars with sticks, I am now a convert to paddle shifters. Believe me, I never thought I would be, but I love them in my Lexus IS 350 and even on my 1 week test the stick was a hassle in a lot of heavy traffic I encountered. Just my own opinion.
Thanks John. At first I was pretty depressed when I read your stat above on the 5% manual take rate in the 2014 3. If folks aren't rewarding Mazda for its investment in making available in its cars this drivers feature, especially such a well-executed one, then what hope is there for manual transmissions or for Mazda's core approach of appealing to drivers? Upon reflection, I don't think it's that bad, though. It looks like your stat is the percentage of i manuals of total 2014 3 sales. The more relevant stat is the percentage of i manuals of total 2014 3i sales, which has to be higher because the s models (which come only with automatics at this point) are excluded. Granted, I'm sure that adjustment doesn't take the number up to the 12-15% take rate that Mazda told USA Today they were expecting in i models, but there are reasons for optimism that figure will rise. First, sales of the 2014 3 haven't taken off as much as Mazda probably hoped. That may be changing as April was a real good month for 3 sales, the best April since 2010 and 21.5% better than last April. As sales heat up, the percentage of manual buyers may also come up more in line with Mazda's expectations. In addition, the 2014 i manual take rate has probably been hurt some by a couple of first year omissions by Mazda that it can correct easily for MY 2015. The first of these is the lack of an analog tach in i models. That's a real turn off for enthusiasts for which Mazda has received criticism from the automotive press. Clearly, at least i GT manuals, if not all i manuals, need to have the s dash, with the big analog tach and the heads up speedometer. That's easily done. The other omission, which I noted in my earlier comment above, is the lack of the option of a lighter colored interior in the i GT model, which is the i model enthusiasts probably focus on most. Black doesn't cut it for everyone and Mazda has recognized that on all its 3 models, except the i GT and s Touring, which come only with black leatherette. Again, that shouldn't be hard to address in MY 2015; if someone makes great black leatherette, someone must also make great tan leatherette. I appreciate your opinion on paddle shifters and will try some, but I've been driving manuals for more than 30 years and.doubt I'll change on my next purchase. My wife's next car might be the more likely prospect for paddles. Then again, if Mazda doesn't offer a 3 s manual or take care of the issues I've noted above with the i GT manuals, I may look at the paddles in the 3 s in a new light. That would also make it more likely that I look more seriously at other manufacturers in picking the replacement for my 05 6 V6 manual. (Thanks also for responding to my garbled post. Not sure how that happened but I don't see a way to edit it now.)
Thanks again Evan. In the just printed June 2014 Car and Driver the 2.0 with 155 HP is tested and CD loved the manu-matic shifting (within the story's context). And those guys are of course crazy-fanatical about stick shifts. It isn't the same as self-shifting with a clutch, but Mazda does manu-matic as well as anyone can. Hoping to test the 2.5 Thursday. Will report if I am able.
Bought the Mazda3 touring sport 2.5 liter MANUAL shift in July 2015. LOOOVE this car! Before her I had the wonderful wonderful Mazada Protege sport wagon 5. It lasted me 12 years before starting to rust. Never had a lick of transmission issues with her, and very little engine care needed. Did not think I'd buy another Mazda. But...Zoom zoom o plenty in the 0 to 50 sprint in this car. Slower after 50 to get to 60, but she's got the power to get the sprint done, in excess of most of the other cars around me when I'm driving. And yes she turns exceedingly well, its one of the best I've ever driven! I test drove practically everything out there before I hopped in her, and I have to say I was really blown away immediately. Very very smooth manual shift, great acel and wonderful handling. Doors feel heavy, car feels refined. BMW lite for sure. (And I've got ALL the trimmings you get in a luxury car, for a fraction of the price.) Oh, and I did I mention, she takes regular gas? No premium gas required. The Skyactive doesn't care, it runs just fine. Yes, I love me my car. And I can't wait for the new Mazda speed 3 to come out, all wheel drive and 269 hp. That would be Da Bomb... PS. And my Mazda3 looks soooo snazzy with the kayak mounted on top : Eat your heart out Subaru.