Review reveals why the 2014 Mazda3 competes with more expensive vehicles
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.
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.
The 16 inch alloy rims on our car were not that fancy. Larger 18” wheels come on the “s” versions of the Mazda3. Frankly, the ride on this car is absolutely, utterly perfect. We will caution readers to note the wheel size and ride if they try the s-2.5 version. Our review is limited to the “i.” More on the ride below. The only other distinguishing feature on the Mazda3 is a large shark-fin antenna sticking up like a rudder over the rear-roof area. It seems a bit big.
The interior of this 2014 Mazda 3 Grand Touring is the first place that Mazda proves this car is to be taken very seriously. The dash is covered in a soft material and has a lot of sweeping lines. The center stack is well laid out. There is a 7” communication, information, and entertainment screen at the top sitting on the dash, not in it. This is exactly the way that both the Lexus CT 200h and the Audi family of cars now like to mount their screens. I am not a fan of the whole movement, but that is just one person’s opinion. I asked two passengers what they thought, and both said it looked added on like an aftermarket GPS. Take a look at our gallery of interior photos here to see what you think.
The screen works fantastically though. It is controlled by a small rotary man-machine interface that is where your right hand falls to rest in the car. It works just like the BMW and Audi controllers that are now considered the industry best. Mazda scored here. When I first entered the car, I looked to see if there was a rotary dial for audio volume on the dash. There isn’t, and I was all ready to slam the car for that. However, the folks at Mazda blew me away by placing that exact rotary knob you want and expect, directly to the right of the large multi-function knob. Genius! It was my favorite thing about the car’s interior, and there was much to like. After one day of driving, I had come to be able to grasp and control that knob as if it was there from the first day I started driving 30 years ago.