2014 Mazda 3: Automatic Transmission's Manual Mode Works Well
June 23, 2014
We selected the "s" trim level for our 2014 Mazda 3, which means we got the upgraded 2.5-liter engine good for 184 horsepower. As Ed Hellwig previously commented, it's worth the extra cost given its stronger power and minimal fuel economy drop.
If you're a driving enthusiast, however, you might be bummed out that Mazda doesn't offer a manual transmission with this engine. It's a six-speed automatic or nothing. The good news for those car guys and car gals, at least, is that this automatic works quite well, particularly in its manual shifting mode.
You can select gears manually by moving the gear selector to the left and then pushing it forward for downshifts and pulling backward for upshifts. (And this is the way the good lord intended it to be if you ask various members on our editorial team.) As shown in the main photo, you can also use the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
Either way, the gear shifts happen relatively quickly. They're not lightning quick like you'd get from an automated manual transmission (Porsche's PDK, for example) or even an advanced eight-speed automatic. But for this class of car, it's sporty. Another nice bonus is that the downshifts are rev-matched, which means the engine's rpm is automatically raised to the correct amount to match the rotational speed of the wheels before the next lower gear is engaged. This makes the downshifts smooth yet still quick.
I like putting our Mazda 3 into its manual mode. I'll rev it out towards redline or blip down a couple gears in advance of a turn. Sure, I'd get more engagement with a regular manual transmission. But I'm very satisfied with the automatic in our car.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor