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The 2014 Mazda3 wins an important comparison test, just as we predicted

Our full review of the Mazda3 explained why we think it should be compared to cars costing twice as much. Car and Driver likes it too.


The 2014 Mazda3 is a car that we found seems lost in its class. Not because it is unnoticed or unworthy. Rather, it is a standout in a class that is full of well-built, but uninspiring cars. Car and Driver recently tested the leaders in the class and found the Mazda3 the winner, but there is more to it than that.

We spent a week with a car very similar to the one Car and Driver (CD) tests in its June 2014 issue. Our test car was a six speed manual and CD tested the automatic. Frankly, we applaud CD for doing this. According to Mazda, only 5% of its buyers chose the manual transmission and that is typical of the economy sedan world. We know from attending the Toyota-Corolla’s press launch that it too sees similar low numbers for the take rate of the manuals. Even with the smaller of the two engines the Mazda3 can be equipped with, and even with the less exciting automatic transmission, it still beat the Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Toyota Corolla, and VW Jetta.

What we found during our testing was that the Mazda3’s interior is not really a Mazda interior. Rather, it is stolen blatantly form a German touring sedan costing twice as much. How Mazda pulled this off we don’t know, but there must me some incriminating photos of a German executive involved. Furthermore, the Mazda3 is really not a small affordable sedan. It is instead a gene-spliced morph of the Mazda Miata and a BMW 3-series in some sort of unholy car-husbandry experiment gone right. Please don’t let anyone know about this. We are afraid of a run on the dealerships.

Looking at the CD spec sheet we see that the Mazda3 did not win any of the performance categories. Those were split among the other cars in the evaluation. However, look closely and you will see the Mazda was within a hair of the winners in every category. It is basically as good as the best of the cars in the class at everything they do best. It works.

The Mazda3 did win the EPA estimated fuel economy contest, but the Corolla edged it out in the real-life fuel economy results by 1 mpg. We are not surprised. The Corolla uses a CVT and other innovative technology to make the most of its fuel. It is also fully 2 seconds slower to 60 mph than the Mazda3 as a result. So there’s that.

Don’t get us wrong, the Corolla is an excellent car in our opinion. It is roomier than the Mazda3 inside, arguably a better looking sedan, and it is a Toyota, which counts for a lot. It is an excellent family car, maybe better than the Mazda3 in that sense. It just doesn’t beg you to take it out for a spin just for the sake of it. The Mazda3 does. It is that fun - especially with the six speed stick.

CD made a lot of the same observations we did about the Mazda3 last month in our review. The small tires may not look fantastic, but they work great over real-world bumps and broken roads. The infotainment controller is so good it has no right being in a car at this price point. And finally, CD says of the Mazda3, explaining that it is not just fun to drive for the price point, but rather, “When we say the Mazda3 is fun to drive, that’s an absolute.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Main story image courtesy of Mazda. Smaller photos in gallery by John Goreham

Note - A web link to CD's story was not available at the time we printed this. We suggest you subscribe, or check back in a couple weeks.


Jack (not verified)    May 13, 2014 - 10:56PM

Owned an S Touring sedan for 6 months. Everything said or written about it is absolutely true. The car is way above its class, fun, economical and very well built.

Ben Lovkweim (not verified)    May 29, 2014 - 3:32PM

I drove both the Corolla and the Mazda 3 this past memorial day weekend. I was not impressed by the handling or road noise from the Corolla. The Mazda 3 took my driving level to a fun status that I was not expecting all while keeping the cabin with just the right amount of sound. I have owned several Toyota's in the past and left the Toyota dealership this time thinking I had been at a Ford store.

Paul Wang (not verified)    March 4, 2015 - 2:59PM

I am an owner of a 2014 Mazda3 i-touring with the base 2.0 liter engine and the hatchback version. This is by far the best car I have ever own. Very zippy around town and very fun to drive. The car begs you to toss it around corners and even in the rain the car is surprsingly stable. To me the exterior styling of the hatchback screams Italian sports car and the interior will make owners of BMW proud. Best of all the driving dynamics take the cake of any compact.

Now comes the best part, gas mileage. I spend 90% of the time in the stop and go local traffic of Austin Texas and I have managed 32 mpg overall. On highway drives I have achieved 40 mpg with my automatic, pretty amazing. I recently took a long road trip from Austin to Big Bend National Park with 4 adult passengers and 2 dogs. The storage area was packed full with camping gear, food for 3 days and 2 boat sets. The Mazda3 never struggled with full load while going up and down elevations and tight curves. I was pretty amazed that this car can drive as well under full load for a 2.0 liter engine packing just 155 horse powers. The days of pedal to the metal on a 4 cylinder car just to get up on a hill is over. This car car rocks in many levels!

Patsy Hil (not verified)    June 13, 2015 - 1:37PM

Did you camp in the vehice? I am 5 feet 7 inches tall and need a hatchback to comfortaby camp in. Ideas or suggestions wil be helpfu in making my purchase. Thanks, Patsy