It didn’t take us long to bring a 2014 Mazda 3 to the office of Automobile Magazine for a comprehensive Four Seasons test. We’ve always found the Mazda 3 to be a premium sort of car, even though it’s disguised as a compact, economical runabout. This all-new generation of the Mazda 3 is the latest statement about what a small car should be, and we want to find out if this car still leads its competition not just in practical utility but also in the comfort, convenience, safety and sportiness that people want.
It also didn’t take us long to select the hatchback version of the 2014 Mazda 3 instead of the sedan. You get lots of usable space, which is what you want when you own one car, which must be a sedan, station wagon and pickup truck all in one. We chose the middle trim, known as Touring, which begins at $25,890 including destination. After adding a few practical and modest options like door-sill plates, rear-bumper guard, and cargo net, the price of this 2014 Mazda 3 s Touring settled at a quaffable $26,185. Popular options we chose not to select include rear parking assist and remote start.
The 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine is only available with a six-speed automatic transmission, which promises shifts that are both smooth and fast, and which still allows the nicely powered, 184-hp four-cylinder to easily return a combined 31 mpg. The brother of road test editor Chris Nelson owns a 2010 Mazda 3, and was impressed enough with this upgraded powertrain to note, “There's a lot more pick-up.” We are inclined to agree — the little hatch has no trouble accelerating to speed and passing on the highway.
On the outside, the 2014 Mazda 3 has incorporated the company’s latest styling vocabulary, much like the larger Mazda 6. We seem to approve of the car's matured looks, which include the now-familiar shield-style grille and handsome 18-inch wheels. Associate web editor Joey Capparella is lukewarm about the redesigned front end, but loves the look of the rear hatch. "The front end has some awkward angles to my eye, but I like the contoured lines along the profile and think that the rear end of the hatchback comes together well around back. The stigma against hatchbacks in this country is slowly disappearing, and this five-door is definitely the Mazda 3 to get."
The real improvement, though, is inside the 2014 Mazda 3. The whole interior feels upscale and refined, with great visibility and plenty of bells and whistles that make you forget this car costs only $26,000. Climate control employs traditional knobs and buttons that are a breeze to figure out, and the infotainment system is very intuitive despite feeling perhaps a bit outdated. Spot-on, though, is the navigation system, which provides clear and accurate directions.
A useful heads-up display for instrument functions has been introduced for the new Mazda 3, which are projected on a tiny glass plate that rises up from behind the dashboard in front of the driver. The system displays mph and navigation directions as necessary, theoretically helping the driver maintain focus on the road ahead rather than on the gauges. Many of our staffers weren't thrilled with it. “The HUD is useless and has small viewing angle, so you have to adjust it regularly,” griped associate web editor Jake Holmes. “It's also too low and close to the real speedometer, so you don't get much advantage.” On the whole, he says it comes off as frivolous and gimmicky.
Unfortunately we've already had to make a call to our friends over at Tire Rack, after digital platforms manager Jennifer Misaros got a flat after splitting the sidewall of one of the tires on a pothole while heading home from work. Fortunately she was just down the road from our office. The 215/45R-18 89W Dunlop SP Sport 5000 cost $188.60 to replace, with $28 on top for installation.
We've got high hopes for the 2014 Mazda 3, which has impressed us thus far. Check back with us again and see how it fares after its first full month with our staff.