The Mazda 3 has always been one of our favorite small cars, with previous generations winning numerous All-Star awards and comparison tests despite a few shortcomings like plasticky interiors and, until the recent advent of Mazda’s Skyactiv technology, uncompetitive fuel economy. This new 2014 Mazda 3 looks swoopier than ever, adopting Mazda’s Kodo design language on the outside along with a more upscale feel on the inside. Can this newly upmarket Mazda 3 retain the quintessential Mazda zoom-zoom?
Yes it can, according to west coast editor Michael Jordan, who was impressed right off the bat. “This is a great little sedan that is the right car for almost everyone,” Jordan said. “It drives with personality, yet it’s more significant for its ability to offer the latest active-safety devices and an outstanding level of luxury at an affordable price.” The smoother, quieter ride in combination with the upgraded interior means this Mazda almost transcends the economy car label without sacrificing the car’s fluid, agile handling. Editors were complimentary of the Mazda’s linear steering, buttoned-down chassis, and ride-and-handling balance that other compacts can’t match.
Nearly all of the previous Mazda 3’s flaws have been remedied as well. Both the smaller, 155-hp 2.0-liter and the larger 184-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines receive the Skyactiv treatment, meaning that both hit the vaunted 40 mpg highway rating when properly equipped. The hard interior plastics give way to a truly premium interior package, with soft-touch materials in a pleasing, simple arrangement.
The Mazda 3 is now unabashedly at the top of the compact heap, as no other car in this competitive segment offers the same combination of grace, style, technology, and the aforementioned active safety features. This optional suite of systems, many of which are a first for the mainstream compact segment, include lane departure warning, active city braking, cross traffic alert, and blind spot recognition. Don’t think that all this technology makes the car overcomplicated, though. The Mazda’s multi-function infotainment controller knob feels just as good to twist as similar systems in any Mercedes or BMW, but is simple and intuitive to use as well. Of course, with a commensurate increase in quality and feature content comes a price increase as well—a loaded hatchback can top $30,000—but the 2014 Mazda 3 is worth it.
Will the redesigned 2014 Mazda 3 win Automobile of the Year? Check back on November 16th to find out.
Photos by Patrick Hoey.
We will be releasing our 10 Finalists for the 2014 Automobile of the Year throughout the week leading up to the announcement of the winner on Saturday, November 16. See our other finalists here: