Full 2014 Mazda MAZDA3 Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Mazda 3 is fully redesigned. Highlights include new standard equipment, fresh styling, more powerful and fuel-efficient engines, a new electronics interface and available segment-first safety features.
The 2014 Mazda 3 marks the third generation of the compact car favorite. In this redesign, Mazda set out to preserve the car's traditional strengths -- including its everyday practicality, choice of sedan and hatchback body styles and fun-to-drive nature -- while simultaneously improving refinement.
It looks as if Mazda has come through on this mission. The 2014 Mazda 3 is based on the same new lightweight chassis that underpins the CX-5 and midsize Mazda 6 sedan, and sits atop a wheelbase that is 2.4 inches longer than the current model. The new Mazda 3 is also a bit wider and lower. More importantly, the new 3 adopts Mazda's newest, more aggressive-looking grille design, which means the 3's smiling Nemo face is gone. To be honest, we're not going to miss it.
The 2014 Mazda 3 comes with familiar engines, starting with the improved 2.0-liter four-cylinder that Mazda began offering in the 3 a couple years prior. However, the optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine has been overhauled to provide a stronger power delivery and better fuel economy. Compared to the 2.0-liter, the 2.5 drops just a bit in terms of efficiency but, thanks to its extra power, delivers a considerably better driving experience.
There are plenty of changes inside the 2014 Mazda 3 as well. The sporty cabin ambience remains, but this time it's part of a more modern, flowing design, paired with vastly improved materials quality and a new touchscreen and electronics interface. Of equal importance is a newly available suite of safety features, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and a low-speed collision-mitigation system. As a result, the 3 feels more grown-up than ever before. This isn't just a car for 20-somethings anymore.
There's no shortage of quality players among compact cars, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte. And the excellent Ford Focus is certainly worth a look if you want a budget car that's entertaining to drive on back roads. But with its newfound refinement, the latest Mazda 3 reasserts its place as a premier choice for a small sedan or hatchback.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mazda 3 is available in four-door sedan and hatchback body styles. Both are available in 3i and 3s trims that are broken into sub-trims.
The base 3i SV -- a sedan-only trim -- offers 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, a folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with AM/FM radio, USB/iPod integration and an auxiliary audio input.
The rest of the Mazda 3 trims are available on both the sedan and hatchback. The 3i Sport adds cruise control, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a CD player to the base model offerings, while the 3i Touring model mixes in 16-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition/entry, sport front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rear-seat center armrest and a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alerts.
A sunroof is available as a stand-alone option for the 3i Touring. It's also available in a package including dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen display, Mazda's new "Commander" dial-and-button control interface, a navigation system, voice controls and a premium nine-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with HD radio, satellite radio and smartphone-enabled Internet radio (including Pandora).
Those features come standard on the 3i Grand Touring, along with leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a six-way power driver seat (with manual lumbar adjustment) and a rearview camera.
The 3s Touring is equipped like the 3i Grand Touring but adds a more powerful engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, bi-xenon headlights, foglamps, LED taillights and a head-up display for vital driving information. The sunroof is still optional here, however.
The 3s Grand Touring completes the lineup by adding to the 3s Touring's equipment with adaptive bi-xenon headlights, the sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and leather upholstery. An available Technology package available only for the 3s Grand Touring includes the i-ELOOP regenerative braking system, active grille shutters, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane departure warning systems, automatic high beam control and adaptive cruise control.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Mazda 3i models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. In Edmunds testing of a 2014 Mazda 3i sedan with the automatic transmission, we recorded an 8.3-second 0-60-mph time, which is quicker than average for this class of car. EPA-estimated fuel economy is also excellent; the sedan checks in at 34 mpg combined (30 mpg city/41 mpg highway) with the automatic transmission. The sedan with the manual is just slightly less at 33 mpg combined, and you can expect similar numbers for the 3i hatchback.
Mazda 3s models get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder generating 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, joined to a six-speed automatic transmission (the manual is not available). EPA-estimated fuel economy for this engine in the sedan is 32 mpg combined (28 city/39 highway). According to Mazda, adding the optional i-ELOOP system that captures and redistributes braking energy improves fuel economy by as much as 10 percent, but we think 5 percent is more realistic. The EPA's tests validated a 1-mpg improvement across the board to the 3s hatchback's fuel consumption.
Every Mazda 3 comes equipped with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts comes standard on the 3i Touring trim level and above, while the 3i Grand Touring and above also have a rearview camera. The available Technology package for the 3s Grand Touring includes a lane departure warning system, forward collision warning and Mazda's Smart City Brake Support, which is a collision-mitigation system that can automatically brake the car to a stop at low speeds if the driver doesn't react to an imminent collision.
In Edmunds testing, a 2014 Mazda 3i Touring sedan stopped from 60 mph in 133 feet, which is a longer distance than average for the compact segment.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 Mazda 3 cabin is leaps better than any previous 3 and it's among the best in its class. An intuitive, driver-oriented dashboard and console put all the controls in easy reach, so that you aren't searching around through button arrays or menu screens to accomplish basic tasks. Although your front passenger might be put off by the vast expanse of plastic on that side of the dash, the new interior has a modern, flowing and, dare we say, adult design.
The front seats are very comfortable with sporty bolstering and fine materials. Overall, the interior panels, upholstery and switches have a surprisingly expensive feel. The only odd touch in all of this is the new touchscreen display. While it's much larger than previous units Mazda has used, its location on top of the dash gives it a tacked-on, almost aftermarket look that's out of place in the otherwise upscale interior. On the upside, the infotainment controller between the front seats operates with a simplicity and logic that's quite refreshing in comparison to more ambitious and complex systems (i.e., the Focus' MyFord Touch).
At 35.8 inches, rear-seat legroom is adequate for 6-foot passengers. There's not quite enough space to lounge and cross your ankles, but your knees and shins won't bang against the front seats, either. There's noticeably more headroom in back, too.
The sedan's 12.4-cubic-foot trunk is bit small for the class; the Civic is about the same, while the Cruze and Focus are larger. The hatchback, meanwhile, offers 20.2 cubic feet behind its rear seat, while folding the seats yields a generous 47.1 cubic feet. Bonus feature: lowering the hatchback's rear seats doesn't require removal of the headrests.
Mazda's improvements to the 2014 Mazda 3's base 2.0-liter engine -- better responsiveness to driver inputs and increased midrange torque output -- have made this engine a completely viable pick. But it's still tempting to stretch your budget for the larger 2.5-liter engine; it's quicker, smoother and slightly quieter, and there's a minimal impact to overall fuel economy.
With either engine, however, the automatic transmission is a bright spot, offering shifts that are remarkably intelligent, quick, responsive and smooth. The addition of Mazda's first-ever "Sport" mode on 3s Touring/Grand Touring models further improves the already intelligent programming of the automatic transmission.
The Mazda 3 has always handled well; it's one of the model's signature dynamic characteristics. So it's no surprise that the 2014 Mazda 3 also handles well and offers responsive and precise steering. What is striking is how well the new 3 rides. The previous car could feel tightly wound and harsh over broken pavement, but no more. The new chassis and suspension tuning give the 2014 Mazda 3 a more refined, substantial ride without making it feel heavier or less athletic during more spirited drives on back roads.