2014 Mazda3 i Sedan and s Hatch First Test
Skyactiv Technologies Go Zoom-Zoom
After two generations sharing platforms with Ford and Volvo, the 2014 Mazda3, the platform's third generation, was engineered completely in-house, allowing Mazda engineers to work free of outside constraints. While the 2.0-liter Skyactiv I-4 debuted with the second-generation model's 2012 refresh, the new 2014 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback get the entire suite of Skyactiv technologies used in the CX-5 crossover and 2014 Mazda6 sedan, including the larger 2.5-liter engine.
With the Skyactiv 2.0-liter, the second-generation Mazda3 placed second in our last compact car comparison thanks to to its fuel-efficient powertrain and fun-to-drive nature. But a somewhat heady price tag and lack of available features dinged the Mazda3 on the value quotient. The new 2014 Mazda3 has been blessed with more standard and available features, though a fully-loaded example can quickly approach $30,000 -- a hefty price for a compact. We were impressed with the 2014 Mazda3's inherent Zoom-Zoom-ness in our First Drive and now we have test numbers on both the 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder engines.
With the six-speed manual, our 155-hp (150 lb-ft of torque) Mazda3 2.0 i Grand Touring sedan reached 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and finished the quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds at 87.6 mph -- matching the times of the 26-pound-lighter 2012 Mazda3 sedan we tested with the same powertrain (155 hp/148 lb-ft), while the 2014 model posted a 0.8 mph faster trap speed. With a 60 to 0 mph stopping distance of 120 feet, the 2014 Mazda3 stopped 9 feet shorter than the outgoing model. While the acceleration times were nearly identical, the new model posted a slightly quicker time around our figure eight: 27.5 seconds at 0.62 lateral g versus 27.9 seconds at 0.59 g. Both cars were tested on 16-inch wheels with all-season tires, though the 2014 model has more sidewall (205/60 versus 205/55).
The 184-hp (185 lb-ft) 2.5 s Grand Touring hatchback with the six-speed automatic ran to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and the completed quarter mile in 15.6 seconds at 91.0 mph. Those times are noticeably quicker than the previous generation Mazda3 with the 167-hp, 168 lb-ft 2.5-liter MZR I-4 and five-speed automatic we tested. That model hit 60 mph in 8.1 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 16.2 seconds at 86.5 mph. At 119 feet, the 2014 Mazda3 stopped from 60 mph 6 feet shorter than the previous model. Shod with 18-inch wheels and all-season tires (215/45), the 2014 hatchback lapped the figure eight in 27.0 seconds at 0.64 g average. Those numbers bested the performance of the 36-pound-lighter 2011 model on 205/50/17 all-season tires -- it posted a 27.6-second lap at 0.62 g.
As one of the oldest cars in the segment, the second-generation Mazda3 finished second behind the Kia Forte in our last compact car comparison. In testing, the 173-hp (154 lb-ft) Kia Forte with six-speed automatic accelerated to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and finished the quarter-mile in 16.0 seconds at 87.3 mph. With the manual transmission, the Mazda3 2.0-liter is quicker than the rest of its automatic–equipped competitors, though the Mazda3 2.0 with the automatic is likely slower, and the 2014 Mazda3 2.5-liter is the quickest non-performance model in the segment. Both Mazda3 models posted faster figure-eight lap times than other cars we've tested in the segment.
The Mazda3's grin-inducing performance carries over to the street. Even with power and tire differences, both cars can be rotated with the throttle, just like a rear-drive car. As far as front-drive cars go, only the Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST offer similar driving dynamics. Although the more powerful hatchback was quicker around the figure eight, most staffers who drove the duo thought the 216-pound-lighter and manual-equipped sedan was the better driver. With tight throws, the six-speed manual's shifts are smooth, while the automatic is intuitive. In manual mode, the automatic will bounce off the rev limiter until upshifted with a paddle or the gear selector. The automatic is appropriately aggressive in sport mode, though normal mode could be a bit less tame. The steering in both cars was universally praised as direct and linear with good on-center feel.
Inside, Mazda addressed the previous model's shortcomings with a modern interior with more available features including a new optional head-up display. Some found the system gimmicky, while others loved it, saying it felt like a missile sight. The instrument cluster in the manual-equipped car features a large center speedometer with a tach off to the side. Most felt the automatic car's larger center-mounted tach with digital speedometer should be standard across the range.
Mazda addressed to the criticism of the larger 6 sedan's small infotainment touch screen in the new 3, which featured a larger high-mounted screen controlled with a BMW iDrive-style controller. The intuitiveness of the system was universally praised, with the only complaint being that traffic information isn't displayed on the navigation screen, but rather in an app that doesn't have a zoom function. Other available premium features include HID headlights and Mazda's iEloop regenerative braking system.
Up front, the Mazda3 feels roomier than the outgoing models and has comfortable and supportive front seats, but with just 35.8 inches of rear legroom, the back seat could be tight for tall adults. This 5'10" scribe could sit behind himself with a couple of inches of knee room. The rear seats are a bit firm and the Mazda3 is best used for four adults with the center rear seat reserved for a child.
While the Mazda3's suspension and chassis are tuned toward sportiness, both cars rode well even over broken roads. As rewarding as the new Mazda3 is to drive, it does have more wind noise around the mirrors than some of its competitors.
With leatherette seats, dual-zone climate system, navigation, and rearview camera, our 2014 Mazda3 2.0 i Grand Touring sedan with six-speed manual started at $23,545 (including $793 destination) and topped out at $24,035 with options ($300 Soul Red Metallic Paint, $70 cargo mat, $125 door sill scuff plates). Our automatic-equipped 2014 Mazda3 2.5 s Grand Touring hatchback started at $27,290 and includes leather seats, HID headlights, and moonroof. With the $1600 GT Technology Package (i-Eloop regenerative braking system, active grille shutters) and other options ($300 Soul Red Metallic Paint, $70 cargo mat, $125 door sill scuff plates, $100 rear bumper guard) our tester rang the register at $29,485.
A few years ago $30,000 would seem like a lot to pay for a compact car, but with the allure of better fuel economy, many consumers want to downsize without giving up the features of a larger car. The Mazda3 should be able to satisfy those looking for a rewarding car to drive with lots of standard and available features. The Mazda3 sedan with the 2.0-liter and manual is EPA-rated 29/41 mpg city/highway, while the hatchback with the 2.5-liter and automatic transmission is rated 28/38 mpg. For those looking for a rewarding -- and fuel-efficient -- car without all the features, a base 2014 Mazda3 i SV four-door sedan starts at $17,740.
The 2014 Mazda3 is for those looking for the most fun-to-drive compact sedan or hatch available and don't mind giving up some rear seatroom. When passenger-hauling duty is a priority, other options including the larger Kia Forte sedan might make more sense.
|2014 Mazda3 i Sedan||2014 Mazda3 s Hatch|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$24,035||$29,485|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||2.0L/155-hp/150-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4||2.5L/184-hp/185-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual||6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||2878 lb (59/41%)||3094 lb (61/39%)|
|WHEELBASE||106.3 in||106.3 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||180.3 x 70.7 x 57.3 in||175.6 x 70.7 x 57.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.8 sec||7.4 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.1 sec @ 87.6 mph||15.6 sec @ 91.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||120 ft||119 ft|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.5 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)||27.0 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||29/41 mpg||28/38 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||116/82 kW-hrs/100 miles||120/89 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.58 lb/mile||0.61 lb/mile|