2014 Mazda 3 i Touring Full Test

2014 Mazda Mazda3 Sedan

(2.0L 4-cyl. 6-speed Automatic)
  • 2014 Mazda 3 i Touring

    2014 Mazda 3 i Touring

    The least flattering color for a car that looks great in any color. | October 16, 2013

33 Photos

A Small Car Worth Driving

The redesigned 2014 Mazda 3 sedan manages to stand out even when it doesn't stand out. It rides on a wheelbase that's identical to most of its competitors, namely the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla. It's much like them under the hood as well, with its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine turning the front wheels through a six-speed automatic. It's good looking, but it's not startlingly beautiful.

Despite its similarities, however, the 2014 Mazda 3 is a different breed of compact car. This is the sweetest and most comprehensively satisfying to drive small sedan currently available. It's not perfect, but it sure is lovable.

It's almost cuddly good.

Only the Second Full Redesign of the Mazda 3
Mazda has been building strong compacts since 1977, when it introduced the rear-drive GLC. But this is only the third generation of the Mazda 3 name, which was introduced for the 2004 model year. Three generations in 10 years is a pretty quick turnover, but the second Mazda 3 was a worthwhile step forward, and so is this one.

2014 Mazda 3 Touring

As is typical of sedans in this class, the Mazda 3 has grown slightly. That 106.3-inch wheelbase is up 2.4 inches over the outgoing model, while the overall width is up 1.6 inches and the overall height has dropped 0.6 inch. The overall length is down about half an inch to 180.3 inches, but most of the difference comes from the shape of the bumper cover, not the actual structure.

The general proportions of the new sedan aren't much different from the old one. The nose is still long and flat-topped, the roof is gracefully arched and the trunk is again short. One design change we're glad to see is the elimination of the previous car's dopey, grinning front grille and wedge-shaped flank detailing. In its place is Mazda's latest "Kodo" design theme. On the 2014 Mazda 6, Kodo has produced extravagant fender shapes that seem to have swooped in from a Maserati. The Kodo elements are more subtle in the Mazda 3, with the swoops now suggested in the modeling of the fenders instead of in the shapes themselves.

We Tested the Midgrade Model
A five-door hatchback is again offered, but the subject here is the mainstream four-door sedan. The 2014 Mazda 3 i Touring model we tested is two steps up from the base $17,740 SV model, but three steps down from the top-of-the-line $26,790 S Grand Touring.

Starting at $21,440 with the six-speed automatic transmission, the test car was fortified with a $1,600 Technology package, a $200 charge for the Snowflake White Pearl paint, $125 worth of scuff plates and a $70 cargo mat. Add it all up and this is a $23,435 Mazda 3.

Unfortunately, the test car was also equipped with the 155-horsepower 2.0-liter version of Mazda's direct-injection, DOHC Skyactiv four. And that winds up in a single exhaust outlet out back. Mazda 3s powered by the 184-hp, 2.5-liter version of the engine get a dual chrome-tipped exhaust to let the world know you're a driver of taste, distinction and robust financial wherewithal.

Lightweight but Not Fast
At 2,903 pounds, the 2014 Mazda 3 is svelte by 21st-century standards. But 155 hp can only do so much with that much mass, so the measured performance of the new Mazda 3 is subdued. Letting the transmission shift itself, it traipsed from zero to 60 mph in a languid 8.3 seconds (8.0 seconds with a foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and knocked off the quarter-mile in an easygoing 16.2 seconds at 87.3 mph. The transmission can be shifted manually (push forward for downshifts, pull back for upshifts) but that didn't do anything to improve the numbers.

2014 Mazda 3 Touring

That doesn't mean it's not useful, though, as that transmission is a blast when running the hilltop roads in Southern California. Dive into a corner and the tranny quickly snicks down to the requested gear. Snap over the sweet electrically assisted power steering, release the brakes and every one of those 155 horses show up to pull you through the apex.

