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Review: 2014 Mazda 3 Grand Touring

Posted on September 18, 2013

After a decade on the market with only mild refreshes, the Mazda 3 has received a ground-up redesign for 2014. The new 2014 Mazda 3 rides on a brand new chassis and incorporates all of Mazda’s Skyactiv technologies, which are also featured in the Mazda 6 and CX-5. The previous generation Mazda 3 was among the compact class leaders despite being a very old design, so we had high hopes for the new 2014 model. We got our hands on a top-of-the-line 2014 Mazda 3 s Grand Touring hatchback (5-door). Our Mazda 3 Grand Touring stickered for $27,590, but came fully loaded with every option except the GT Technology Package (regenerative braking, lane departure warning, active-grille shutters).

2014 Mazda 3 s Grand Touring

2014 Mazda 3 s Grand Touring

In redesigning the 3, Mazda moved the car to an all-new platform. The previous Mazda 3 had shared a platform with the first-generation Ford Focus, but the new one is entirely unique to Mazda. The 2014 Mazda 3 has a longer-wheelbase and is slightly wider compared to the prior generation, but is a hair shorter in overall length. The goals were to increase the structure’s strength while freeing up more passenger space. In terms of Skyactiv features, the new Mazda 3 uses the 2.0 liter (155 hp) and 2.5 liter (184 hp) direct-injection 4-cylinder engines and excellent 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions found in the CX-5. One key aspect of the new architecture is reduced weight. Mazda claims reductions of approximately 100 lbs compared to the prior generation, which sounds about right judging from our experiences with the Mazda 6. The new lighter structure, combined with the Skyactiv powertrains, vastly improves fuel economy. The projected EPA fuel economy for the 2014 Mazda 3 ranges from 28 mpg in the city to 40 mpg on the highway. As before, the 2014 Mazda 3 is available in hatchback (5-door) or sedan body styles.

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How’s the interior and space?

2014 Mazda 3 Interior

2014 Mazda 3 Interior with almond leather seats

From the moment we entered the 2014 Mazda 3, we were very impressed with the interior. The design is modern and sporty, and the materials are rich, especially for this class. Our “s” model featured a center-mounted tachometer in the gauge cluster and a digital speedometer in the lower right corner. This speedometer is supplemented by an effective head-up-display that projects your speed in your line-of-sight above the dash. Very slick. Our Mazda 3 featured almond-colored leather seats with attractive red stitching that livened up the cabin. Fit and finish throughout the interior is very good.

Infotainment is provided by a large screen that juts out of the center of the dashboard, looking a little like an iPad jammed into the dash. This mimics the setup in the BMW 3-series, but is executed in a much more user-friendly way by Mazda. Whereas the BMW’s system is controlled strictly by a center console-mounted knob, Mazda has made the center screen touch-sensitive. The Mazda 3 also has a supplemental control knob on the center console. The redundancy is very useful, giving you several options to access or enter information in the system. We were seamlessly operating the navigation system and stereo within minutes. In terms of aesthetics and functionality, the screen is high resolution and the control knob looks stout and feels sturdy. We found the system’s responsiveness to be quick, on par with the best on the market.

In terms of comfort and space, we found the 2014 Mazda 3 to be amongst the class leaders. The front seats are quite comfortable, providing good support without being hard. Space was good for the class, but that doesn’t necessarily mean roomy. This is a compact car, after all. Our 6’4” test driver had ample room up front, which is impressive considering the headroom-robbing sunroof in our model. Rear seat space however is more limited. When the driver’s seat was set for our test driver, we found that there was perhaps enough rear seat leg and headroom from a passenger in the 5’10 – 6’ range. As we said, good for the class, but this is not a family hauler. Also, the cabin is fairly narrow. Don’t expect to comfortably fit even a child in the center of the rear seat.

2013 Mazda 3 rear seat

2013 Mazda 3 rear seat with front seat set for 6’4″ driver

Visibility to the front and side was quite good, as it tends to be in Mazdas. The front pillar (A-pillar) is thin by modern standards, and the windshield is fairly upright. Rear and ¾ visibility is rather poor on account of the Mazda 3’s rising beltline and bulky rear pillars (C-pillar). Our test model included the blind-spot monitoring system, which we found borderline necessary given the poor rear visibility.

How’s it drive?

We drove our Mazda 3 extensively on a variety of roads, including potholed city streets, winding back roads and highways. As we expected, the new 2014 Mazda 3 drives very well.

Our “s” Grand Touring 3’s 2.5-liter engine provided more than adequate power. We measured 0-60 in 7.5 seconds, which is quite good for a moderately-priced automatic compact. The Mazda 3’s quickness is especially impressive given its excellent fuel economy. – we averaged 35 mpg throughout our test As in other Mazdas, the 6-speed automatic is class-leading. It shifts quickly and seamlessly and is almost always in the right gear. Honestly, the transmission is probably a sufficient reason to choose this car over the others in the compact class with their droning CVTs and bumbling dual-clutch automatics. As in other applications, we found the 2014 Mazda 3’s Skyactiv engine smooth and relatively unobtrusive throughout its rev range. Overall we give this powertrain an “A.” It’s powerful, fuel-efficient, smooth and fairly quiet.

2014 Mazda 3 Skyactive Engine.

2014 Mazda 3 Skyactive Engine.

The previous Mazda 3’s forte was its fine handling. The new 2014 Mazda 3 continues to carry that torch. We drove it aggressively on winding roads and found it to have good road holding, and the slightly reduced mass of the new body lent the 3 a sense of chuckability. It’s fairly eager to change direction. Moreover, the body motions are nicely damped and the car isn’t upset by bumps or poor pavement. In a significant upgrade form the previous Mazda 3, we found the ride quality to be very good. Our tester wore 18-inch wheels with low profile tires, and we expected to give up some ride quality in trade for the grip. We found that we really didn’t have to give up much.

2014 Mazda 3 18" wheel.

2014 Mazda 3 18″ wheel.

If we have one complaint about the 2014 Mazda 3’s dynamics, it’s that the steering is a little short on feedback. It’s accurate, if a little light, but doesn’t convey an overwhelming amount information about what the front tires are doing. It’s really not bad for a mainstream compact, but leaves enthusiasts wanting a little.

We did however find the new Mazda 3 to be quite impressive in noise isolation. There’s a very slight bit of wind and road noise, but this is a quiet car for its class. Mazda clearly spent some effort to quell the noise, unlike many of its competitors.

Conclusion

We were very impressed by the 2014 Mazda 3. It has a premium look and feel both inside and out, it handles and rides well and it gets great fuel economy. In many ways it’s the best car in its class for many people. But it does have a problem – it’s quite pricey. At over $27,000 our admittedly well-optioned tester was priced well within the mid-size class. Looking even at Mazda’s own lineup, a comparably equipped Mazda 6 isn’t very far up the price ladder. In fact, throughout the range, the 2014 Mazda 3 is priced at a premium relative to its competitors. We would say that it in many ways justifies this premium. But compact car buyers should weigh the Mazda 3’s benefits versus its competitors carefully in light of the increased cost. It certainly doesn’t offer the most space for the money. If you’d like to see how the 2013 Mazda 3, or any other compact car, suits your needs, visit us at Car Match Car Buying Advice.

2014 Mazda 3 hatchback side profile.

2014 Mazda 3 hatchback side profile.

2014 Mazda 3 s Grand Touring

2014 Mazda 3 s Grand Touring rear view.

2013 Mazda 3 hatchback trunk.

2013 Mazda 3 hatchback trunk.

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