By on October 19, 2013

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The mainstream compact car segment is the perfect example of the infamous “driving appliance.” The Corolla and Civic sell in enormous volume because they are the middle-of-the-road “white bread” option, not in-spite of the vanilla. Unlike many in the automotive press, I don’t find anything wrong with that. In fact, I love me some Wonder Bread. But sometimes you feel like a pumpernickel, and that’s where the 2014 Mazda3 comes in. Mazda was so excited about their new loaf that they invited me to spend the day with them in San Diego. Want to know if you should spend 5+ years with one? Click through the jump.

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Exterior
Accounting for 30% of Mazda’s worldwide volume, calling the Mazda3 their most important product would be putting things lightly. As a result 2014 brings a complete overhaul to every aspect of the 3 and the compact sedan now rides on a platform derived from the larger 6. The “Kodo” design language of the larger sedan has also been brought down to its smaller stablemate to astonishing effect. While the old Mazda3 was all smiles and bubbles, the new 3 is all grown up and aggressive with Mazda’s incredibly attractive grille. Before the 3′s release I was quite torn about who was the fairest of them all but now there is no contest.

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The 2014 dimensions play a huge role in the way the 3 looks on the road. Mazda moved the A-pillar 3.5 inches to the rear making the hood longer, lengthened the wheelbase by 2.5 inches, dropped the height by 6/10ths and made the whole car 1.6 inches wider. So far so good, but somehow Mazda managed to slash the front overhang and increase the wheel-to-front-door distance to an almost RWD like proportion. That would probably have been enough in a segment dominated by slab sides, but Mazda puts two distinctive character lines to separate the 3 from the pack. Out back we have tail lamps that mimic the front styling and your choice of a hatch or a trunk. Opting for the hatch gives the Mazda3 a side profile reminiscent of BMW’s X1, not a bad thing to be reminded of.

Interior
The problem with pumpernickel is that people’s tastes are different. The same thing can be said of the new interior. Rather than scaling down the Mazda6′s dashboard, the engineers went for something slimmer without a “double bump” for the infotainment screen. Taking a page out of BMW’s playbook, Mazda sets the 7-inch touchscreen inside a thin housing perched on the dashboard. Think of an iPad mounted to the dash. The look turned off some but I find the style appealing because it maintains a high screen position while reducing dashboard bulk. Mazda’s new “fighter jet inspired” heads up display is similarly perched on the dash, however, instead of being fixed, it folds itself flat when you turn the feature off. The display is as functional as any other heads-up display I’ve seen but the pop-up trick stuck me as being more gimmick than feature. Mazda tells us the reason for not projecting on the windshield which makes sense if you check out how much HUD compatible windshields go for.

2014 Mazda3 5D interior, Picture Courtesy of Mazda

Mazda says they benchmarked the BMW 3-Series interior which, given that BMW’s 3 went downmarket in some ways makes the comparison valid in  a way that it would have been laughable in 2006. Except for a segment average headliner, the plastics and materials choices in the cabin are all top of the class. (A logical finding since it is the newest as well.) Seat comfort proved excellent with well positioned controls and more side bolstering than you would find in the competition’s non-performance models. Rear seat room was a problem for the last generation Mazda3 and, despite the stretch, this continues to be an area where it lags the competition. For the biggest back seats and the largest trunk, look to the Corolla. Toyota’s 2014 offering has more leg room than the mid-sized Mazda6.

Despite a long list of optional features and gadgets, real leather seating surfaces happen only in the sGrand Touring model with mid-range models sporting faux-cow and lower end 3s wearing fabric.  Some comment has been made in the press about the 3′s 1990s era headliner, but it failed to offend me and here’s why: This segment is all about value and value is about cutting corners. Want snazzy dash plastics and metal trim bits-and-bobs? That headliner is the toll you have to pay and it’s one I’m OK with.

MY2014 Mazda 3
Infotainment and gadgets
If you recall my review of the Mazda 6 a few months ago, you’ll know I reserved my harshest criticism for the infotainment and navigation system. Forget everything I said because Mazda has taken customer feedback to heart. The Mazda3 is the first vehicle to receive MazdaConnect. The system combines a bright 7-inch touchscreen with an iDrive/MMI-like controller knob and button array in the center console. Similar to Infiniti’s systems, you can navigate with either the controller, or the touchscreen, or both depending on what is easier at the moment.