With MacPherson struts up front and a multilink independent system in the rear, the Mazda 3's suspension isn't exotic, but Mazda has tuned it for maximum communication with the driver. Even though the test car wore modest P205/60R16 Yokohama Avid all-season tires on alloy wheels, it felt planted and tenacious under all circumstances. On the skid pad it pulled an average 0.82g whether the traction control was turned on or off. It went through the slalom gates at a drama-free 63.1 mph.

The four-wheel disc brakes never complained when the car was pushed on the street, and the antilock system worked without a peep or utterance. Still, a 133-foot stop from 60 mph isn't overly confidence-inspiring.

It's the Details That Make This Car Special
What's particularly satisfying is how well detailed this car is. For instance, look past the handsome shape of the trapezoidal grille to how it's trimmed in discrete chrome accents that look like they were pulled off a more expensive car. And that chrome trim continues along the side of the car, where it defines the bottom edge of the greenhouse.

As fine as the new 2014 Mazda 3 looks on the outside, it also makes drivers instantly comfortable on the inside. The seats are well shaped and contour to even the oddest-shaped body; the steering wheel is the perfect diameter, thickly padded and covered in black leather with contrasting red stitching; the automatic transmission's shifter has some appropriate heft; and it all feels ergonomically correct.

Still, it's not perfect. The striped upholstery lining looks goofy and feels like a garment bag, while the instrument cluster is clogged up by an unnecessary piece of shiny plastic that segregates the tachometer from the large speedometer. Beyond that, there is some faux carbon-fiber trim that's not only implausible as carbon fiber but harshly ridged, too. You could almost buff your fingernails on those ridges.

2014 Mazda 3 Touring

Those hiccups aside, the Mazda 3's interior is otherwise thoughtful, comfortable and finished with a high degree of quality. There's plenty of room up front, but adjusting those front seats for a 6-footer does cut severely into the room in back. Mazda claims 35.8 inches of legroom for the rear passenger, which is down 0.4 inch from the second-generation sedan and a vast 5.6 inches behind the 41.4 inches of rear legroom Toyota claims for the also-new 2014 Toyota Corolla. A limousine the Mazda 3 is not.

Excellent Ride and Frugal, Too
Over bumps on surface streets, the 2014 Mazda 3 experiences some impact harshness that can be initially disconcerting. But the ride itself is controlled during cruising speeds and the car runs quietly, with little in the way of tire noise over most surfaces. Compared with the direct competition and from an enthusiast's viewpoint, the Mazda 3 does the best job of balancing handling and ride comfort in its class.

Mazda makes big claims for its Skyactiv technologies in promoting better fuel economy. This includes a regenerative braking system similar to that in a hybrid that scavenges power for later use by the car's electrical system.

During its 1,112-mile stay with Edmunds.com — including lots of pushing to see what it could do — our Mazda 3 averaged a commendable 29.1 mpg. The EPA ratings are at 30 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway, and these seem achievable given a more conservative driving style. And virtually any style would be more conservative than ours.

A Compact Car for a Certain Kind of Driver
In a world of commodity sedans that drive like the legumes they are, the 2014 Mazda 3 offers something slightly different. It has an eagerness the Corolla doesn't offer, and a style that's distinctly different from Honda's Civic.

Most of all, it has a feel that makes you look forward to driving it, whether you're just running errands or heading out on a road trip. It's involving in a way that its competitors aren't, even if they happen to share the same size wheelbase or engine type. It's not a feature you'll find on the window sticker, but it is one that you'll appreciate every time you get behind the wheel.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Comments

  • mustang5507 mustang5507 Posts:

    Browsing through the pictures before reading the article used to be my M.O. on edmunds. It's not anymore. You're not Car and Driver; you're not Jalopnik. The attempts at humor SUCK. Please remain a thoroughly informative, unbiased source of auto journalism and leave the dry wit at home. Thanks :) -long time reader

  • I'm sorry, it's lightweight but not fast? How in the world is 8.3 seconds to 60 slow for a compact car? I would say that's pretty damn brisk when you compare it to the competition. 155 hp is PLENTY for a car that weighs under 3,000 lbs. I don't understand the editors on this site sometimes..

