3 IS THE CHARM
2014 Mazda3 I 4-Door Grand Touring
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Feb 11, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Reed Berry Each year, I have the opportunity to road test a number of new vehicles for review purposes. Some of them are impressive, others are quite unmemorable and, every once in a while, there is one I just don’t want to give back. When a car is sporty, fun to drive, practical and fuel efficient, it really gets my attention and respect. Such is the case with the 2014 Mazda3 I 4-Door Grand Touring. I’ve always heard that things happen in threes. A lot of good things appear to be happening in the new Mazda3. Speaking of threes, this is the third generation Mazda3. Unfortunately, the first generation models didn’t have a lot of eye appeal. The second generation showed promise but still didn’t excite me. With the new third generation, Mazda seems to have gotten it exactly right. Attractive exterior styling and a lengthy list of standard features, as well as impressive fuel economy thanks to Mazda’s Skyactiv technology, has this compact sedan causing a buzz within the auto industry. As I make my way around the vehicle, I can’t help but think that this car is very hard not to like. The sleek, sculpted body leads me to a bold front end design that features a striking black grille and chrome trim. As I continue my inspection, the new Mazda3 has a couple of features that definitely add to the car’s sporty appearance: a shark fin antenna and a rear deck lip spoiler painted to match the color of the car. Great looking 16-inch alloy wheels are standard on Mazda3. As I enter the vehicle, the theme seems to be leather. In addition to leatherette-trimmed sport seats, the steering wheel, gearshift knob and brake handle are all wrapped in leather. Leather certainly adds the look and feel of quality to a vehicle’s interior. The seating is quite comfortable and the front seats are heated for added comfort in cold weather. Variable settings allow the driver and front seat passenger to achieve the desired degree of warmth. The interior certainly has eye appeal except, perhaps, for the touch screen display which, instead of being neatly integrated into the stylish interior design, looks more like a small tablet computer that has simply been placed atop the dash. The sculpted dash panel flows into a center console that features Mazda’s multi-function Commander Control which allows you to operate several of the vehicle’s infotainment functions. The Commander Control is basically a knob with a push button in the center surrounded by smaller buttons. Using the buttons in the proper sequence allows the driver to, among other things, select radio bands and program favorite radio stations, phone contacts and navigation destinations. In a vehicle unfamiliar to me, I find trying to figure out which buttons to push to activate the desired function a bit tedious but, like anything else, practice makes perfect and will eventually allow me to operate the various functions by touch without a great deal of thought. There’s certainly no shortage of entertainment in this car. All the audio basics are here, including AM / FM radio and a CD player. For those of us who think of CDs as being a bit yesterday, the infotainment system, which features a crystal-clear nine-speaker Bose sound system, also provides access to SiriusXM satellite radio as well as streaming audio from Pandora, Aha and Stitcher. There are two USB ports for iPods and other devices. For hands-free audio and phoning, Mazda3 is Bluetooth equipped. Mazda3 has a keyless entry system and push button engine start. Push button start, once found only in higher-end vehicles, is a nice feature in any car but…where’s the button? Positioned in the driver’s seat looking straight ahead I don’t see it on the dash, so naturally I look down to determine if it’s located somewhere on the console. Nope, not there either. Realizing that the only way I will be able to road test this car is to actually start it, my search for the button continues. Finally, as I lean forward and look behind the steering wheel, I spot the elusive start button. Now that I have started the vehicle, I am encouraged by its peppy personality. The 155-horsepower four-cylinder engine seems to provide ample power. A six-speed manual transmission (a six-speed automatic is available) not only gives the car a super sporty feel, but also allows me to make the most out of what is under the hood. The car drives smoothly and quietly as I make my way through the streets of Pasadena and provides quick, hesitation-free acceleration as I enter the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway, the first freeway in the Western United States. The speed limit was quite a bit lower when this freeway opened in 1941, but now the narrow lanes and assortment of twists along the route gives me an opportunity to test the handling and agility of this vehicle. Not only does the responsive rack-and-pinion steering and traction control system give the Mazda3 a confident road presence, but it gives me the ability to avoid a number of less-than-skilled drivers that apparently have not mastered the proper technique with which to negotiate the unique characteristics of this freeway. The new Mazda3 has a variety of safety features such as a rear-view camera for safe backing and rear cross traffic alert, but probably the most significant feature is blind spot monitoring. If a vehicle enters the blind spot detection area, an LED image appears in the rear-view mirror on the corresponding side of the vehicle. If I should activate my turn signal for a lane change while a vehicle is in the detection area, an audible alert sounds and the LED image begins to flash. One should continue to check their blind spots the old fashioned way using mirrors and a turn of the head rather than relying solely on a system like this, but as an added safety measure this intelligently designed system will certainly help drivers avoid collisions. Also in the plus column is the fact that the new Mazda3 is quite spacious for a car its size. Driver and passengers can stretch out in a generous 96.3 cubic feet of space. Considering how roomy the interior is, one might think that Mazda would have sacrificed trunk space, but an earlier peek revealed a fairly large cargo area of over 12 cubic feet. The price of this vehicle is just over $23,000, which may sound a bit high for a compact sedan but, in fact, seems like quite a value considering that there is less than $500 in optional equipment on my test vehicle. This is a fully loaded car with the comfort and power to satisfy just about anyone’s daily driving needs. Should you feel the need for speed, you may want to consider dropping a few more coins (actually, a few thousand more dollars) and getting the Mazda3 S Grand Touring which comes with an aggressive 2.5-liter 184-horsepower engine. For more information on Mazda products, go to www.mazdausa.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2014 Mazda3 I 4-Door Grand Touring Price: $22,745 (base) $23,240 (as tested) EPA fuel economy estimates: 29 city/41 highway miles per gallon Engine type: Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine Horsepower: 155 @ 6000 rpm Torque: 150 @ 4000 rpm Transmission type: Skyactiv-MT 6-speed manual transmission Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive Steering: Electric power assisted rack and pinion steering with variable assist Brakes Front: Vented disc Rear: Solid disc Wheels: 16-inch alloy wheels Dimensions Overall length: 175.6 inches Overall width: 70.7 inches Overall height: 57.3 inches Curb weight: 2,797 pounds