By on September 24, 2013

MY14 Mazda3 Sedan

For a car company that seems to have a perpetually precarious existence, things are going well at Mazda. Sales of their new range of products, like the CX-5 and the Mazda6, are relatively strong – I say relatively because the Mazda6’s volumes are about 10 percent of the Toyota Camry, and the whole brand sells fewer cars than Honda does Civics. But Mazda is banking on the new Mazda3 to help them get real traction in the market place. Not only is there a new car, but a new factory in Mexico as well, which will help insulate Mazda from then yen’s penchant for yo-yo’ing, as well as any future Fukushima-like disruptions.

MY14 Mazda3 Sedan

The old Mazda3’s biggest flaw was its looks. Its visage was hideously unattractive, wearing the “Nagare” design language that some executive must have signed off on after a long night in Roppongi. The car you see above has a whole new look, and the result is one of the best “ugly duckling to beautiful swan” transitions in recent memory. The sedan still retains the same basic horizontal teardrop shape that plagues all modern compacts in the name of fuel efficiency, but the details were done right. It reminds me of the Lexus IS, and even the smaller wheels make the car look good, a rarity today. The hatchback looks like a CX-5 crossed with a Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback, and while I have traditionally preferred this bodystyle on previous generations, I think I have to give the aesthetic nod to the sedan.

MY2014 Mazda 3

The interior has undergone a major improvement since the last generation, but in typical Mazda fashion, there is still some corner cutting evident here. There was no evidence of Cherokee-esque fit and finish issues, but some of the supplied parts were subpar. Namely, the headliner it the definition of nasty. It feels like it was made out of egg cartons, and crunches when pressed with one’s fingers. Your college drinking buddy may not notice, but it stood out to us as a notably cheap spot on an otherwise nicely finished interior. Higher trim models have a pseudo-heads up display that flips up from the top of the gauge cluster (above), capable of displaying one’s speed, navigation turns and other features. It seems redundant given the voice prompts from the navigation and the basic ability to glance at the speedometer, and to top it off, it looks like it was stolen from a Nerf gun and is prone to breaking off with even the slightest disturbance.

MY14 Mazda3 Sedan

Most functions related to the entertainment system are handled by the new MazdaConnect system, which replaces the Atari-esque system used in the new Mazda6 with a fresh, modern looking interface. Of course, it’s all displayed on a 7 inch screen that looks like an off-brand Made In China Android tablet that’s been glued to the top of the dashboard, which saps some of the premium feel out of the cabin.

MY14 Mazda3 Sedan

MazdaConnect is controlled by an iDrive-like knob and is relatively easy to use, but has some annoying quirks. Looking for a satellite radio station, for example, is highly frustrating, if not distracting. Once you’ve selected a station, you can’t change the station unless you manually go back through the menus and select a new one. Scrolling through is not an option, and the steering wheel controls only allow you to move through presets, rather than the entire band. It is more distracting than texting and drive. The volume knob has also been placed next to the MazdaConnect wheel on the center console – an intuitive location but highly unconventional and one that takes some getting used to, since every other car on earth has it placed  in its traditional spot on the center stack.

In return for these annoyances, the Mazda3 delivers one of the best driving experiences money can buy. Other compacts, like the Dodge Dart, the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra GT are “good” to drive, but the Mazda3 is in another class, closer to the BMWs of a past era than anything else in the segment. The dynamics of the car will be instantly familiar to anyone who has driven a Mazda6 or CX-5, but even sharper. The heaviest Mazda3 is about 170 lbs lighter than the lightest Mazda6 (3172 lbs), with base versions coming in at around 2800 lbs. In today’s car market, this is fairly svelte, and it translates into a rewarding drive. There is very little body roll, while the suspension is composed over rough pavement. The steering is sharp, direct and nicely weighted. Mazda engineer Dave Coleman told us that his target was his LeMons car, which uses a manual Miata steering rack. It’s tough to compare a contemporary electric power steering system with a 25 year old Miata unit, but certain things, like the high degree of caster dialed in to make it self-center quicker, will be familiar to anyone who ever owned a Miata and tinkered with the alignment settings. There is a level of engagement with the Mazda3 that is absent in every other car in this class. It’s not a merely A-B commuting tool, but a car that encourages you to drive as if you really cared about having fun behind the wheel. It’s a difficult quality to find in any car nowadays, let alone a C-segment economy car.

MY2014 Mazda 3

Two powerplants are offered, though only the base 2.0L Skyactiv engine will offer a 6-speed manual alongside a 6-speed automatic. The bigger 2.5L engine offers more horsepower (184 versus 155) and more torque (185 lb-ft versus 150 lb-ft), and feels a lot gutsier on the open road, though in true Mazda fashion, the engines aren’t particularly brimming with character like the better Honda twin-cams. Then again, a naturally aspirated motor is becoming a rarity in new cars, and fuel economy is the chief order of the day. In this aspect, Mazda does not disappoint. Our 2.5L hatchback, with Mazda’s capacitor-based i-Eloop regenerative braking system, is good for 29 mpg in town and 40 mpg highway. Neither motor is particularly stirring, emitting rather muted grunts and groans. Just like the pre-NC Miatas, the chassis is the jewel of the package here, but at least the Skyactiv motors are tuned for economy and efficiency, unlike the thristy boat anchor of a 1.8L engine fitted to most early Miatas.

Where the 2.0L feels just a bit strained (particularly when merging or passing on highways), the 2.5L is always ready with adequate grunt, and the 6-speed Skyactiv automatic is even better than the excellent manual. It feels more like a dual clutch gearbox than a conventional automatic, in part because the torque converter isn’t even used past 5 mph. In spirited driving, the automatic will hold gears until redline and match revs when the paddles are used to manually change gear. Mazda has been coy about whether the 2.5L will actually get a manual, stating that only the automatic will be available “at launch”. Perhaps this leaves the door open to the possibility of a manual in the future. The i-Eloop system is as transparent as its name is silly. The only way we knew it was working was when a display screen showed it re-capturing energy under braking. If only Mazda’s marketing department could come up with such clever monikers.

For all the complaints about the anesthetized nature of modern cars, here we have a vehicle that brings a truly engaging driving experience to the masses at a price-point accessible to most new car buyers. Despite a couple of cut corners here and there, the car’s big flaws, namely its exterior styling, spartan interior and poor fuel economy in the larger engine variants, have all been remedied beyond mere correction. It may not be the choice for your grandmother, or anyone looking for a simple, dead-nuts reliable appliance, but the new car is a significant leap forward, and the only choice in the segment for anyone interested in spirited driving. And finally a candidate for best in segment.

Mazda provided airfare, accommodations and meals for this press drive

 

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195 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Mazda3...”


  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Sounds like fun, and augurs well for the next Mazda 2.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      I hear Mazda’s working on a Juke competitor, augurs well for that too.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        I hope. Otherwise I am getting Juke (Nismo). I want finally drive what I like. Although, I will test Juke thoroughly. I have suspicion, such car may not have comfy seats

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          Your suspicion is unfounded, I found it to be quite comfortable.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            Everybody is different. I can drive 6 hours straight in my Mazda3. But once I went to 1.5 hour trip in CR-V and my back was killing me in that seat. Or, when I test drove Fit, I said right away, this seat is not for me. I did inspected Juke at the car show. I don’t think the seat was excellent. I want to try Nismo. I think it has better seat besides all other toys, added to plain Juke.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Kudos to Mazda for coming up with an attractive grille and facia despite lamebrained regulations, this feat has eluded so many brands.

  • avatar
    tbone33

    How is the rear seat leg room? The lack of space back there on 2013 model is the reason I bought a Focus last year.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      That’s surprising, since neither the current Focus nor the 2010-2013 Mazda3 are great in terms of rear leg room (according to my informal observations, anyway).

      • 0 avatar
        tbone33

        You are absolutely right about that. The 3 might even have more legroom on paper. After checking both cars, I felt the 3 had just short of enough legroom, and the Focus had just barely enough. The difference was not much, and neither vehicle was roomy in the back. VW is the only maker that has the rear legroom to trunk space ratio correct in the compact class.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I found the Chevy Cruze to also have generous rear-occupant and trunk accommodations.

          • 0 avatar
            tbone33

            I liked the Cruze’s rear seat dimensions, but coming from a Miata I didn’t like the way it drove. The Sonic hatch actually has more rear seat room than the 3 or Focus, but it has virtually no trunk.

    • 0 avatar

      tbone33

      If you need a back seat, you don’t buy any of these, between the 2, the Mazda is way better unless you drive a manual Focus, the A/T in the Focus is the most annoying A/T I have ever driven to the point of thinking it’s probably broken.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I found the back seat cramped.

    • 0 avatar
      camoeto

      The rear seat legroom on the 2014 3 is noticeably better than the 2014 Focus. I just drove them back-to-back and ordered a 2014 3 hatch on the spot. In fact the rear legroom is more like a smaller mid-size. I’m 5’11 and after sitting in the front I moved to the back and my knees were nowhere close to touching the front seat.

  • avatar
    kmoquin

    Looks quite a bit like a Dart with a nicer grill and tail lights.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “There is a level of engagement with the Mazda3 that is absent in every other car in this class.”

    Same applies to 2010-13 Mazda3 as well. And in its 5MT 2L trims, the mileage is also one of the best in class. Not the EPA sticker but real mileage. 30avg, 36hwy

    Agree, sedan looks better but want the wagon

    • 0 avatar
      tbone33

      Not to pick a fight, but I never felt the the last 3 was much better than tbe competition handling-wise. I test drove a 3 on 2 different occasions and spent a day driving a friend’s trying to love it. After spending 12 years behind the wheel of two Hiroshima built Mazdas, I went with a different make that I loved more.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        You had your priorities. For example, if my priority was to get most bells and whistles for the least price, I would by Forte. Or, if I wanted feather-light clutch and rubbery-feel gear shifter, I would go with Corolla. If I wanted to have as tight compact as possible, I would go with Focus. You know…

  • avatar
    JD321

    The exterior design is too childish/girly but not a deal breaker. Here is proper product information from a smart guy and not some babbling know-nothing slimeball MBA maggot.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NXrmYB7L0Y

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTMRzYKIgrA

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    the hatch looks a bit lumpy but the sedan hits it out of the park

    it looks like a mazda 6 that is slightly better resolved

    there’s a few youtube walk arounds and the base model interior replaces that china spec LCD tablet with a wonky looking radio where the volume is UP high in the middle of where the tablet is

    did mazda think about ergonomics? then again we all use the steering wheel

    it’d be better if they used a standard two DIN radio slot so we can replace it with whatever we want

    still, the 2.0 or 2.5 manual sedan sounds like cracker little car

    i think the Cruze still has the better engine with a 175hp 1.6 turbo (this engine is not available in the US) but its so ugly compared to the mazda

    also your mazda 3 looks a bit frumpy with the small wheels

    here’s some glamour shots on big rims:

    http://www.egmcartech.com/2013/07/13/mazda-reveals-2014-mazda3-sedan-for-the-uk-market-releases-official-photos/

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I have noticed that there seems to be quite a bit of overlap in price between the Mazda3 and the Mazda6 these days. Without looking back, a Mazda6 starts at $20k and goes up to $31k ish. The Mazda3 seems to top out at $25-26k. Wondering if there should have been more separation and if the 3 will cannabalize sales of the 6 (which has been selling very strong to date). In any event, i do agree that the 3 sedan got the looks this time around. The front end on the hatch just doesn fit quite right. It looks very good in pictures but in person it seems awkward. Maybe its just me. As an aside, it would be a shame not to install a 6MT in the 2.5 Mazda3. 180 hp in a sub 3000 pound car with 6MT. Yes please.

    I am still enraged with Mazda for not selling the 6 wagon in the US. It is a beautiful vehicle.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    “The volume knob has also been placed next to the MazdaConnect wheel on the center console – an intuitive location but highly unconventional and one that takes some getting used to, since every other car on earth has it placed in its traditional spot on the center stack.”

    I take it you haven’t driven a late-model Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      I’m a bit confused looking at the picture – where is the head unit? Did these companies start making it mroe and more difficult to install aftermarket head units because of dealerships wanting $$$ for upgrades?

      Does the knob take the place of steering wheel audio controls (which seem to be the most convenient).

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        As best I can tell, there is no traditional head unit. The CD player is located at the bottom of the stack behind the gear shifter.

        I doubt it is so they can get more for upgrades; rather, I would guess it’s a way to integrate pieces and shave costs.

        The commander knob is redundant to the steering wheel controls.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        The Mazda head unit covers aux in, usb, and bluetooth. I’m not sure what an aftermarket unit would add to that. They have also designed it so the software can be updated through a USB port. Barring some dramatic shift with car entertainment, it should be serviceable for a long time. Of course, this is coming from someone who was content with connecting a smart phone through a tape adapter.

        If sound quality is the issue, I think speakers are more often the weak link, rather than the head unit. Replace the speakers and maybe add an amp if necessary.

    • 0 avatar
      JD23

      I was going to say that Audis must be from Mars, but you beat me to it.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    One point in defense of the outgoing 3′s styling over the current model – I’ve seen a couple pictures of the new 3 with the front license plate on, and it’s rather… unfortunate. I admittedly was fine with the grinning face, but it was better suited to wearing a front plate. I also preferred the old car’s slightly wagony shape to the sort of ill-proportioned hatch (it’s a little front heavy).

    On the other hand, between spending the past week with a rental ’13, and seeing the improvement Mazda made with the 6, I am highly anticipating this.

  • avatar
    carguy

    In an industry where most major car makers have resigned themselves to making transportation appliances, its refreshing to see that Mazda still believes in the fun of driving. What’s more they seem to demonstrate that fun transportation and efficiency are not mutually exclusive.

    Let’s all hope their financial future is safe and secure.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    Audi also has the volume button on the console, as well as on the steering wheel. Once you get used to it you realize that it is ergonomically perfect. I do love the new 3, it is fast, beautiful and frugal but I will have to take a good look at it because I can’t live with a cheap feeling car.

  • avatar
    afflo

    Not available as a two-door is old news… but now you can only get the upgraded engine if you shift P-R-N-D like your great-aunt’s LeSabre? I get it – between teens that never learned to drive them and people who want to eat McGriddles, shave, brush their teeth, put on make-up, and call/text/play words-with-friends on the go, a proper transmission is inconvenient. This, however, is Mazda – For all their Zoom-Zoom advertising, I expect more from them.

    This website is really starting to test my enjoyment of cars. I’m glad that they’ve continued to put a lot of work into the steering dynamics (one of the bright spots in the Mazda3 I had for a month as a rental earlier this year) but a slushbox really ruined the experience. To read “…the only choice in the segment for anyone interested in spirited driving. and finally a candidate for best in segment,” in a car that makes you choose between a decent engine and the full driving experience, I’d take my money elsewhere.

    EDIT: Motortrend is saying a 6MT 2.5L is definitely on the way. I guess since the auto is the volume seller, it makes sense to get them on as many lots as possible as quickly as possible. It’s still a bad sign for anyone who actually enjoys driving that the enthusiast transmission is a second thought.

    Also… the car is lovely! That 5-door profile shot isn’t the best angle… the ones in the link below really piqued my interest.

    http://wot.motortrend.com/official-2014-mazda3-starts-at-17740-achieves-41-mpg-highway-388823.html#axzz2fpv6ISU3

    • 0 avatar

      “Mazda has been coy about whether the 2.5L will actually get a manual, stating that only the automatic will be available “at launch”. Perhaps this leaves the door open to the possibility of a manual in the future.”

      Based on this info, I’d say it’s coming.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      What’s a “proper transmission”? Why does shifting gears yourself have to be the only way to drive properly? I’m sure this is more of a case of economics than anything. We would like to think that people buy manual-transmission-equipped compact cars because they’re enthusiasts, but the truth is that most such cars are purchased by people who want no frills…either because they don’t want to pay for the features, or because they don’t want to pay for the possible repairs of more-complex stuff. That often means that manufacturers only equip base-spec cars with manual-transmissions.

      On an unrelated note, I wonder how many conquest sales Mazda could get if the 3 were available in a coupe bodystyle…

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Let me tackle the conquest angle, first. One reason under 30 guys go to four door sedans in this segment is insuring a coupe with otherwise bland equipment is more expensive. I learned this earlier this year when my 23 year old went to buy a Civic LX.

        As for buying a car with a manual trans merely to save money, I’m on my third 3-Series coupe, and all have been manuals. I like the extra braking advantage. And, short of finding an M3, there weren’t too many non-automatic 3-series locally when I was ready for a new one, two of the last ones I got had to be dealer-traded from a couple of hundred miles away.

        I won’t enter the fray about a ‘proper transmission’. Occassionaly, I
        get to drive a friends GTI with DSG, and short term, I like it.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        There’s a reason car makers are abandoning coupes. That reason does not lend itself to anyone getting conquests.

        I know exactly one person who preferred two doors to four, and his reason was so that he always had an excuse to not give people rides (because it would be too uncomfortable).

        As far as transmissions, I see two general groups that buy manuals: those who want performance and those who want to save money. Considering that only about 5% of cars sold in the US come with manuals, both of those groups are small, regardless what the internet may say. Now that automatics get similar (or better) mileage as autos, I expect the group buying manuals to save money will shrink even more. On the other side, I expect the performance crowd will go the route of Ferrari & Porsche and end up with very fancy automatics.

        I fully believe that we will soon see automatics that perform all functions of a manual at least as well as a manual, and when that happens, there will cease to be any need for traditional manuals, except for stodgy bias.

        • 0 avatar
          Demetri

          “Now that automatics get similar (or better) mileage”

          They don’t. Automatics just let the manufacturer game the test cycle better; manuals are hamstrung by an EPA test with ridiculous set shift points.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            They do. Equal gear ratios, and more rapid and consistent synchronous shifting keep the engine in the ideal RPM range for BSFC.

            The machine can do it better and faster than you can.

            Of course this is a generalization, not all automatics will net better fuel consumption than any manuals. But there are many many vehicles that do.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            When all things are equal, yes, they do get similar mileage. But they’re generally not equal, because stick buyers tend to drive more aggressively. Then of course, to satisfy said aggressive driver, manual transmissions these days have more aggressive gearing.

            People looking for efficiency, max MPGs, and warm eco-fuzzies buy hybrids.

          • 0 avatar
            Demetri

            Are we talking DSG or slushbox? Any transmission being used for optimum efficiency is going to need manual control of gear selection, otherwise the computer is always going to kick it down to low gear under heavy throttle. The serious hypermilers generally go for manual.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            I don’t agree that people with manuals drive more ‘spiritedly.’ Those who buy manuals for performance, yes, but the other group, no.

            Many (all?) automatics today use lockup plates to eliminate the ‘slush’ and losses of the torque converter, which alone fixes much of the traditional inefficiencies of automatics. That combined with faster/better shifts for the majority of drivers means autos genuinely get as good of mileage as manuals.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            I truly think the reason the manual market continues to shrink is because the MPG-crowd has moved on from them, to hybrids, or maybe even to slushboxes and CVTs, given their MPG rating improvements. There’s definitely no inherent MPG advantage with a stick anymore, so why would the MPG crowd continue to purchase them? The remaining stick buyers buy them because they love to drive stick, but most such people tend to be aggressive drivers rather than hypermilers.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            npaladin2000, it isn’t the mpg crowd–it’s the save money crowd. Autos still cost ~$1000 more than manuals; that’s the reason. It used to be purchase price plus mpg, but now it’s only purchase price.

            It’s also the reason manuals are the ‘world car.’ When Indian companies are trying to make the cheapest car in the world so that more of their countrymen can afford them, you won’t see fancy automatics. As affluence increase, so will the take rate of automatics. Also, ‘world cars’ don’t get the big engines. Even Europe doesn’t get them. Thus, The 2.5L is basically a North America option, which clearly is tailored to North American tastes.

            afflo, don’t make the gross mistake that “enjoying driving” = “perfectly timed shifts to shave fractions of seconds.” That’s untrue. Driving =/= racing. Enjoying driving is enjoying driving, just like a car enthusiast can enjoy other features of a car than its horsepower.

            Personally, I enjoy biking, but have no interest in racing. In biking, those who care about the perfect shift to save a fraction of a second generally fit into the same category as weight weenies who measure each component to cut every gram so they can climb that much faster. The word we use for them is “assholes.”

            That said, I honestly doubt I’d care for an automatic bicycle. That’s because of doubts about the shifter’s logic, not because I enjoy shifting in any way. If there was an automatic bike that somehow shifted the way I wanted it to, I expect I would enjoy it.

            The same is true of cars. There are plenty of reason to dislike autos because they don’t always put you in the gear you want. (Like supercars, I personally expect manual modes will improve to the point that this point becomes irrelevant.) But the point remains that there are plenty of people who still quite enjoy driving without doing their own shifting.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            “Of course this is a generalization, not all automatics will net better fuel consumption than any manuals.”

            Yep, modern automatics are getting really good – at least when the programming allows them to be – but some still do operate inefficiently enough to need a cooler.

        • 0 avatar
          afflo

          Automatics get similar fuel economy when they are taller geared, which is the norm in the auto industry these days. If automatics were so frugal, they wouldn’t need the taller gearing to manage the same efficiency.

          There’s no reason for it to be difficult to sell a manual transmission in a car that is sold the world over. For something very specialized to the US market like an Impala, sure. But the Mazda3 is a world car… I would not be surprised if the majority sold world-wide are manuals. It’s a case of “Americans are lazy, so we don’t get nice things.”

          I understand that a lot of people don’t enjoy the act of driving, and would just as soon pack themselves into their beige Malibu just get from point a to point b. I don’t blame them – it’s just not their thing.

          There are those who care about precise, perfectly timed shifts to shave fractions of a second in acceleration times. In the next few decades, it’s entirely possible that we’ll have cars with enough artificial intelligence and steering/braking/throttle assistance that the car will be able to pick a perfect line through a corner, and engage all of the controls with such precision that there will cease to be any need for traditional steering and braking, except for stodgy bias.

          This is a site for people who like cars. People who enjoy the act of driving. I’m pretty amazed when anyone here just shrugs and says “Whatever” to allowing the car to go on pseudo-autopilot and erode that enjoyment.

        • 0 avatar
          VelocityRed3

          I think you are missing the point for the enthusiast crowd. It is not about shifting better, but when. No DSG in the world is a responsive to ME as MY LEFT foot. I hate it when A/T shift like right before I turn a corner or if I’m in a parking lot & I want to stay in (say) second gear the whole time, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        @Kyree

        With respect to the concept of “proper transmission”, I personally drive manual because I enjoy it, not for economic reasons. All else being equal, I always buy a manual. Can’t speak for others.

        I try not to proclaim manual, torque converter automatic, CVT, DSG whatever as “proper”. I know what I like but to each their own. All I want is to have the option to buy a manual equipped version of cars that interest me and sadly that is barely the case anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I don’t think the manual is a second thought; everything I have read about the manual with the 2.0L suggests it is excellent. Also, it sounds like Mazda put a lot of work into making the auto fun as well. They could have gone with a CVT

      • 0 avatar
        sideshowtom98

        I have owned autos and sticks. In today’s highly engineered cars, other than econo boxes, autos out performs sticks, hands down. They shift faster than humanly possible, the software is excellent and the cars are in the right gear 99.9% of the time. When and if Formula 1 cars ever go back to sticks, I might reconsider.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    I love the HUD and the LCD screen.

    1) If you use a nav 3-4 times a week, like I do, it’s extremely comforting to have the arrows in your direct field of vision. I need nav in unfamiliar urban locations full of unpredictable little hazards like pedestrians and strange right-of-ways. Just a few seconds of distraction can be inconvenient or dangerous.

    2) The LCD screen enables a lithe, low little dashboard. Someone took a scalpel and cut away all the flesh that “swept up” to surround the LCD. Small dashboards are awesome. Drive an old Honda and see.

    I just hope it’s quiet. I hate it when economy cars are innovative but still penalty boxes. Luxury cars don’t have these fun little touches.

  • avatar
    skor

    Mazda has always been known for excellent chassis dynamics. I remember the first time I got behind the wheel of my 1st gen Ford Probe(a Mazda MX-6 under the skin). I was quite impressed with how it handled, and asked myself, “Why don’t all American cars handle like this?” The answer of course is because Americans don’t care. Americans buy cars because of their utility…Camry, Altima, etc…or because of status…BMW, Mercedes, etc. Yes, I know that most of the world’s car buyers are not enthusiasts, but that goes double for American car buyers.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    The elongated nose looks hilarious in the hatch’s side view.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    I love how Mazda has not abandoned mass market vehicles being a statement of artistry rather than dull transportation appliances. When dealing with art, it’s going to be much more polarizing. I like the right-hand controls, and I find the screen setup interesting. I’m contemplating living without the HUD, but the i Touring needs larger wheels, the 16 inchers just don’t look right. I really need to test drive one of these things….

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Larger wheels = more $$$ when replacing them. I would take 15-inchers. Another day I was testing how my 2011 Mazda3 passes same curve as my 98 Protege. One has 16” lower profile, another 14” 65 ratio tires. 98 Protege suspension is brilliant. It handles curves with those 14-inchers not any worse. Only 14” cost twice less

      • 0 avatar

        +10000 slavuta. No ca needs bigger than 15′.

      • 0 avatar

        slavuta:

        Agree, in my 2006 Hatch I paid $650 to replace the 205/50-17 and they held for 26k miles only from new.
        When I got my 2011 Hatch, I have notice the tires are different, Yokohama instead of GoodYear, turns out they are better, with 28k on the clock they are still good.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I actually swapped my ’02 Protege’s 16″ wheels for 15″ wheels. I probably lost a bit in handling, but I think it’s due more to tire compound than size, and the ride is noticeably better. The best part is that the tires are so much cheaper & last longer that they paid for the new rims.

        The strange thing is that no website or tire dealer had any app or catalog that contained fitment information for going smaller. When I walked into an NTB & said what I was looking for, the kid looked at me like I was speaking an alien language & said: “But you already have 16s.” My reply: “But I want 15s.” He echoed: “But you already have 16s.”

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          I think, tirerack.com has full spec on tires including their actual size. You can get whatever is close to the outer diameter of your original tire. It could be any wheel size (as long as you can fit the brake).

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            I wasn’t clear – they have tools to tell you what rims fit your car considering size, bolt pattern, offset, brake clearance, etc. None of those rim selection tools permit smaller than spec rims.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            I think, I have answer for this. All spindles are probably come from 10 total part bins in the whole world. So any given car probably shares a spindle with 10 others. And some of 15” wheels have to fit some spindles where you usually see 16 and 17” wheels.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I’m not a big fan of the tacked on Navi screen, but its similar to Mercedes and Audi these days. It won’t be long until there is just a docking port there and we bring our own screens.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    And I thought the Focus hatchback was squashed in the rear. Why even make a 5 door version if it has the same roofline as the sedan?

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      I know right? All that cargo room in the previous 3 looks gone.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        I had the same thought, so I looked it up. The 2013 5-door had 95 ft³ of interior space and 17 ft³ of cargo space. This model has 96 ft³ of interior space and 20.2 ft³ of cargo space.

        Maximum cargo space went from 42.8 ft³ to 47.1 ft³.

        Looks can be deceiving, it seems.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      “Why even make a 5 door version if it has the same roofline as the sedan?”

      It’s called a hatch. The advantage is the large opening in the back of the vehicle to permit inserting large objects that won’t fit in a trunk. Sure, it would be even better as a wagon, but the hatch is still useful all by itself.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Mazda has had to do more with less for a long time now, and I think they’re doing a superb job.

    I see a little bit of Audi influence in the cockpit, particularly the shape of the chunky three-spoke tiller, the shape of HVAC vents, and the “pop-out” nav screen, though in the Mazda’s case it doesn’t look like it retracts into the dash. You’d think glare would be a problem under certain light conditions, too.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Maybe its just me but more than likely not but WTF is up with Mazda pushing ZOOM-ZOOM and delivering mediocre. Look it’s a good looking car but its missing a couple of variables in MY Zoom-Zoom equation.

    V+A+B+S+F= ZOOM ZOOM

    V= Velocity
    A= Acceleration
    B= Brakes and braking feel
    S= Suspension and Steering
    F= Feel- the tactile experience of driving the car

    Ir seems like this car is missing at least two and possibly three of the above variables. If you’re gonna butter yer bread with performance positioning is it too much too ask to actually deliver.

    I really hope a MazdaSpeed 3 and MazdaSpeed 6 is in the pipeline.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Your formula should be

      V * $ + A * $$ + B * $/2 + S * $ + F * $$ = ($ZOOM$ $ZOOM$)$$$ = Veiron

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      And which of these are you claiming that it’s missing? Or are you one of those people who think “zoom zoom” is supposed to mean a 600 HP twin turbo V8?

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “Or are you one of those people who think “zoom zoom” is supposed to mean a 600 HP twin turbo V8?”

        The hyperbole is strong in this one. How about a Speed3 with say… about three hundred horses. Would that offend or would you be okay with that?

        Not that I care but curious minds want to know.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          Clearly some people still don’t get the difference between “zoom zoom” and “horsepower.” All Mazdas have zoomZoom, responsive throttle, steering, and handling. MazdaSPEED is zoom zoom with an extra helping of horsepower. If all you want is horses go buy a Mustang or something. I hear soon they might come with stock cornering capability. As an option. ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            84Cressida

            “All Mazdas have zoomZoom, responsive throttle, steering, and handling.”

