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1402 2014 Mazda 3 S Touring February Update
four seasons long-term tests

2014 Mazda 3 s Touring - Winter Warrior

Miles to Date: 8,784

2014 Mazda MAZDA3 reviews to date

Our Four Seasons 2014 Mazda 3 s Touring has been a surprisingly popular winter favorite among our staffers. The 215/45R-18 93V Pirelli Sottozero Series II winter tires recommended to us by our partners at Tire Rack have been a notable success, and I was happy to have them on all four corners as I plowed through some ghastly winter weather on a road trip to my hometown of Philadelphia and back.

We embark on the road to glorious Philadelphia

My dad and my brother joined me for the ride back home after flying in for the Detroit auto show. Looking at the forecast, I could sense that there were silent musings that the front-wheel-drive 2014 Mazda 3 wouldn’t see us through to our destination. My mom would not be pleased if the three of us turned into human popsicles before we even hit Pittsburgh.

But I wasn’t really concerned after hearing associate editor Greg Migliore praise the Mazda 3’s new rubber. “It’s an excellent snow machine,” said Migliore. “I white-knuckled my way across metro Detroit in it during a scary blizzard, and it had the proper amount of balance and security on the road.”

The other Weiner gentlemen agreed once we got going, and we could settle into the nine-hour journey at ease. The Mazda had no trouble charging down the road in faint tracks left on the snowy surface of the turnpike by the traffic ahead. My dad found the car’s sporty handling and firm ride to be an exciting surprise on a seemingly mainstream compact hatch.

Squeezing the gas pedal means shrinking the mpg

On the other hand, fuel economy from the 184-hp 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine proved to be a real head-scratcher. We achieved just 33 mpg on the highway despite traveling at a steady 74 mph with cruise control for the vast majority of the trip. That’s well short of the 37-mpg highway rating.

When I told my brother that the car had been averaging just over 29 mpg combined so far in the test (short of the 31 mpg rating), he wasn’t sure whether we were being ripped off or if all Automobile staffers just drive with lead feet. Finally I realized that the government doesn’t calibrate mpg ratings at 74 mph, steady or not.

Our biggest complaint was the Mazda’s lack of long-distance comfort. My brother and dad were soundly unimpressed by the front seats, which for them lacked the necessary lumbar support for a long road trip.

Road noise was another noticeable problem, and it often drowns out the otherwise top-quality Bose sound system. Sitting in the back, I was unhappy to feel every gust of wind sway the car side to side. Although I usually prefer a light and nimble car, the Mazda 3’s 3002-lb curb weight made me wish for extra road-hugging weight when the winds began to compromise stability.

A polar vortex in Philly

After a restful stay with my family (I cannot say more for fear my mother might be reading this), I was eager to get back to Ann Arbor. Mother Nature would have none of this, however. Sheets of freezing rain and inches of slush on the road slowed me the whole way.

I pulled the washer-fluid stalk every two minutes as I tried to keep the windshield clear of salty gunk, and it got so bad that my wrist actually cramped up. I ran out of fluid and had to buy more at a rest stop, and then I went through over half of the new jug in the last three hours of my trip. (If you wondered why turnpike gas stations sell jugs of washer fluid, now you know.)

For all of this, I felt pretty good when I finally reached Ann Arbor. Despite the crummy weather, the $26,185 Mazda 3 ferried me a huge distance in horrible weather without incident. I didn’t die or even smack into anything, and for that, I’m willing to forgive a bit of noise and lackluster fuel economy.

After three big road trips in its first few months in our Four Seasons fleet, we think the 2014 Mazda 3 deserves a sunny vacation somewhere warm. Out west? Down south? What kind of fuel economy can we get at 80 mph?

2014 Mazda MAZDA3 Specs
  • Overview
  • powertrain
  • chassis
  • measurements
  • equipment
  • options
Body style 5-door hatchback
Accommodation 5-passenger
Construction Steel unibody
Base price (with dest.)$25,890
As tested $26,185
Engine 16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement 2.5 liters (152 cu in)
Power 184 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque 185 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Drive Front-wheel
EPA Fuel Economy 27/37/31 (city/hwy/combined)
  • Standard Equipment
    • Xenon headlights
    • Halogen fog lights
    • LED DRLs
    • Gloss black grille
    • Rear spoiler
    • Bright beltline trim
    • 18-inch aluminum wheels
    • Heated exterior mirrors
    • LED taillights
    • Leatherette-trimmed seats
    • 6-way power driver’s seat
    • Heated front seats
    • Automatic dual-zone climate control
    • Keyless entry and ignition
    • 60/40-split folding rear seats
    • Front center armrest
    • Leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and brake handle
    • Head-up display
    • 7-inch touchscreen w/center controller
    • Navigation
    • 9-speaker Bose audio system
    • SiriusXM satellite radio w/4-month trial subscription
    • Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity
    • 2 USB ports
    • Pandora, Aha, Stitcher, and HD radio
    • Cruise control
    • Paddle shifters
    • Rearview camera
    • Rear cross-path detection
    • Blind spot monitoring system
  • Steering Electrically assisted
    Lock-to-lock 2.6 turns
    Turning circle 37.1 ft
    Suspension, Front Strut-type, coil springs
    Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
    Brakes F/R Vented discs/discs
    Wheels 18-inch aluminum
    Tires Dunlop SP Sport 5000
    Tire size 215/45R-18 89W
    Packages & Options
    • Door-sill plates
    • $125
    • Rear bumper guard
    • $100
    • Cargo mat
    • $50
    Headroom F/R 38.6/37.5 in
    Legroom F/R 42.2/35.8 in
    Shoulder room F/R 57.2/54.4 in
    Wheelbase 106.3 in
    Track F/R 61.2/61.4 in
    L x W x H 175.6 x 70.7 x 57.3 in
    Passenger capacity 96.4 cu ft
    Cargo capacity 20.2/47.1 cu ft
    Weight 3002 lb
    Weight dist. F/R N/A
    Fuel capacity 13.2 gal
    Est. fuel range 400 miles
    Fuel grade 87 octane (regular unleaded)
    I find in my CX-5 that strong wind (side or head) can cut my mileage by around 2-3 miles per gallon.  I don't know if that is normal (I never really tracked mpg in my other cars) or if it is greater because the cars are getting more aerodynamic.   I would think side winds would really mess up the way the air moves over the car.
    Also anything over 70 mph and it drops noticeably.

