2014 Mazda 3: Testing the Limits
September 16, 2014
My brother, who lives in Denver, Colorado, was car shopping recently and asked what I thought of the 2014 Mazda 3. It's a big hit with the other editors so I relayed this to my brother who went out and bought one.
Ever since then I've wished I had more time in our long term 3 so we could swap impressions about the car. Recently, I set out on a four-day trip to the Sierra (yes, it's singular) and finally got some seat time in the Mazda. Here's one of the first things that struck me.
Driving in the mountains is a quick way to see what a car is made of. After the 232-mile drive from Los Angeles to Lone Pine, the 14-mile Whitney Portal Road climbs over 4,000 feet to final altitude of 8,400 feet. There are two ways to handle such a climb: brute force — max displacement from a V8 — or a responsive four-cylinder with a smart transmission.
The 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder in the Mazda 3 was enough to handle the climb when it's managed by the six-speed Skyactiv automatic transmission. Even without using the paddle shifters, it seemed to choose the right gear for the grade. I never had to consciously mash the accelerator to get a downshift.
On the way down, weaving through hairpins with no guard rails and 2,000 foot drops, I opted for manual mode to keep my speed down and the brakes cool.
I'll be doing a lot more mountain driving in the Mazda. But so far, it's up to the task even without a beast under the hood and all-wheel-drive.
Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 13,199 miles