By Bob Nagy
KBB Expert Rating: 8.5
The best-selling model in the entire Mazda lineup, the compact Mazda3 is all new for 2014 and now incorporates the full suite of Mazda's efficiency-enhancing Skyactiv technologies as well as the automaker's latest Kodo styling language. This comprehensive makeover elevates the car to an entirely new level of sophistication and a place on our list of the 10 Best Sedans Under $25,000 for 2014. The stylish sedan now shares much visual DNA with the larger Mazda6 while the Mazda3 hatchback puts a sportier spin on that refined appearance in an even more practical 5-door configuration. Multiple trim grades, two fuel-efficient engine choices and several class-exclusive convenience and safety features make the Mazda3 an even more enticing alternative to rivals like the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, and Toyota Corolla.
Its 3rd-generation remake has given the Mazda3 a far more engaging personality that encompasses both its visual and functional elements. The new Mazda3 drives as great as it looks, and introduces new technology and safety features not found in any of its current class rivals.
Some buyers may not be ready to fully embrace the Mazda3's new sense of style, while those wanting a compact with maximum interior volume – particularly in the rear-seat area – will likely be happier with one of its competitors like the Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla or Volkswagen Jetta.
Beyond the 2.0-liter engine in Mazda3 i models, every other meaningful component has been redesigned for 2014. That remake brings better in-car connectivity plus numerous innovative "class-above" touches, highlighted by an available head-up display, Mazda's econo-enhancing i-Eloop system, adaptive Radar Cruise Control, and low-speed Smart City Brake Support.
Driving Impressions With 2.4 inches of additional wheelbase, wider track dimensions, a stiffer body and a new Skyactiv chassis design, the 2014 Mazda3 feels even smoother and more confident than its predecessor...... – as well as most of its key rivals. Ride control/compliance, steering feedback and brake response have all been enhanced in ways that see this new Mazda rivaling the Focus for best-in-class dynamic status. And more driver-centered control layouts, better seats, improved cabin isolation and outstanding forward visibility minimize fatigue factors while maximizing driving enjoyment – especially on top-line Mazda3 s versions with the head-up display and touch-screen infotainment system. Enthusiasts will prefer the extra kick of the 184-horsepower 2.5-liter engine, but the even-more-fuel-efficient 155-horsepower base 2.0-liter is quite capable, if a bit less exhilarating.
ACTIVE DRIVING DISPLAY
Standard on all 2014 Mazda3 s models, this class-exclusive, auto-deploying head-up screen sits atop of the main instrument cluster and provides quick, virtual line-of-sight access to pertinent information like vehicle speed and turn-by-turn navigation directions.
i-ELOOP (INTELLIGENT ENERGY LOOP) SYSTEM
Included in the s Grand Touring Technology Package, i-Eloop can improve real-world fuel economy up to five percent. It uses a special alternator that converts kinetic energy normally lost during deceleration into electricity which gets stored in a capacitor that seamlessly metes it out to various vehicle systems as needed.
While total passenger volume stays roughly the same, additional shoulder room makes the Mazda3's cabin feel more accommodating, particularly up front. In addition to better materials, improved fits/finishes and more user-friendly control layouts, the redesign sees the first use of Mazda's new "Human-Machine Interface" philosophy. Fully implemented in upline models with the head-up Active Driving Display and high-mounted touch screen, even the base Mazda3 i variants have audio switchgear positioned closer to the driver's line of sight to help minimize distraction. Rear legroom still falls on the low side of class average, but there's still room for a pair of average-size adults.Exterior
Smart styling on the 2014 Mazda3 brings a new level of elegance to the appearance and proportions of both the sedan and hatchback variants, while helping improve their overall aerodynamics. The recast grille replaces the previous "happy face" with a more distinguished character, and repositioned A-pillars improve the driver's forward sightlines. While the base SV and 3 i Sport Sedan come with 16-inch steel wheels, all of the other 2.0-liter cars feature same-sized alloy alternatives that move to an 18-inch upfit on the 2.5-liter 3 s models. The 3 s variants also boast self-leveling bi-xenon headlights and LED-enhanced front and rear lighting elements.