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    Amen to mustang5507 on this one. Comment captions on some articles are pretty good, but this one was really awkward. "Hey look that house is yellow!"? Please don't do that again. That said, the actual review was nicely done and I appreciate the number of photographs you include in your reviews. The 3 looks great inside and out, I'd love to see a comparison with the other semi-premium driver-oriented cramped-backseat compact car, the Focus. Given experience in other Mazdas, I'll believe your assessment of low road noise when I hear it. BTW, 8.3 seconds to 60 and 87 mph at the 1/4mile is plenty quick for this class. My manual transmission 5-banger Jetta is peppy enough in the real world but wouldn't be able to outrun this automatic base-engine Mazda. A Civic would be left for dead.

  • I was laughing so hard at the picture captions ahaha

  • bc1960 bc1960 Posts:

    Odd that the i sedan has single exhaust when the i 5-door has two--but there's only one muffler so it's for looks only. I have to disagree with the assessment of the seat fabric; it is attractive and feels nice, and since it is not mouse fur likely to be durable as well. Unless you drive with drunks or incontinents, it's preferable to the black vinyl in the s Touring and i Grand Touring and a tragedy that you can no longer get a moonroof with cloth seats. The perforated leather in the s Grand Touring is much better quality than previous 3s, but you are definitely paying for it.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    Wow an 1100 mile stint for a test is pretty good. Nice way to get to know the car. But you guys are spoiled--8.3 seconds to 60 is not languid in my book.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    No comment on the infotainment system? This has been a sore spot in the newest Mazdas...why nothing on it?

  • gloss gloss Posts:

    Loved this car when I test drove it. And fordson1, the infotainment system was excellent in my limited use. Operates very, very smoothly, with a nice high-res display, elegant interface design, and an excellent rotary knob.

  • rmhpmi rmhpmi Posts:

    The best photo caption was for the last photo in the slide show. When do we put 1,200 miles on the GT? That's the 3 I want...

  • metalmania metalmania Posts:

    I think the hatchback looks much better than the sedan, as have the hatchback versions of all Mazda 3's to my eyes. I know the infotainment interface on recent Mazda's have been underwhelming and the screen on this one seems to be an improvement.... but am I the only one who thinks it looks goofy just sticking up like that off the dashboard? It looks like an aftermarket mount for a small tablet. Maybe I'm in the minority but if my car has to have a touch screen I'd prefer it to look like it's integrated into the dash or center stack, not just stuck on top of it.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    I'm with everyone else. An 8.3 second 0-60 would have kept pace with V8 powered Corvette's, Mustangs, and GM F-bodies in the HP starved late 70's and early 80's. It isn't "languid" by any rational standard.

  • gloss gloss Posts:

    @bankerdanny Agreed. In their review for the 2014 Chevy Cruze, Edmunds described the 9-10 second 0-60 time as 'competitive'. The Civic EX manages 9.2 seconds. The turbocharged 1.4 in the Dodge Dart manages 8.4 seconds, a time that's described in Edmunds'

  • bc1960 bc1960 Posts:

    @metalmania, have you seen the M-B CLA interior? The screen is either a fad or a trend, depending on your POV. I admit that most of the integrated screens I've seen are mounted too low, or in an unattractive blister on top of the stack. I was hoping for t

  • dfelix70 dfelix70 Posts:

    This car resembles a mini-Ghibli, a very good thing. I agree with metalmania, that appendage on the dash looks cheap and lazy, much like it does on the CLA. Disappointing in an otherwise almost perfect compact car (though the back seats look super tight).

  • themandarin themandarin Posts:

    Gives the new Corolla the finger

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    There is so much fail in this article. In what universe is 8.3 0-60 languid? Then I got the impression that Scott Jacobs threw his toys out of the cot in a tantrum because they brought him a white car. Tough. Get on with you job and keep the snarkey stuff to yourself. Don't confuse me or others here with people who care about your ideas of art and photography. Just show us the car, if it's not too much trouble.