The system is as intuitive and snappy as the Mazda6′s is slow and painful. High resolution graphics, a completely redesigned interface and vastly improved voice commands join to create a system that rivals uConnect, iDrive and MyFord Touch for best in the industry. In that comparison the only things MazdaConnect lacks is smartphone app integration and some form of crash-notifying telematics system. If you want to dive into the details, check out the video.

MY2014 Mazda 3

The minimum point of entry for Mazda Connect is $23,340 because you cab only get it in the iTouring model with a $1,600 option package. Ouch. All models that directly compete with the white-loaf get something that looks like a clock radio molded into the dashboard (see the picture above). The logic was to keep the controls high and in the line of sight for the driver to reduce distraction and it does work as intended even though it looks a little odd. If you’re a high roller Mazda offers a high level of tech for this segment with everything from blind spot monitoring and backup cams available to surround sound, radar cruise control, collision prevention systems that will stop the car below 19 MPH (just like Volvo’s City Safety system), parking sensors and automatic high beams.

2014 also brings Mazda’s new “it’s-so-mild-that’s-not-called-a-mild-hybrid” system to the 3. i-Eloop’s is a mild energy recovery system that uses a large capacitor, variable voltage alternator and a DC-DC converter to recover energy when decelerating. The goal of the system is to limit the parasitic loss of the alternator by charging the capacity when you’re braking so that the car can disengage the alternator and use that power while accelerating or cruising. The system can’t help drive the car, which is why Mazda doesn’t call it a hybrid system, but the claim is that it can give you around one extra MPG in certain city driving cycles. Why so little? Because the alternator consumes less engine power than your air conditioning. The system is only available as part of a technology package and only on the top-end sGrand Touring model.

2014 Mazda3 Drivetrain

Drivetrain
Late in life, the old Mazda3 received a partial SkyActiv drivetrain. The reason it didn’t get fully implemented is obvious when you look at the Medusa below. That bundle of snakes is the Mazda “4-2-1″ exhaust manifold which is designed to prevent the start of cylinder 3′s exhaust stroke from interfering with the end of cylinder 1′s exhaust stroke. The convoluted pipes are there so that the catalytic converter, which is no longer “closely coupled” as is all the rage, heats quickly and less heat is lost on the way to the cat. This enormous contraption simply wouldn’t fit in the old 3 because of the shape of the engine bay and the firewall. To make the 4-2-1 manifold fit in the 2014 Mazda3, it was necessary to form an enormous bulge into the car’s firewall and chassis design, something only possible in a complete redesign process.

2014 Mazda3 exhaust manifold

With the final piece of the SkyActiv puzzle in place, Mazda cranked up the compression ratio on their new 2.0 and 2.5L engines to 13:1. Why not the 14:1 that Mazda advertises in Europe? Because in the USA all engines must operate “safely” on regular 87 octane gasoline by law. The boffins tell us that this results in a 5% loss of efficiency vs the higher compression EU engines that will grenade themselves on lower octane fuel.

The base engine for 2014 is a 2.0L 155 horse four-cylinder that’s good for 150 lb-ft of twist and 30/41/34 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) with the 6-speed automatic. If you have the cash you can upgrade to the 2.5L engine (shared with the CX-5 and Mazda6) which bumps these numbers up to 184 horses and 185 lb-ft while dropping fuel economy to 28/39/32.

The 2.0L engine comes standard with a slick shifting 6-speed transmission that is one of the best manuals in the ever shrinking compact segment. Engagement is precise, throws are moderate and the clutch engagement is linear and well-balanced in relation to the motion of the other two pedals. Sadly this transmission can’t be had with the more powerful 2.5L engine. Don’t shoot the messenger. Most Mazda3s rolling off the lot will use Mazda’s 6-speed automatic transaxle which chases efficiency and a direct feel by engaging the torque converter lockup clutch in every gear, as soon as possible, and as long as possible. While Mazda tells us this is unique to the compact segment, ZF’s 8-speed RWD transmission plays the same trick in the name of efficiency. Manual lovers and speed freaks should know that Mazda is cagey about a MazdaSpeed3 only saying that there would not be one “at launch.” Read between the lines if you like.