The features roster expands as you move through the Sport/Touring/Grand Touring hierarchy, but even the sedan-only Mazda3 i SV comes with numerous power assists, air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering column, push-button start, and a full complement of safety items. At the volume-leading i Touring level, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert join the lineup, while all Grand Touring variants feature touch-screen navigation with a 7.0-inch display, Bose audio, dual-zone climate control, and more. All 3 s models add bi-xenon headlights, shifter paddles and the head-up Active Driving Display, while 3 s Grand Touring variants get leather upholstery, corner-following Adaptive front lighting, and more.
Optional equipment on the Mazda3 is modest and trim-dependent. A power moonroof is available on the 3 i Touring, while both the 3 i Touring and 3 s Grand Touring offer their own Technology Packages. The former brings 3 s standards like navigation, Bose audio, a color touch screen and the Commander multi-function controller to the mix while the latter adds Mazda's new mileage-maxing i-Eloop regenerative engine-braking system, auto high-beam control, a lane-departure warning system, and two segment-exclusive features – Radar Cruise Control & Forward Obstruction Warning and Smart City Brake Support that helps prevent or mitigate potential low-speed impacts.
The new 2014 Mazda3 offers two engine choices, both with a Skyactiv pedigree. All i models share the familiar 155-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4 used in the 2013 Mazda3. The 2.5-liter found in all s variants cranks out 184 horsepower, as it does in the 2014 Mazda6 and CX-5. While the 2.0-liter is still a capable performer, it trades a measure of enthusiasm for better fuel economy numbers – 41 mpg highway in the sedan and 40 mpg in the hatch with either the 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The automatic-only 2.5-liter won't stretch a gallon of gasoline quite that far, but notably amps up the car's sporting character.
155 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
150 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
Sedan: 29/41 mpg (manual), 30/41 mpg (automatic)
Hatchback: 29/40 mpg (manual), 30/40 mpg (automatic)
184 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
185 lb-ft of torque @ 3,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
Sedan: 28/39 mpg (automatic), 29/40 mpg (automatic w/i-Eloop)
Hatchback: 28/37 mpg (automatic), 29/39 mpg (automatic w/i-Eloop)
While not the lowest-cost player in this intensely price-sensitive segment – that honor goes to the 2014 Kia Forte – the 2014 Mazda3 lineup still reflects solid value when you factor in both the content and character of its overall package. The well-equipped i SV Sedan starts under $17,750 and the entry-level 3 i Sport Hatchback starts below $19,750 while at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Mazda3 s Grand Touring Sedan and Hatchback ring in closer to $26,600 and $27,100, respectively. However, adding the Technology Package that brings class-exclusive safety features and the i-Eloop system does bump those numbers by an additional $1,600. KBB.com has yet to establish residual values for the 2014 Mazda3, but based on current figures, this Mazda compact is likely to retain a slightly better percentage of its original selling price than the Cruze or Focus but less than the Civic, Forte and Corolla.
By Greg S. on Friday, March 06, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Value, drive, comfort, features, styling"
Cons: "Glitchy nav. system, minor rattles, rear seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I purchased a sGT hatchback in April 2014. I have the technology package and a few accessories added on top. The only options I didn't choose were the parking sensors or interior lighting kit. Needless to say, I got this car fully loaded, and it still only came to $31,000 with tax (6% in PA). I've often felt this car was compared to the wrong vehicle segment, because the standard equipment you get, plus the options with the technology package, far excels that of entry level luxury vehicles. And the kicker is, they all work and do their job just as good as or better than when you pay for them as options in brands such as BMW, Mercedes, or Audi. You truly do get your money's worth with this car. Is it $30,000 for a Mazda?? Yes, but you'll be happier than if you spent $36,000 on an entry level Audi A3 and got half of the equipment you have on the 3. As for the car itself, it is not without its flaws. Many of the common annoyances mentioned on other reviews I too have experienced. The navigation unit has experienced a few glitches (nothing catastrophic, but still not perfect), I've had a few rattles from the doors that I found out to be loose cover panels behind the door handles, my rear speakers cut out once for no reason, and I've had the service reminder light come on when it had to reason to. Again, nothing major, but these are annoyances that should be addressed. Other than these, though, the car has been flawless. It drives like a rear wheel drive car, but with all the snow we've received in New England this winter, it has glided through thick and sloppy snow like a normal FWD vehicle. If you have any appreciation for driving dynamics, you cannot beat the Mazda. The steering is weighted and sharp (surprising for an electronically controlled system), the chassis is firm but soft enough to enjoy a comfortable drive, and the automatic transmission is a work