2014 Mazda 3 Long-Term Road Test - Introduction

2014 Mazda 3 Long-Term Road Test

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2014 Mazda 3 S Long-Term Road Test: Introduction

January 15, 2014

The 2014 Mazda 3 is in a delicate spot. On the one hand, it has to be a Mazda. That means it needs to provide a certain feel for people who view driving as a skill and not just as the thing that gets in the way of text messaging. On the other hand, the 2014 Mazda 3 needs to appeal to the rest of the driving public as well.

This, now the third generation of Mazda 3 took some serious development dollars and features highly efficient Skyactiv engine and transmissions, a competitive interior with an all-new media interface and a ride that splits the difference between comfort and sport.

And now we've got a 2014 Mazda 3 S Five-Door Grand Touring for six months to see if the changes have paid off.

What We Got
The 2014 Mazda 3 is available in two body styles: sedan and hatchback. While the sedan is sure to be a stronger seller here in the U.S., we prefer the hatchback's looks and functionality. The tougher decision was which engine to get.

There are two choices: a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that's hooked to either a manual or automatic transmission, or a 184-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder that's available with an automatic transmission only. Though the 2.0 offers slightly better fuel economy (33 mpg combined vs. 31 mpg combined), the 2.5 feels less strained and, of course, is a little more fun. The six-speed Skyactiv automatic transmission isn't even a penalty. Shifts are fast and well-timed and the Sport mode is extremely well-programmed.

With the 2.0-liter, the 2014 Mazda 3 Five-Door has a starting price of $19,740, but the cheapest you can get into a 2.5-liter car is the "s" Touring model, which costs $25,890. At that trim level the Mazda 3 has 18-inch alloy wheels, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, bi-xenon headlights, foglamps, LED taillights and a head-up display for vital driving information. But we took ours a step further.

The 2014 Mazda 3 S Five-Door Grand Touring gets all of the above (including the 2.5 and the six-speed automatic) and adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and leather upholstery. This model stickers for $27,290.

Our car is pretty loaded so we just have a few options. The cargo mat is $70, while the rear bumper guard and the scuff plates on the door sills are $100 and $125, respectively. Add in the $795 destination fee and you're looking at a 2014 Mazda 3 with a sticker price of $27,585.

We had no chance to haggle it any lower, however, as Mazda supplied this vehicle to us for this long-term test.

Why We Got It
The Mazda 3 has been a perennial driver favorite, but ultimately lacked the interior refinement, ride comfort and fuel economy offered by its mainstream competitors.

Those issues appear to be fixed, however, as the 2014 Mazda 3's interior is stylish and well-built and the Skyactiv powertrains now offer excellent fuel economy. As for the ride, during our first full test of the 2014 Mazda 3, a 2.0-liter example, we wrote "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...the Mazda 3 does the best job of balancing handling and ride comfort in its class." So, it's still a Mazda.

In a change of pace, we're testing this one for six months instead of our usual 12. During that time we're shooting for as many miles as possible to see if the updates make the 2014 Mazda 3 the widely acceptable car we think it can be, or if Mazda's once again built a niche machine that appeals to a small subset of drivers who favor performance a little more than most.

Best MPG: 32.7
Worst MPG: 28.2
Average MPG over 1,085 miles: 30.2

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

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Past Long-Term Road Tests