New for 2015

All-new for the 2014 model year, the Mazda3 enters 2015 relatively unchanged, but makes a six-speed manual transmission optional with the 2.5-liter I-4, in addition to minor changes to standard features and package content.

Vehicle Overview

The Mazda3 is a sedan and four-door hatchback that combines fuel efficiency, driving dynamics, and style in a compact that provides surprising value. The Mazda3 fits above the subcompact Mazda2 hatchback and below the Mazda6 sedan in the automaker’s lineup.

Summary

The 2015 Mazda3 is powered by a pair for four-cylinder engines that deliver on the sporting promise we’ve come to expect from Mazda products, but without a fuel efficiency penalty. The i models (i Sport, i Touring, and i Grand Touring) are all powered by a 2.0-liter I-4 that makes 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque, and can drive the front wheels through a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. EPA-estimates for the small I-4 are 29/40 mpg (city/highway) with the manual and 30/40 mpg with the automatic. Stepping up to the optional 2.4-liter I-4 (our engine of choice) will net buyers 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, and the engine can be paired with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission for an EPA-estimated 26/35 mpg with the manual and 27/37 mpg with the automatic.

An i-ELOOP regenerative braking system is available on the larger I-4 engine, when paired to the automatic, that stores energy when the accelerator is released, which can power car systems and improve fuel efficiency up to a claimed 5 percent. The EPA rates Mazda3 with the i-ELOOP system at 28/39 mpg. The host of available features is surprising for this segment, which includes keyless entry and start, a Bose audio system, adaptive HID headlights, auto on/off high beams, a 7-inch infotainment screen, radar-based adaptive cruise control (will match speed down to 19 mph), blind spot and cross traffic alerts, forward collision alert, smart city brake support (between 2 mph and 18 mph the car automatically applies the brakes if a collision is unavoidable), a lane departure warning, and a head-up display.

The 2015 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback received a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA (out of a possible five stars), and both models are considered a 2015 Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS.

What We Think

The 2015 Mazda3 is the kind of compact passenger car that combats the impressions of some consumers who think that compact cars are penalty boxes for car enthusiasts. We like driving our cars, not just being transported from A to B, and that’s why a 2014 Mazda3 took the top place in a 2014 Compact Sedan comparison, beating the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Dodge Dart, Chevrolet Cruze, Volkswagen Jetta, Kia Forte, and Ford Focus. While many of the cars were efficient and practical, most made us think of the rental car lot.

We praised the Mazda3 for great steering, superb ride/handling balance, reasonable interior space (passenger and cargo), a delightful six-speed automatic, excellent and efficient 2.0-liter I-4, and an impressive list of available active-safety features. We had a few quibbles about the software of the infotainment system, and wished for a little better forward and rearward visibility, but they were things that didn’t detract from the usability or excellence of the drive.

Our long-term Four Seasons 2014 Mazda3 s Touring came with the larger 2.5-liter I-4, and when driven conservatively we were able to exceed the EPA ratings. A recurring problem with our 3 was a malfunctioning infotainment system, which we’ve gotten several software updates for. We even put our long-termer head-to-head with a Honda Civic EX-L, a popular choice, on a 220-mile loop with mixed driving. The two cars were within one-mpg of each other (37.3 mpg for the Mazda and 37.7 mpg for the Honda), to which we said, “while there isn’t any glaring fault with the Civic’s pleasant, comfortable driving dynamics, the Mazda3 feels more urgent, eager, and responsive at every turn.” If you’re like us and you want to enjoy your drive instead of just getting to B, the Mazda3 might just be worth a look.

You’ll Like

  • Efficient engines
  • Fun to drive
  • Now you can get a manual with the 2.4-liter I-4

You Won’t Like

  • Observed reliability of infotainment system
  • Road noise

Key Competitors

  • Honda Civic
  • Ford Focus
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Dodge Dart
  • Kia Forte
  • Chevrolet Cruze

Rating

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