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-004

Drive

Being the mechanical geek that I am, one more thing caught my interest: the caster angle. That’s the angle that the steering mechanism acts upon the front wheel. Think of this like a clock with vertical being right at 12:00. Most cars out there have a slight caster angle of maybe 12:03 while the 2014 Mazda3 winds it up to 12:06. Why does it matter? Because we have electric power steering (EPAS). EPAS is the modern equalizer and has made all steering dull and lifeless. By dialing up the caster, you dial up the forces that come back up the steering column from the tires. This means that by the time EPAS dulls everything down there’s the hint of something left. I’d like to say it turns the Mazda3 into a Mazda Miata but I’d be lying. Instead what you get is a hint of feedback in corners and a tiny touch of road feel at other times. Because we’ve been living in a feedback-desert, the taste has overly excited some. No it isn’t your 2007 Mazdaspeed3, but it is livelier than the Focus or Civic.

Zoom-Zoom is more about handling than 0-60 times, made obvious by our 7.6 second run to 60 in a hatchback with the 2.5L engine. If you want more speed in the “non-hot hatch segment”, wait for Kia’s turbo Forte  I didn’t get a chance to test the 2.0L model during the event but my “butt-dyno” tells me it should be about 2 seconds slower and right in line with the competition. It’s when the road starts to curve that the difference is obvious. This 3 can dance. The Mazda is quite simply the best handling and best feeling compact car in stock form. Yes, the Civic Si is a hair more fun but it’s not a main stream car, doesn’t have an automatic and still doesn’t feel as connected as the Mazda. With road manners like these, I’m looking forward to a Mazdaspeed3 vs Focus ST shootout, I suspect the 3 might dethrone Ford’s hot hatch.

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-009

What about daily driving? It’s all well and good to be the best handling compact, but in order to be a sales success you have to be able to sway some white bread buyers. Sound levels at 50MPH rang in a 73db, below the Corolla but above the Civic. No worries there. The sedan’s ride is on the stiffer side of the segment but quite similar to the Focus, that might be a problem for the average Corolla shopper. The big selling point for most cross-shoppers will be the fuel economy. The sedan with the 2.0L engine and automatic is the volume model and snags 30/41/34 MPG (City/Highway/Combined). That’s one MPG better than Sentra, two better than Civic or Corolla and three better than Focus.  While that doesn’t translate into much cash saved on an annual basis, it is one of the largest purchase factors shoppers site in this segment. I should mention however that the last time we had the Sentra it scored better than it’s EPA rating while the Mazda3 was fairly close to the EPA score. My big take away from this is that Mazda managed to beat the CVT equipped competition’s fuel economy with a more traditional feeling automatic. White bread buyers won’t care about the feel, but the numbers might cause them to take a second look.

With pricing that ranges from $16,945 (sedan) to a hair under $30,000 (loaded hatch) if you check all the option boxes on a Mazda3 hatch, it’s obvious the Mazda spans the price spectrum from white bread in a bag to a paper-wrapped organic artisan cheesy sourdough. Like the Ford Focus, this large price span means the $19,495 iSport and $20,645 iTouring compete with the bulk of Corolla/Civic shoppers while the upper level trims compete with the Ford Focus, Acura ILX, Lexus CT200h, Buick Verano, and the few that shopped Volvo’s defunct C30.

Compared to the Civic and Corolla, the Mazda3 delivers superior dynamics and more premium dash materials in exchange for less tech and no touchscreen infotainment. This is a dangerous trade in a segment known for placing features before fun. On the flip side, the Mazda3 has everything it needs to compete with the Focus, ILX, Verano and CT200h. Mazda’s chassis tuning makes the Mazda the most fun to drive (even considering the ILX 2.4′s Civic Si roots), the infotainment system is entry-level luxury worthy and 2014 brings all full-speed range radar cruise control and ever gadget the Buick and Lexus shopper could want. So is the Mazda3 the perfect pumpernickel for Wonder Bread prices? As good as. Civirolla shoppers who can be convinced to cross-shop will be pleased with Mazda’s sexy exterior, comfortable seats and road manners, but those after large seats and large trunks will return to the white bread alternative. I suspect the near luxury shoppers are the ones that will miss out the most however thinking that nothing this tasty could come in a package with a Mazda logo on it. Their loss.

Mazda flew me to San Diego, put me up in a hotel and fed me stuffed mushrooms.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 4 Seconds

0-60: 7.6 Seconds

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 73 db

 

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191 Comments on “First Drive Review: 2014 Mazda3 (With Video)...”


  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Thanks for the review, Alex. It was timely for us since we are contemplating trading our grand daughter’s 2011 hi-mileage Elantra for a 2014 ‘something’.

    I’ve always liked the Mazda3, even in staid 4-door sedan guise. This is worth considering.

    • 0 avatar
      CelticPete

      Two issues:

      Mazda numbers never seem to match up as advertised. Dykes gets fast times out of cars – but this cars accelaration is pretty hum-drum. An accord with either the CVT or the standard beats this..and that engine has less displacement.

      I am not convinced Mazda makes good engines..

      The second – the whole ‘white bread’ analogy.

      Okay sorry this car is still white bread. Well its the same kind of bread the Ford Focus is.. I just don’t see how this car is ‘zoomy’ whereas the other cars are boring.

      It seems like a victory of marketing over substance. It’s a nice enough car – don’t get me wrong. But so are cars like the Golf and the Focus. I don’t understand why TTAC acts like this car is some kind of trend setter..

      I guess we will see in some future comparo between the Focus, 3 and Golf. I’d bet on the Golf but I can’t say that I know.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        CelticPete, my PAST experience with USED Mazdas, from when my own kids still lived at home, has been very good. But that was a long time ago; back in the 80s and 90s.

        I’m hoping that TODAY’s Mazda is at least as good as my experience with their past products.

        I bought a lot of used vehicles off the Lemon Lots at the nearby military bases in the past and the foreign products did very well. The Detroit 3 cars not so much. I don’t even want to go there.

        Ultimately, my 21 year old grand daughter has to decide what she wants to be seen in. I just hope it isn’t a Prius Plug-in Hybrid because I’m not a fan of EVs, PEVs or Hybrids.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        You really have to drive one, “zoom zoom” is not really something communicated by specifications. And I’d hardly call the Focus “white bread” either. Unless you’re talking about that really really good country white stuff, or perhaps a nice ciabatta. :)

        Something like a Corolla or Civic or Cruze, or Elantra, are very much “white bread.” They’re relatively boring compact sedans designed primarily to be drama-free transportation with varying levels of feature content. Nothing wrong with that, by the way, if that’s what one is looking for.

        On the other hand, Focus, Golf, and Mazda3 (and the Forte tries) are NOT designed to engineer all the drama out and insulate the driver from the experience. That’s probably as good a description as any but you really have to experience the difference.

      • 0 avatar
        Demetri

        Mazda isn’t the only one. A lot of modern DI engines seem to be overrated on power at least a bit, especially Hyundai. Honda is the exception apparently.

      • 0 avatar
        vertigo

        You wouldn’t be saying any of this if you went and drove one.

    • 0 avatar
      bkmurph

      I’m not trying to sound like a wet blanket, but bloody hell, your granddaughter sounds like one lucky lady. She got a 2011 Elantra when she graduated from high school, and a replacement is already on the horizon!? I’m a 26-year-old with a college degree working full-time with no student loan debts, and I can’t afford to buy or lease a new car, and no one (not my grandparents, not my parents making $200k/year) has ever given me so much as $100 toward a car. (And I’m an enthusiast, so I’m aching to have my own car ASAP.) I’m not suggesting your generosity is a bad thing, but wow, receiving that kind of generosity/fortune is almost unfathomable to me. I hope she’s thankful. :)

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        bkmurph, I did the same for my kids when they lived at home. Although back then it was used cars because I was still limber enough to wrench and tool on them myself to keep them running. I’m too old for that now so I buy new for the warranty coverage, and then trade before the warranty runs out.

        The reason that I have two grand daughters (21 & 16) currently living with me is too deep a subject to go into here, but transportation is not a luxury for us. It is a necessity!

        I live in the middle of the desert, 26 miles from the nearest town, and my 21 year old grand daughter attends college four days a week at NMSU 75 miles away. Plus she works as a Librarian, part-time at school, and at McDonalds Fri/Sat/Sun.

        So that 2011 Hyundai is getting some serious miles on it. I know, because I gas it up every day at our house. I keep a stash of gas at my house for my AC generators.

        Lots of parents and grandparents are doing the same thing I’m doing to give our kids/grandkids a leg up on the competition in order to get a head start in life.

        What I’m doing is nothing new and my wife and her family owned a very successful real estate business that is paying dividends now in the form of rental income, and that helps. It was tougher to come up with the money when my four kids still lived at home, but we managed.

        We don’t qualify for the Affirmative Action program or Food Stamps or Welfare, so we have to pool our meager resources to stay ahead of the people who do get a free ride in life.

        And there are a great number of them, as you probably know, all sucking on the government teat, living large on taxpayer bucks. We don’t qualify for any of that. I guess we’re too White because it sure ain’t my income! What we have, we had to work for.

