I've driven the 2014 Mazda3 – a lot – and played with its many electronic features. The GT model, in particular, is a 184-horsepower package of dynamic pleasure: tight steering, balanced handling, progressive and stable braking and slick shifting.
And the 2014 Mazda3 looks the part, in both sedan and especially in hatchback form. The general theme here is based on what Mazda calls its "Kodo" or "soul of motion" design language. The look has just enough curves and shapes to grab your interest, but it's not overwrought and, best of all, a much-maligned grille from a previous generation is nowhere to be found. No more clown-mouth grilles, which surely will please Mazda fans everywhere.
Pricing, as Mazda has just announced, starts at $15,995 and the best fuel economy is expected to come in at 4.7 litres/100 km on the highway.
Engine choices? There are two. The basic one is a 2.0-litre gasoline mill with manual and automatic transmissions available. This is a new SkyActiv engine, not the old 2.0-litre four-banger in the outgoing Mazda3. The Mazda3 GT gets an new 2.5-litre gasoline engine rated at 184 hp.
Even the least expensive Mazda3 is equipped with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, push button start and keyless entry. Air conditioning adds $1,600 and, while many will like the delightful six-speed manual, many more will want the six-speed automatic ($1,200). Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes, body-coloured power exterior mirrors, dual sport exhaust, auto-off headlights, audio and Bluetooth steering wheel controls.
Most importantly, Mazda is not raising the price for the 2014. The company is happy to say the 2014 price is "a full $200 less than it was 10 years ago when the Mazda3 debuted in 2003."
Cool new features
Mazda Connect infotainment system: Mazda says this can be used on its own or connected to a mobile phone or other mobile device that supports USB audio or Bluetooth connectivity. You want infotainment accessed from the Internet? Here you go.
Active Driving Display: The common term for this is "heads-up display." Images are projected on what Mazda calls "the combiner" – a clear panel vertically mounted atop the back of the instrument cluster. There you'll find your vehicle's speed, automatic cruise control speed settings, navigation system turn-by-turn directions, and alerts from the advanced safety systems. Very high-end stuff in a compact economy car.
Mazda is also making available safety technologies such as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, regenerative braking and more. One that is particularly interesting is Smart City Brake Support. This feature uses a laser to warn of an impending low-speed collision and helps with braking – to the point of automatically applying the brakes.
Mazda has put plenty of thought into the 3 and it shows. The car looks the part of a small car with lots of attitude. The cabin has a handsome look and feel to it, too. Only the seats need some obvious work. The ones in the GT model I just drove for hours felt soft and lacked support all around – especially under the thigh and for the lumbar area.
Dynamic and appealing on many fronts, yes. Perfect. Ah, no.
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