            That’s hilarious. You should be a comedian. The Mazda 2 and Mazda 5 zoom zoom with about as much zoom as a filing cabinet.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            No, those two have responsive handling and steering and throttle too. What they DON’T have is horsepower, they’re in desperate need of engine upgrades. For the mazda2, Mazda hasn’t managed to make a truly competitive SkyActiv below 2.0L yet, which sucks. But I don’t know what’s taking them so long with putting the SkyActiv 2.5L in the Mazda5. Maybe they’re discontinuing it? I don’t know. That old engine it’s using is hurting its competitiveness though. The car is a lot smaller than most (not-so)mini vans, but doesn’t get significantly better MPGs.

            That 4-speed auto in the Mazda2 also needs to be deep-sixed, but the manual seems to be well liked.

  • avatar
    krayzie

    I see Mazda still hasn’t fixed ugly, and they must have gotten that HUD from Dragonball.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I am really curious to see how the 6AT works with that 2.5. Looks like a somewhat poor man’s GTI DSG on paper which could work very nicely.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      It’s the same engine & transmission as the Mazda6. IMO, it works very well and is deserving the praise it gets. It is lightyears better than Ford’s DCT. (I’m not familiar with VW’s enough to make a comparison.)

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      At $26K, it isn’t exactly a poor man’s alternative to a $26K 4-door GTI w/ DSG. Well, until you factor in maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        The Mazda has better MPGs too. Unless you’re talking GTD rather than GTI.

        There’s also the small matter of reliability.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          You’re deviating from transmissions, which is what we’re talking about. But since you opened the door, there are also the small matters of rustproofing and the GTI stomping the guts out of the 3 at every stoplight.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            You’re the one who brought up maintenance. I’ll see your stoplight and raise you electronics issues.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Yes…transmission maintenance. Understand the pattern yet?

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            No, because narrowing it down after the fact doesn’t actually count.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Jesus Christ do have reading comprehension problems or are you just intentionally obtuse? SportyAccordy’s comment (to which I directly applied) talks explicitly about the TRANSMISSION. When I brought up maintenance in my first comment, WTF did you think I was referring to? And if not the transmission, what tortured logic led you to that conclusion?

            The more I deal with you, the less I like Mazda as a brand. Please stop ruining Mazda for me.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Dude, chill the **** out. Don’t take it out on me that you didn’t express yourself clearly. You appeared to be referring to general maintenance, which is notably more expensive on VWs. If you meant to specify transmission maintenance, well, you didn’t. Instead of getting crazy, simply acknowledge that you mis-typed or whatever and move the **** on with life instead of trying to overcompensate by taking it out on someone else.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Unable to make the most rudimentary inferences: that falls under reading comprehension. Surprised that a crank like me gets testy at repeated inane comments by a brand apologist: That’s obtuse.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    I think the real competition, considering the driving experience is as nice as they say, is the new Golf, not a Dart or Elantra…but it’s not mentioned anywhere here.

    And I agree with others re: the long nose/squashed rear on the HB.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      I think it’s just a bad angle.

      http://media.caranddriver.com/images/13q3/528443/2014-mazda-3-hatchback-photo-538429-s-1280×782.jpg

      http://images.caricos.com/m/mazda/2014_mazda3/images/1024×768/2014_mazda3_32_1024x768.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        campocaceres

        Thank you for posting this (even though the images aren’t loading for me). Seems like the one image Derek posted is simply a very unflattering shot. I did a search and here’s a similar shot from Mazda’s website that is much more flattering and makes it look very similar in shape to the previous generations.

        http://images.mazdausa.com/MusaWeb/musa2/images/garage/2014/M3N/panel_1/background.jpg

        I was quite disappointed in the hatch when I saw the pic, as I was big fan of the first generation hatch (came very close to buying a Speed3 myself). But every pic I’ve come across outside of TTAC looks quite good. Maybe it’s different in person, but I think the posted pic is very misleading.

        Here’s a comparison shot with the 2013 model. I’m surprised about the comments. I happen to think this new version is a world of difference and quite elegant in its styling.

        http://stwot.motortrend.com/files/2013/06/2014-Mazda3-and-2012-Mazda3-hatchbacks-1500×996.jpg

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    Mazda is based in Hiroshima . . . not many opportunities for execs to go clubbing in Tokyo. Change Roppongi to Nagarekawa and we’re all set.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I, too, am curious if they have toned down the road noise. Mazdas have seemingly had this “issue” for as long as I can remember. Our Mazda5 is a great vehicle and serves our needs well but it is noisy… and was particularly bad with the crappy original tires. The last Mazdaspeed3 I drove had so much road noise I got a headache. Hopefully the new SkyActive design saved enough weight that they could afford to add a bit back in for insulation.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      I looked it up in some Edmunds Tests. The Mazda looks pretty good. Is it perhaps that your daily driver is quieter than the typical C-segment car?

      2010 Mazda3 Grand Touring S (sedan)
      Sound level @ idle (dB) 42.9
      @ Full throttle (dB) 76.6
      @ 70 mph cruise (dB) 68.1

      2012 Mazda3i (2.0L hatch)
      Db @ Idle: 41.9
      Db @ Full Throttle: 72.3
      Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 66.5

      2012 Mazda5
      Sound level @ idle (dB) 42.7
      @ Full throttle (dB) 69.4
      @ 70 mph cruise (dB) 65.8

      For Comparison:

      2011 Elantra sedan:
      Sound level @ idle (dB) 41.9
      @ Full throttle (dB) 75.1
      @ 70 mph cruise (dB) 71

      2012 Civic sedan:
      Sound level @ idle (dB) 45.0
      @ Full throttle (dB) 77.6
      @ 70 mph cruise (dB) 71

      2012 Focus Titanium (sedan)
      Sound level @ idle (dB) 39.5
      @ Full throttle (dB) 75.0
      @ 70 mph cruise (dB) 66.5

      2012 Golf GTD
      Db @ Idle: 47.2
      Db @ Full Throttle: 76.6
      Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 66.5

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Well if Mazda’s truly cured its rattletrapitis, I might consider one down the road… but it would be hard for me to trust that brand again.

    Still I’m glad to see them thriving on their own.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Mr Doom,

      I am sort of the same way. I had a Mazda that let me down, but I am still pulling for them big time. I wonder what it is that Mazda has done to engender such an odd type of loyalty from us.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        They make rolling works of artistic experience, rather than rolling works of appliance desensitization.

        • 0 avatar
          bollockitis

          That’s a pretty bold statement. I have never liked Mazda’s styling. I find it too swoopy, too immature. Regardless, isn’t “appliance desensitization” at least partially a function of a vehicle’s success? If you were to see as many Mazda3s on the road as Camrys, would you still consider it a work of art? Or would the sea of Mazda3s then become just as boring as the Camry?

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            It’s not just about the styling, its about the comprehensive driving experience. In that regard, no, a sea of Mazdas would not change that. And even if Toyota sold a tenth of the Corollas that they do, they’d still be boring, numb appliances. That’s what Toyota builds. Mazda builds a feast for the senses that extends throughout the styling of the car as well as the drive itself.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “rolling works of artistic experience”
            “feast for the senses”

            I don’t know whether to laugh or barf

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            Don’t bogart that joint, my friend. Pass it over to me.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            If the thought makes you barf maybe you should be driving that nice, insulating appliance instead?

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Mazdas don’t make me barf. I rather like them. Slavish worship of car brands makes me barf.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            You must hate Toyota buyers then.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Toyota buyers are usually too indifferent to slavishly worship. Tepid, disinterested enthusiasm. They’d never stoop to your level of logging in and calling a commuter car “a feast for the senses”.