  • mphilpott mphilpott Posts:

    I pretty much agree with the editor of this well written piece. And those who think 8+ seconds for 0-60 is anything other than slow, well, you've obviously missed out on a lot of driving fun over the years. Maybe 25 years ago it might have been average but today, when an F150 pickup truck can do it in less than 7 seconds, and a stock Corvette in under 4, then something in between would seem to be the sweet spot for any compact sedan with sporting intentions. And Mazda, the Zoom Zoom folks and the go-to company for anyone looking for more than a mundane appliance to get from point A to point B in a small sedan, certainly qualifies as a company with sporting intentions.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @mphilpott: Fun driving is not solely dependent on acceleration numbers. Handling, communication, sound, a million other things... If those don't matter to you as well, then "you've obviously missed out on a lot of driving fun over the years". A

  • jwmsales jwmsales Posts:

    0 to 60 in 8 seconds slow? On the BASE engine? The new Corolla does 0 to 60 in 10 seconds. What are you smoking? The Chevy Cruze base engine is a meager 134 hp and it's over 3000 lbs. I have driven a new 3 and it is fantastic. The 2.5 even more so.

  • I must disagree with the worth of this car. I'm in the market for a fun small car for my wife, and this car is definitely not fun. Its very refined (too much so actually, they engineered all the personality out) Drove the Grand Touring model, looks nice, but way too small-Lexus ish. Only boring (but pleasant) colors available, same with the inside. Drive a Fiat 500 Abarth or a Fiesta ST next to this and only someone in the market for a transportation appliance would choose the Mazda. Maybe the Mazdaspeed version can bring the Zoom-Zoom back, as it is it barely rates a Zoom. The infotainment system however is top notch and I'm sure the build quality is beyond reproach, but geez aren't cars supposed to be at least somewhat fun. The Mazda 2, while much less refined, is also much more fun (at least with the manual).

  • actofgod actofgod Posts:

    Really awkward photo comments, I almost felt like an editor didn't go over this review before green lighting it or I was reading an old issue of sport compact car.

  • tbone85 tbone85 Posts:

    I think the base engine is OK, but for the very small mileage penalty it extracts, the 2.5 seems like a no-brainer.

  • qristofer qristofer Posts:

    I thought the first few captions were amusing, but reading further on it felt like those captions were left to Scott's child to complete.

  • bc1960 bc1960 Posts:

    @tbone85, yes but the Mazda3 s Touring costs basically the same as a Mazda6 i Touring--which oddly has better highway fuel economy rating. So I start asking whether extra room is worth sacrificing a bit of performance and a few features. The 6i is availab

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Moving on from the "motoring photographers hate white cars" discussion, I do have some genuine gripes about a couple of things on this car. First, it's a sedan and not a hatchback. I simply do not see the sense in small sedans when a hatchback is so much more practical. That's my European roots showing, I suppose. The ribbed seats grate on my senses for some reason, and I outright detest the instrument pod. It has a round instrument, a half round instrument and a bar graph indicator. That's too many styles going on for me. Unlike some other I am not bothered by the nav screen on top of the dash. Small cars are, well, small with limited real estate for screens. There is simply nowhere else for it to go unless you delete the A/C outlets, and that's not happening any time soon.

  • grinnin grinnin Posts:

    While I too see nothing wrong with a 0-60 in the low 8's, it is worth noting that since the 2.5 has received the full SkyActive treatment, there is almost no MPG penalty for the upgrade. The 2.5 rated at 28/39 for 184HP is pretty fantastic no-compromise driving. Frankly, either engine embarrasses the competition.

  • schifty1 schifty1 Posts:

    "Tiny rear deck spoiler produces little downforce but keeps stray emotions swirling in its vortex of despair." This is hilarious, especially on a front-wheel drive car. Thank you Scott, for making me laugh out loud.

  • bassrockerx bassrockerx Posts:

    ^^ the cruze and the corolla cost less in base trim @jwmsales

  • rayzor rayzor Posts:

    WOW!! to this Mazda 3 and the Mazda 6. Very well designed and thought out cars. Nice job, Mazda.

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2014 Mazda Mazda3 in VA is:

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