    I know this is far from scientific but: The other day I was on flat ground doing about 75 with the cruise control on and came up behind a semi.   As I got close enough to it for the wind noise to subside, indicating it was cutting through a lot of the air for me, my instant mpg readout jumped from 27 to 29.  Without adjusting my speed I moved over to pass it and as I got up near the front of the truck and into the turbulence from it the mpg readout went to 23 and then once clear it went back to 27.
    I wonder if the Pirelli's are the source of the road noise. I have pirelli winters and noise is an issue especially if the wheel wells are not well insulated.
    First, fuel economy goes down in the winter for a variety of reasons explained below. Secondly you're on winter tires which are softer, have less tread area and that have to travel over worse road conditions. This is not an unexpected result. Summer driving will always give you much better fuel economy.
    Fuel Economy in Cold Weather Cold weather and winter driving conditions can reduce your fuel economy significantly. Fuel economy tests show that, in short-trip city driving, a conventional gasoline car's gas mileage is about 12% lower at 20°F than it would be at 77°F. It can drop as much as 22% for very short trips (3 to 4 miles). The effect on hybrids is worse. Their fuel economy can drop about 31% to 34% under these conditions. Why is winter fuel economy lower? Cold weather affects your vehicle in more ways than you might expect:
    • Engine and transmission friction increases in cold temperatures due to cold engine oil and other drive-line fluids.
    • It takes longer for your engine to reach its most fuel-efficient temperature. This affects shorter trips more, since your car spends more of your trip at less-than-optimal temperatures.
    • Heated seats, window defrosters, and heater fans use additional power.
    • Warming up your vehicle before you start your trip lowers your fuel economy—idling gets 0 miles per gallon.
    • Colder air is denser, increasing aerodynamic drag on your vehicle, especially at highway speeds.
    • Tire pressure decreases in colder temperatures, increasing rolling resistance.
    • Winter grades of gasoline can have slightly less energy per gallon than summer blends.
    • Battery performance decreases in cold weather, making it harder for your alternator to keep your battery charged. This also affects the performance of the regenerative braking system on hybrids.
    In severe winter weather, your mpg can drop even further.
    • Icy or snow-covered roads decrease your tires' grip on the road, wasting energy.
    • Safe driving speeds on slick roads can be much lower than normal, further reducing fuel economy, especially at speeds below 30 to 40 mph.
    • Using four-wheel drive uses more fuel.
    True Car Guy
    The entire EPA MPG test is a joke, if you actually examine the test schedule the HWY portion has an average speed of 48 MPH. The test does include a "high speed" portion, but it is just a quick blast up to 80 MPH for 20 seconds then back down.  I would love it if they would also just post a steady state 75 mph MPG as that is what most normal people cruise near on long trips.  Manufactures know the test schedule is a joke and actually program fuel trims specifically to do better just on this test. 
    Eric Weiner
    @nutellapr Interesting, we'll keep an ear out once we switch back over to the standard tires!
    Eric Weiner
    @nutellaprI think the weather is a bigger issue than the tires. We recently took the car for a long drive toward warmer climates, on the same set of rubber, and got significantly better figures.
    @True Car Guy  
    That would be a great figure to have, what it gets on flat ground steady 75 mph.   There is a ton more air resistance at 75 compared to 48.
    And I always wonder how much better the cars would do in the real world if they weren't programmed and geared to excel on the test.
    @Eric Weiner Finally my car arrived with Dunlop sport allseasons. They're quiet. I find there's noise around the side mirror in strong cross wind situations. Otherwise I don't hear much if any engine noise and pretty good road noise. My wheel wells are lined.
    @Eric Weiner Thanks Eric. Have you tried downloading the latest Map and Gracenote updates from MazdaConnect? Also how are you finding the wi-fi tethering?
    Eric Weiner
    @nutellapr @Eric WeinerAlrighty, so I can confirm the road noise is lessened by switching back to the stock all-seasons. There's still noticeable noise coming off of the mirrors at highway speeds (high wind or not), but our MPG figures at least are significantly better now that temperatures are more reasonable.

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