of engineering art. It knows what you want, when you want it, and in sport/manual mode, the car comes alive with great vigor. Make no mistake, this is a smile every drive kind of car. You will not find this in a Toyota or Honda. The interior is extremely well thought out. Everything I need to be aware of is within my line of sight and there is nothing to distract me from the road. The heads up display may seem gimmicky, but I find it to be very helpful for keeping my eyes on the road (especially since I commute 100 miles every day on the highway). Buttons are easy to understand, find, and they all have a superior quality feel to them, especially for a vehicle that is not considered luxury. The command dial is weighted, and surrounded in a nice aluminum encasement. It rivals Audi and BMW's systems. The BOSE sound system is decent as well. Not the best, but when I want to jam out, it delivers. Sadly, satellite radio does not broadcast in HD, and FM stations that do broadcast in HD shift in and out of it depending on the signal strength, so you're constantly hearing a change in sound quality, but when you do have the HD signal, or you have a high quality mp3 file playing from your phone, it's a happy time. Speaking of phones, the Bluetooth works seamlessly for calls and music. Text message read out is difficult, as is e-mail, and the voice command is a bit off. I think this is more comparability of the phone than the car's system, but who really needs to read their email while driving? The navigation system works very well, and the graphics are very sharp and creative too. The leather on the seats is supple, and even with the almond interior, easy to maintain. The stitching is beautiful and the seats themselves are comfortable for long drives (I've done four 6+ hour drives in this car so far and no complaints from my back). I would prefer some more thigh support from the seat bottom, but that's because I have long legs (I'm 5'11" by the way). The rear seat space is fine for children, and OK for 6' adults on short trips, but they are admittedly tight feeling. Head room is plenty good, and sight lines are good too. I do have a minor complaint with the HVAC system, though, and that is when it is in automatic mode for heating, it will heat the car by focusing air into the foot wells and the outer air vents, closing on the middle vents. This leaves my right hand cold and my feet and left hand warm. Easily fixed by changing the direction of the air, but I wish it did this on its own. Lastly, cargo space is sufficient for a car of this size. With the rear seats folded flat in the hatch, I have been able to carry a lot of cargo. I used to have a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and I've felt little pain in downsizing to the 3. I've hauled suitcases, sound systems, boxes, clothes, etc. in single hauls a couple of times (specifically when I was moving from PA to MA). I do wish for bigger storage pockets in the doors as opposed to the water bottle holders there, but such is life. Running errands, a heavy Home Goods shopping spree, or even purchasing a new 60" TV have all fit just fine in the 3's trunk. If you're considering a compact vehicle with good value, performance, comfort, and mileage (I average 33mpg with the i-eloop system on a 20/80 city/highway split), definitely consider the 3. If you're looking at an Audi A3, BMW 1, 2, or X1, or a Mercedes CLA or C300, definitely take a look at the standard features and options list of the 3 and compare to any of those vehicles. Dollar for dollar, none of them can beat the 3; you're paying for their name. I used to work for BMW, and I love them, but my money is better spent elsewhere. And the best part of my Mazda ownership thus far, 0 maintenance issues in 20,000+ miles (except for standard oil changes and tire rotation), and the car is holding its value quite well 1 year in."
19 people out of 35 found this review helpful
By Dave on Saturday, February 28, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,700overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Cons: "not everyone owns one"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought this car in late summer 2014. First off, the dealership was awesome, second--the price was perfect and third---I love this car!!! Mazda owners since 2003 and I will continue buying Mazda. Gas mileage?-awesome. Comfort?-sweet. Options?-perfect.Style and drive-ability-awesome. Buy one and enjoy driving again."
10 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By Zoey on Monday, February 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,600overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Interior material quality"
Cons: "Front blind spots, ugly radio"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"In many ways, this is a good car. Its exterior styling gives it personality, the interior materials seem to be nice quality and have good use of soft-tough, and the dashboard is pleasantly simple compared to some of its competition. It gets good MPG, but not quite as good as I expected; I average 32 mpg in 60/40 city highway driving. I've only gotten above 35 mpg a handful of times. The headrests are angled uncomfortably forward, and many have commented that the radio is ugly. My biggest complaint is one I don't see many people mentioning though: forward blind spots. The A-frame pillars create blind spots that are large enough to hide a whole car in turns and intersections. I find this very worrisome and may replace the car because of it."
58 people out of 104 found this review helpful