2014 Mazda 3 vs. Previous Generations
November 12, 2014
I had the chance recently to drive our 2014 Mazda 3 within the same 24-hour period as its two generational predecessors. They weren't extensive drives, nor did I thrash anything about, but it really is an impressive evolution that has occurred over the course of 10 years.
My wife drives a first-generation, '07 3 S Grand Touring Hatchback (pictured above), which is exactly what our long-termer is, and at the time she bought it was just as much the class leader the new car is. After all, there was I reason I urged her to get one. It had sharp handling, a responsive engine, attractive styling, good interior quality for the segment and a level of available equipment that most competitors didn't offer. All of that is true of the new car, however, the bar has, not surprisingly, moved that much higher.
Really, the biggest improvements are in the areas of refinement. The cabin is quieter, the ride is more comfortable and the interior is an enormous step up. True, the loaded Grand Touring trim helps, but as I'm comparing apples of today to apples of 10 years ago, it's even clearer to see how much has changed. Plus, the new car corrects the first generation's main flaws: sub-par fuel economy and so-so back seat space. The new car is now among the class best in both regards.
As for Mark II, it feels much closer to Mark I than III, which isn't that surprising since it was more of a substantial mid-life overhaul than an entirely new generation as the new Mazda 3 is. Its interior materials quality is a clear step up from the first-generation car and later model years featured the more efficient SkyActiv engines, but in general, it's still pretty loud, the ride is less supple and the back seat remains rather cramped. There was a reason the Mazda 3 retreated from the class peak during these years in favor of newer models like the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. Oh, and how could I forget that big, stupid grin?
What does this all mean beyond an automotive history lesson? Well, owners of the first-generation Mazda 3 (like my wife) are far more likely to be tempted to trade-in their car for a 2015 Mazda 3 than they would've been for Mark II. It's just as impressive and class-leading as their car was when new. And folks who bought a late model year Mark II may be kicking themselves for not waiting a year or two.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 16,116 miles