            “A feast for the senses”

            I still can’t believe you wrote that. I’ve made up my mind, it’s too funny to barf over. I’ll just laugh.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Where’s the Mazdaspeed5? That’s what a dad like me really wants.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I love the Mazda6 and CX-5…with the exception of the miserable infotainment system that they both have. And since I’m the kind of person that likes toys and gadgets in his car, I wouldn’t buy either of them until they got the 3′s system.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I have a question to ask on how this car drives, how can an FRS, a car that everyone will tell you is a blast to drive, be simply “mediocre” (going off of previous TTAC reviews) while this FF mid-sized sedan is actually fun?

    Granted, these Mazdas don’t get the insane hype of the FRS, but I never understood how they could be that fun to drive as they’re neither light nor compact, I’m sure that the engines are responsive though.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      It’s probably about comparison to expectations/standards of the segment. I would say the FRS is more fun, but it falls into a different bucket (sports car), in which it is good, but not the best. The 3 falls in the economy commuter car bucket, in which it is phenomenally fun compared to the expectation & standard.

  • avatar
    GST

    Derek, can you address road and wind noise? Liked the 2013 but on a rental on a trip this spring, the road noise eliminated the car for me. Am looking for a 3rd car so I can leave my 2001 Audi TT in the garage on wet days here in Seattle.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    That profile picture of the red hatchback is absolutely horrible. What a hideous tortured blob, I don’t know if I could ever approach the car from that angle. Contrary to Derek’s opinion, small wheels do not look any better on this car.

    Juvenile Vellum Venom aside, I’ve always liked the way the 3 drives, the interior looks like a winner, and the 2.5 is a great blend of power and efficiency. Too bad it’s $26K+ for that engine; a GTI starts looking pretty good to me then.

    Did they fix the tight rear seat on this generation? That absolutely struck the last 3 from my shopping list when I ended up with a Sportwagen.

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      When the manual tranny becomes available, it’ll lop about $1,000 off that price, and the sedan will be cheaper, but yes, the fully loaded trims seem pretty pricey. Maybe they’ll eventually come out with a 3s Sport trim like they’ve had in the past to get people into the 2.5L at a lower price.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Isn’t there an S Touring for about $23k? I would check, but Mazda is doing maintenance to their site and I can’t get to the Build and Price page.

      I agree though. To get the options I want in the 3, I would have to take some extras that I don’t care about and end up with a $26k car. I expect the MKVII GTI to have most everything I care about at that price (based on the MKVI) along with a stronger engine with more character. It gives up some MPGs compared to the 3, but it is still good enough that I don’t think it will make a difference. VW’s reputation makes it a tough call though.

      Also, the Focus ST theoretically starts around $25k, but it sounds like you wont find anything cheaper than an ST2 on dealer lots.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The S Touring is the lowest trim equipped with the 2.5L, and for the 5 door with currently-mandatory auto it hits $26K before any options.

        It’s pretty well loaded, but like you I don’t care for most of those options so it would be a waste of money. I’d rather just pay the premium for the upgraded engine on a lower trim level.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          An s Sport might be a wise move on their part, but I have to assume that’ll change the profitability calculus. The more options/trims there are, the more ways to build the car there are, the more expensive it is to build usually.

          Maybe they could dump the i SV in exchange though.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Another problem for Mazda with the loaded S models – does anyone remember the Dart? Chrysler’s 2.4L with similar power to Mazda is finally available, and you can get it on a well equipped car for $22k. Furthermore, remaining options are available individually. Sunroof, HID lights, better speakers, and nav are all separate checkboxes. Order all of them, and you are still only at $24k.

      It’s much heavier than the 3, but in exchange you get something closer to a small midsize, if the frequently mentioned cramped rear seat of the 3 is a problem. Most reviews say it drives well in spite of the weight, and Chrysler/Fiat has a habit of tuning exhausts for some character. I would give up a half second or so on the 1/4 mile and a couple MPGs for some character.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Most people have forgotten the Dart since it sells about half what the 5 year old Mazda 3 sells per month.

        The S models for Mazda are not going to be the big sellers. Just like a Focus Titanium can run $28K but be a minor sales player. The key player for Mazda is the i model with 155hp which puts it above on horsepower the Civic, Corolla, Cruze and Elantra. For a power to weight ratio it goes above the 160hp Focus. So the “base” engine model has more than competitive power. Lets price those which start at $17K in sedan form (the most popular body style for compact cars).

        I agree with you about leg room, the Dart is a bigger car. But many will prefer the more fuel efficient, better driving and likely more reliable 3.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          A fair point, though everything I have read suggests the 2.0L is too slow, despite the competitive numbers. Maybe it is geared too tall for fuel economy?

          Dart is likely quieter at cruising speed. For someone shopping in this segment, I think a Dart with the 2.4L would merit a test drive at least.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The VW Golf also provides (theoretically) tough competition for the Mazda3 S. The new 1.8T looks more than competitive against the Mazda 2.5, and if it follows the same pricing structure as the outgoing Golf it can be had for ~$22K. And it will have a real backseat and won’t have a road noise problem.

        This is all purely theoretical of course, because no one actually buys Golfs here.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    As former Mazda 3 owner I recommend brown as color. This will camouflage the corrosion better.

  • avatar
    VA Terrapin

    Brand new car built in a brand new factory. Can’t have too many quality control issues, right?

    And Derek, what’s with the gratuitous and xenophobic “off-brand Made In China Android tablet” reference to the touch screen on top of the center stack? 1) The iPad is also made in China. Are you going to mention a high quality, “made in China” product the next time you mention something that looks like a high quality item in a car? And 2) cars are getting more reliable as more car parts are made in China. China can build high quality products at least as easily as America, Europe and Japan can build cheap pieces of junk.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Come on man…There are a ton of Android Tablets that occupy the bottom of the market that are all seemingly made in the same factory in china…The 99 dollar Wal Mart ones. Yes, there are good tablets made in China. But if you are buying a cheap Android tablet there is a 99 percent chance it is A. Chinese in origin and B. Distintly lacking in quality feel. This is what he is likely refering to. No one is going to accuse that infotainment system screen in the 3 of being an Apple Product.

      • 0 avatar
        VA Terrapin

        My point is that Kreindler’s “Made in China” reference was unnecessary. There are plenty of ways to mention that the Mazda3 touch screen looks cheap without pandering to xenophobes.

        When TTAC replaced Bertel Schmitt with Jack Baruth and Derek Kreindler as editoral heads, I wasn’t one of those who was encouraged with this change. While I had plenty of problems with Schmitt’s editorial decisions, I did appreciate him adding more international content on TTAC. TTAC under Baruth and Kreindler is already suffering with far worse international coverage than it had under Schmitt. Xenophobic crap like what Kreindler posted in this article reinforces the perception that TTAC cares a lot less about the automotive world outside of North America.

      • 0 avatar
        VA Terrapin

        My point is that Kreindler’s “Made in China” reference was unnecessary. There are plenty of ways to mention that the Mazda3 touch screen looks cheap without pandering to xenophobes.

        When TTAC replaced Bertel Schmitt with Jack Baruth and Derek Kreindler as editoral heads, I wasn’t one of those who was encouraged with this change. While I had plenty of problems with Schmitt’s editorial decisions, I did appreciate him adding more international content on TTAC. TTAC under Baruth and Kreindler is already suffering with far worse international coverage than it had under Schmitt. Xenophobic crap like what Kreindler posted in this article reinforces my perception that as of now, TTAC hardly cares about the automotive industry outside of North America.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, or the even cheaper examples that can be bought unbranded in a plain white box.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Simple, the screen doesn’t look like a quality, name-brand tablet made in China–it looks like a cheap, off-brand tablet made in China. There’s a big difference.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        That’s probably a good thing when you get down to it. If it looked like a quality name-brand tablet made in China, then it might be something worth stealing. Whereas no one will bother breaking a window to steal a cheap off-brand made-in-China tablet, not when it’s easier to sneak it out of Wal-Mart.

