In a world filled with expensive gas, the need for practicality, and the desire to have fun on a budget the 2014 Mazda3 fits the bill. It offers great fuel economy, comes in the form of a 4-door sedan or 5-door hatch (shown), and is a hoot to drive.
Mazda has been marketing Zoom Zoom with fuel efficiency for a number of years now. They have gained a reputation for sporty rides, good looks, and excellent fuel economy since. The new 2014 Mazda3 keeps the tradition going with this handsomely redesigned model shying away from the less popular “smiley faced” cars. This new 3 follows the current Mazda design language inspired by the Shinari concept from 2010 which has helped Mazda see a boost in sales numbers across their model range.
Mazda has given the 3 a choice of two SkyActiv 4 cylinder engines, the base 2.0L has 155 hp and a 2.5L with 184 hp that is shared with the Mazda6. Our test car was fitted with the 2.0L and paired with a 6 speed automatic transmission. The 2.0 is a buzzy little engine that will get you around town and down the highway with no problems. The transmission shifts smoothly and you hardly notice when driving. Move the gear lever into sport mode and you can shift yourself but it is slow to respond and requires timely pulls of the lever to get it to shift when you want it to. The 2.0 is far from quick but in return you get great fuel economy. It is rated at 30/40 mpg for city and highway respectively. In our mostly city driving our average was 31.7 mpg according to the onboard mpg calculator. It will also show you real-time figures and on the highway we have seen averages in the low 50 mpg range. If quick is more your style then we’d recommend the 2.5L with its extra 29 hp which helps the car get up to speed when pulling out into traffic better but at a sacrifice of a few mpgs with it rated at 27/37 city/highway.
Take the 3 out of the city and down a canyon road and the car handles great for a small econobox. In the corners the car grips and doesn’t roll about like others in its class. The steering is quick, responsive, and nicely weighted which gives the driver better confidence. We would argue that if Mazda were to build a rear wheel drive 3-series fighter BMW would have some serious trouble on their hands in terms of handling and overall feel from behind the wheel. The brakes feel nice and linear and feel better than most in its class and it takes about 122 ft to stop from 60 mph which believe it or not is only 4 feet farther than the Ferrari 355.
The interior is a nice place to be. The design is pleasing to look at and the basic cloth seats are comfortable and offer plenty of leg room both front and back. My 6’3″ frame doesn’t need the seat all the way back to have enough room like in most cars and I can even sit in the back without a fuss. The speedometer is easy to read but the tach is tiny. But then again, in a car such as this a tach isn’t the primary focus. Our test car had very little options with no heated seats or infotainment screen. The higher trim levels even offer a fighter jet-like heads up display which displays your speed. Our car did have blind spot monitoring in the form of lights in the corners of the mirrors which light up if a vehicle is in your flanks. Turn on an indicator and it beeps to warn you. The system works quite well and is sensitive enough to pick up bicyclists. It also works when in reverse to let you know if a car is coming which also works remarkable well in parking lots.
Admittedly, the new 3 is priced above pretty much everything in its class but for what you get it is a great buy. A base model sedan can be had for just $16,945. The hatchback adds $2,000 to that. Check all the boxes though and you’ll see that price double and after destination charges will be close to $35,000! The new Mazda3 can be a very smart buy if you go easy on the options. We liked the 3 so much that the test car is actually my car. My wife and I have put just over 3,000 miles on it to date and have loved every bit of it. It offers plenty of Zoom Zoom with practicality and fuel economy numbers to keep us from stopping at the pump.
Photos: Chance Hales