"For the entirety of the nine-hour trip to Philadelphia, there was no music. Nine hours. It’s a good thing I actually liked my road trip companion."
After a rather respectable start in our Four Seasons fleet, the 2014 Mazda 3 manifested its first significant issue, in the form of an infotainment malfunction. Unfortunately for graphic designer John Kalmar, the glitch surfaced during his 19-hour round trip drive to Philadelphia.
Before Kalmar departed on his East Coast adventure, road test editor Chris Nelson noted that the center-mounted display wasn’t displaying anything after he started up the 2.5-liter Mazda Skyactiv four-cylinder. This was the start of a slow death for the Mazda 3’s infotainment system, which would go on to lose or gain features — navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and music/radio functionality — every time the car was turned off and on. Even when the screen showed a display, many selectable features were grayed-out on the menu, and others were simply nonfunctional.
Things initially seemed to be fine for Kalmar, who noted that the display and the Bose sound system were both operational until he turned off the Mazda to pick up his former college roommate and load luggage. Setting out on the long trek to Philadelphia, Kalmar noticed that the heads-up speedometer display suddenly did not work, and the central knob, touchscreen, and control buttons failed to activate the Bose sound system.
“This would prove to be an unfortunate trend throughout the trip,” Kalmar recollects with Zen-like patience. “I stopped in Ohio for food and figured that I’d turn the Mazda off and on to see if that would reset it. After five tries, there was still no music, but at least the navigation worked, right? For the entirety of the nine-hour trip to Philadelphia, there was no music. Nine hours. It’s a good thing I actually liked my road trip companion.”
The tunes, navigation, and all other systems mysteriously began to work again when Kalmar started the Mazda after arriving in the City of Brotherly Love, but on the return trip to Michigan the next day they failed yet again. “We turned the car on and off three or four times trying to get the system to work, to no avail,” said Kalmar. “Filled with the fear of driving another seven hours in radio silence, I scrolled through the settings until I found the option to ‘revert back to factory settings.’ The system took a few seconds to reset itself and the sweet sound of Hall and Oates reverberated through the speakers, leading to a simultaneous yell of joy from my friend Danny and me.” The miraculous solution was not without consequences, one of which was that the navigation system claimed that the “free trial period has run out,” later turning into a screen that claimed the car was simply not equipped with navigation at all.
When we took the beleaguered Mazda 3 to the local dealership, they revealed that a tech bulletin for this issue was already in effect. The dealer performed a quick and painless update to the 3’s computer, fully covered under warranty, and returned the hatchback to us with a fully operational system. Huzzah! Although we lost saved data such as radio station favorites and configured smartphones, we were quite happy to have everything returned to normal — no more would associate editor Greg Migliore have to endure a commute he described as, “A man and his thoughts on a cold, dark night, followed by a bright, even colder morning.”
As the outside temperature was starting to plummet, we thought it best to swap out the stock rubber for 215/45R-18 93V Pirelli Winter Sottozero Series II winter tires. With the fine help of our partner Tire Rack, the cost for purchase, mounting, and balancing totaled $895.82. We also opted to cough up some coin for handy front and rear all-weather floor mats from Mazda, ordered through Amazon for $103.45.
To see how our 2014 Mazda 3 s Touring handles the raging Michigan winter, check back for our next update.
Photography courtesy Danny Gianino.