        • 0 avatar
          Brawndo

          I think the fact that it looks like a tablet is enough to inspire thievery. Here are the top three most ridiculous things people broke into our cars to steal:

          3) a jean jacket;

          2) the hole around the stereo, if there had been a stereo there (I think they just couldn’t believe we didn’t have one);

          1) before my time, someone slit the top open on my dad’s 1966 Thunderbird to steal his…sack of dirty laundry.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          I figure you are joking, but just in case – people will bust windows for cigarettes and loose change. They aren’t thinking about risk/reward and the inconvenience caused relative to their gain; they only see free shit in your car.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            If you’re living/parking in an area where people bust windows just to get smokes and change, and you’re going to park a NEW car there, without an alarm, this raises many many questions.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I love the 6 but this looks like a last gen Elantra.

  • avatar
    redav

    I had a chance to sit in one last Saturday, but didn’t get to drive it.

    Styling: I was disappointed with the photos, and genuinely hoped it would look better in person. (The 6 looks great in photos, but is better in person, IMO.) It does not look better in person. As most have noted, I found the proportions odd. The flat-ish back window hurts, and it would look better as a full wagon. But what I think hurts it more than the back window is the rising belt line–the shrinking windows & excessive sheet metal above the back wheels makes the whole thing look off-kilter. If the belt line, door handles, rear window, tail lights, etc., were all lowered 3″, much of the strangeness of the shape would go away. I sat in the back to check the visibility out those tiny windows–it was bad and claustrophobic. Everything else with the styling I think ranges from good to great, but it’s hard to get past that overall oddness.

    Tech: the one I sat in did not have the 7″ screen or commander knob. I’m not sold on it, and I’m very disappointed hearing about the problems tuning satellite radio. I recently rented a Malibu with Sirius, and it also had lousy satellite tuning commands. In fact, it seems everyone has forgotten how to design a stereo. It clear that the Mazda designers hate CDs; they put the player behind the shift lever and good luck loading/unloading it when the car is in park. I’m curious whether they’ve fixed the problems with the USB load times and always starting with the same track.

    Interior: I thought the front seats were great. I thought the inside was pretty good, but the 6 felt nicer. The back was genuinely cramped. The back seats were low, and I couldn’t rest my thighs on the seat. I would not enjoy spending any more time than necessary back there. (The seats would fit kids pretty well, but they won’t be able to see anything out the windows.) The seat backs fold pretty flat. The seat bottoms don’t appear to fold up, but one side was not attached as though it would fold up. I think a fastener was missing. Rear visibility seemed poor due to the very thick C pillars and small windows.

    It’s coming time to replace my compact wagon, and since I can’t get a 6 wagon, I was hoping I would love the 3 hatch. While I think I would really enjoy this car, I did not get the “I have to have this” feeling like I did with the 6. That may change once I drive it, though.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Agreed on the looks. Mostly great looking car, but the rising belt line is absurd. Also, that black plastic triangle used to square off the smaller rear window (the one that doesn’t open, above the door handle) kills me. Is there an explanation for it besides cost cutting?

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Bummer about the backseat. Again. Would it have been so hard to take 3 inches of that pulled-taffy nose and reallocated it to the backseat? It’s not like there is a longitudinally mounted inline six up there.

  • avatar
    CompWizrd

    Do you have any shots of the underbody? Curious how much rust is on it already.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    BMW really? So Mazda makes a nose heavy FWD car feel like a balanced 50:50 weight split RWD car? I suppose if you feel that way buy the Mazda. But I doubt sane people will..

    I will be mightly impressed if it beats out a GTI in a comparo.. I wouldn’t count on it though. Those are pretty much the gold standard in compromised FWD handling hatchbacks.

    Sorry but I want to see a comparo first. The Focus, GTI and Mazda have all been lauded for their handling but car magazines. They all have fairly similiar designs.

    I dont’ see what catpults them to top of the handling charts.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    The 3s Touring/GT with 2.5L engine is way too overpriced. The car geeks will question the wisdom of buying this car over say a base VW GTI or Jetta GLI. Sure, for 25K, the Germans will have less equipment, but will more than make up for it with a 210HP 2.0T engine and the refinement you normally get with a GTI. The non-geeks will also question a $25K price tag on a “minor league” Japanese compact. I guess, most people will be buying the more reasonably priced 3i Touring/GT, and the 3s will sell with big discounts over the MSRP, if at all.

    • 0 avatar
      piggybox

      A 3s GT comparably equipped current GTI in US (4dr autobahn) will be 31k and that’s a far north of 26.5k. You do get 10% more power (200 vs 184) at the price of 20% less mpg (21/31 vs 27/37).

      • 0 avatar
        Jacob

        As I mentioned, I think a lot of people will forego a lot of those options in a heartbeat. For me, the most important “options” is to have a great engine, chassis, and comfy seats. I can do fine without leather, electronic aids, navi, fancy headlights, and oversize alloys. And yes, the Autobahn package is way overpriced too.

        • 0 avatar
          piggybox

          I can understand somebody just wants a base with 2.5L. Unfortunately Mazda doesn’t design the package that way. Let’s see what the next Mazdaspeed 3 will bring against GTI and Focus ST

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Has mazda said anything about another mazdaspeed? Speculation is the SkyActive engines don’t take well to turbos. In keeping with this, the rumor I read on the new mazdaspeed3 is a 200hp version of the 2.0L engine.

            Not to dismiss a car before any official news is available, nevermind driving it, but a car like the one rumored has all the makings of a very annoying daily driver. Makes me think of a practical FRS, except with FWD.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Didn’t he already acknowledge that the GTI/GLI has less equipment than the 3s?

        Anyhow, the power output figure for the GTI 2.0T is underrated. Folks more knowledgeable than me can provide a more technical explanation, but acceleration stats alone will tell you this. There’s no way a 200 hp engine propels a 3200lb car to 60 in 6.0-6.5 seconds. I’ve seen it mentioned that actual output is closer to 220-230 hp. And that’s the outgoing engine, the new one ups both hp and torque.

        So for that 20% drop in mpg you get a 20% increase in power. At 12K miles per year, 31 mpg vs. 37 mpg doesn’t mean much to me.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Every time I read about Protege/Mazda3 I try it and come away extremely disappointed. I just don’t see the sportiness of it. It is rough, noisy, tinny and generally unpleasant. The bigger engine is rougher and less willing to rev than the 2.0, which I am sure is well masked by the automatic gearbox, so no reviews mention this fact. Both engines are unpleasant, very different than BMW, Mercedes, SAAB and Volvo engines I am used to. The noise at 80+ mph is extremely bothersome. The steering is nervous at speed and feels imprecise. The brakes are dismal, with poor pedal feel and extremely difficult modulation at the limit. It feels like the master cylinder attachment point is very weak, with a lot of flex in the firewall when braking hard. Gearbox is OK but clutch feel is poor. The seats are very uncomfortable, especially for longer drives. The headrests are too much forward and not adjustable other than up/down. Overall, the DRIVE is very subpar in my opinion.

    I have to drive this new one but I am not getting my hopes up.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      I can’t comment on the clutch feel since the one I drove was an automatic. The seats were uncomfortable – they felt a half-size smaller than a standard car seat. The seatback didn’t bother me, but the bottom cushion felt too short, and thigh support was lacking.

      It does seem that your baseline is German lux or near-lux cars. Would you expect to be impressed by an economy car?

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        I do expect to be impressed, very much so. A new Mazda3 costs more than what I typically spend on my cars. A used low mile CPO 528i/manual can be bought for $22-23k, which is right in the middle of Mazda3 price range. A used low mile SAAB 9-3 is around $10k (commonly sold for $21-23k brand new, by the way.) So yes, I do expect this expensive Japanese car to measure up. And it most certainly does NOT. Well, at least the older models never had.

        I had a 2012 Nissan Versa sedan as a rental for a week of intensive driving around Northern California. That was a genuinely nice car for $12k! Cheap interior, for sure, but very honest about it and perfectly practical for a family of four. Plenty of room and a large trunk, great safety features, etc. It drove really well, with French car driving dynamics that reminded me of the Peugeot 106 I rented in Europe. I am sure with some nice summer tires and manual transmission it would be even better. I would take that car over any Mazda Protege/Mazda3 I have driven. My point is, reviewers seem to really like these cars and I really don’t.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          It’s dangerous comparing a heavily depreciating late-model upscale car with a new car of the same price. EVERY new car looks like crap when compared to a used car from several categories up the evolutionary ladder, including that 528i manual. The fact that a 528i depreciates that rapidly isn’t very complimentary.

          What year did a Saab 9-3 retail for $21K new? I’m guessing so long ago that inflation would bring that well into the 30s in today’s dollars.

          • 0 avatar
            vvk

            Whenever I need to buy a car, I follow these reviews and go test drive a Mazda3 (and Protege before it) among other cars in this category. Invariably, I come away unimpressed.

            SAAB 9-3 sold for low $20k for years. I would say certainly between 2004 and 2007, with 2008 being the last year when leftovers were going really cheap (under $20k for base 9-3.) People were buying four cylinder Camry/Accords for more money at the time. I was looking to buy at the time and the only reason I did not buy a new 9-3 SportCombi wagon was because the exhaust was too sporty/loud for my needs at the time (babies.) Ended up with a second sport package 3er, which drove similar but was much quieter. Tried Mazda3 twice (2.0 and 2.3) because all the reviews were so super positive and once again was completely unimpressed.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            vvk-

            I feel the same way. I try out the new Mazda every time, but I’m never sold. Especially in hatchback form, I just like the Focus and Golf so much more. I’ve bought both of those over the years instead of a Mazda3.

            Your kids don’t like loud droning noises? My 10 month old daughter fell asleep at a college football game last weekend.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Is this directed at a specific generation of Protege/Mazda3?

      From my experience with a Protege, I agree the engine is unpleasant and the highway noise is unbearable. The bottom cushion was too short, but the seats were otherwise comfortable. I thought steering and brakes were excellent.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “It feels like the master cylinder attachment point is very weak, with a lot of flex in the firewall when braking hard.”

      That’s the first time I’ve seen someone put it in writing, and I agree, at least for my ’04. But they still stop the car impressively on anything from dry pavement to ice, and I don’t agree with any of your other complaints. Maybe you’re just accustomed to a higher level of refinement than me.

  • avatar
    changsta

    As noted by some of the other commenters, one of my major concerns regarding Mazdas is rusting. I purchased a Mazda 5 GT brand new in 2006. It was rusting by the winter of 2008. Keep in mind that this car was rust proofed when new, and resprayed every year (GTA winters can be harsh). A Mazda rep actually had the nerve to tell me that the rust was due to “wear and tear” and that it was becasue I “drove in the city”. Two years? I drive an average of 22,000 KM a year. Pretty sure I bought the car from a Mazda dealer in the city too, but I digress. Having said that, I’ve never had rusting issues with the Fords, Acuras, Hondas and Volvos I’ve purchased and drove in the same conditions.

    The suspension that is so sharp and agile also had multiple problems. Multiple shocks blew out in the rear within the first 50,000km. 95% of the time, it was just me in the car. I’m 175 pounds. Hardly overloading the suspension. The rear camber went out of alignment twice and made the tires wear unevenly, requiring replacement.

    When the transmission started shifting roughly, I knew it was time to say goodbye. I barely had the car 4 years, but it had aged worse than vehicles I’d kept for 5 years +. I did really enjoy driving the vehicle (when it was fuctioning properly), but I would never buy another Mazda until they address the elephant in the room. What measures have been take to prevent rusting? If Mazda had owned up to the issues rather than blaming the consumer, I might feel otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      this reads exactly as my experience with 2005 Mazda 3. after 48,000 miles struts were broken, a motor-mount had to be replaced. I don’t give a darn about sporty driving if it requires me to replace the entire car every so often.Streets here are not the best, but I’m a calm driver.

      Rust after 2-3 years in the rear wheel wells was blamed on “damage by stones” by dealer. Even when right and left side had rust in exact same location (must be very accurate tires to throw stones ar same location). If a car is worse than Chrysler, it really is bad.

      When buying new car i looked at CX-5. But the “sportiness” there indicates the same suspension problems. And since I don’t suffer from Stockholm sydrome, I couldn’t forget about the rust. I ended up buying a CRV.

      Maybe newer Mazdas are better. But if I fall for it again i have no one to blame but myself. My 2007 Mazda 6 seems to hold up much better so far. But a company that builds in such varyibg qualty can’t be trusted. I buy cars for transportation, don’t play Russian roulette.
      Whoever buys a 2014 Mazda will see in 2017 ifthey won or lost. Good luck, you’ll need it if you have winter.

      • 0 avatar
        Demetri

        I have a 2008 with 60k on it, driven in Illinois and rarely washed. So far the only rust issue I’ve had is that the bolts holding on the skid plate underneath the car rusted and seized, which was a big pain in the ass. Also I noticed basically every bolt on the underside of the car has rust on it; not seeing rust anywhere else other than typical areas like around the wheel hubs. Zero mechanical issues; no dealer visits. It’s been a cherry so far; I’m crossing my fingers that it will stay that way for at least a couple more years.

        • 0 avatar
          scwmcan

          As I have said before on this issue, our 2007 Mazda 3 hatch, lives in the GTA commuting back and forth on the QEW between St. Catharines and Hamilton ( can you say majorly salted/brined in the winter?) is never washed in the winter and maybe twice in the summer. It is now coming up on 140,000 km. There is rust on the bolts as mention by another poster above, but besides that the only sign of rust on the body is when stone chips are untouched. I have read that Mazda did improve their rustproofing process between 2006 and 2007, so it appear that it may be true. Also I have seen just a s much rust on lots of 200-2006 models from the competition, don’t know why some cars from different manufactures show rust when others of the same model do not, but it happens to ll of them not just Mazda, and it may have been more apparent in the past with Mazda but don’t assume it is the same now. Oh and we just had to put front struts and an engine mount on the car last month, ( not that it is good that they only lasted this long, but much better tan the 40,000 km mentioned above, the Mazda 5 is know for being hard on its struts though, that one is a fact).

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      This brings back memories for me too. Maybe it is just my recent BMW experience that has me thinking a Mazda will let me take the mechanic out of my contacts list.

      My 2002 Protege rusted through the front J pipe and oil pan, ate rear brakes every 25k miles, and had shocks leaking oil by 60k miles. The rust problem is scary, and the car ran through consumables at an alarming rate for a light car with no power.

  • avatar
    bugmen0t

    Open differential :(. All this talk about handling but radar-cruise is an option and e-diff / xds / brake based torque vectoring isn’t.


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