        My strategy worked for when my kids and other grand kids still lived at home and it seems to be working for us now with our two grand daughters at this time.

        And after these two girls are finally on their own, we’ve still got 7-year old twins to help put through school and college. (That’s another story that’s too involved.)

        Our kids and other grandkids didn’t get a free pass from us. They worked part-time while in school. And these two grand daughters aren’t getting a free pass from us either. They hold part-time jobs while in school. We just gave them the means to achieve whatever they wanted to achieve. They had to do the work.

        And, yes, they’re thankful! My grand son who just got out of the Marine Corps has sent his sister, the 21-year old grand daughter, $1000 to help with her school expenses. So every body who benefitted from OUR contribution in the past is also helping out now, like her dad, her mom, and her other grand parents.

        Check around. Lots of people (who can) are doing it.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Kudos to you for providing a family anchor. Too many can’t or won’t.

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          You say – “We don’t qualify for the Affirmative Action program or Food Stamps or Welfare, so we have to pool our meager resources to stay ahead of the people who do get a free ride in life.” and
          “We don’t qualify for any of that. I guess we’re too White because it sure ain’t my income! What we have, we had to work for. ”

          But you also say :

          “What I’m doing is nothing new and my wife and her family owned a very successful real estate business that is paying dividends now in the form of rental income, and that helps. ”

          I would hope someone (regardless of colour) who can afford to buy a new car every few years (however worthy) and has a successful business does not get welfare. Please show me evidence that people who get welfare are getting new cars every 2-3 years and living it super large. It is an urban myth – the average social security payment (of which you also get – is that sucking at the teet of the taxpayer?) is around $1100. Not exactly living it large after paying in 30+ years.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            This is a dangerous topic but I feel I have to add some reality. Whatever the ethnic background in my limited experience there seems to be a welfare class and I would define this class as folks who are typically born into poverty and then make it their lifestyle to sponge from gov’t/society. I would further divide this into two sub classes, those who are self destructive and those who are the opposite and learn how to game the system.

            The destructive ones are those who are given the same bennies as the constructive ones, so ebt, section 8, medicaid, tanf, additional state aid, etc. However they either lack the intelligence or are simply emotionally/intellectually damaged enough they fall into circles of drug addiction, alcoholism, petty crime, child abuse, sex crimes and prostitution. You could give these people the world and it wouldn’t matter, they do not have the skills to live in society. From the automotive standpoint if these people are driving at best the $3K BHPH ride and at worst its a s***box on wheels. Crabspirts wrote a “Last Ride” about an 85 Skyhawk wagon that gave me chills as it reminded me of these folks.

            The constructive ones are far more interesting, IMO. These are people who are born into a culture of dependance and manipulation. From what I have seen they seem to have strong family or ethnic ties and generally have at least the basic skills to live and operate in society. However they choose to stay in poverty (or just underneath it) in order to essentially live as comfortably as they can, partake in a share of pleasureful or hedonistic activities and -here’s the kicker- in most cases not take responsibility for their actions. While they will never be “rich” these are folks who get 90% free housing their whole lives, free food credit, free healthcare, free public transit, and the best part to me is they generally are not held responsible for their moral transgresses. Sure they commit real crimes and they’ll be arrested and prosecuted, and sure if they beat up their spouses they might do a month in county but everything else becomes society’s problem. Oh I knocked someone up, oh well not my problem. I want to sling a little dope on the corner? I know nothing ever sticks below a certain amount so at best I spend a few nights in county, get out on bail, and get probation or some such lesser charge. I feel like driving high or DUI? I can get away with being caught many times because half the people I know don’t have licenses anyway, as long as I don’t kill anyone I can continue this behavior indefinitely. I may be sounding sarcastic but these are real thought patterns to the members of the constructive welfare subclass. From the automotive standpoint I haven’t seen these folks in new cars, I see them in CPO or close to CPO cars. Why? The destructive subclass thinks “S500 Benz for 4K woohoo” and spends 2K of welfare money down over say 200 a week of incoming welfare/drug/charity monies. What they don’t think about is what they are going to do in six months when the ’00 Benz implodes while they are driving to the methadone clinic and have no savings to cover a repair. The constructive welfare subclass member might buy the loaded Ford Fusion, Charger, or Panther but in Pittsburgh they seem to prefer pre 2010 GM so Park Ave/Lacrosse/Lucerne, Grand Prix/Bonneville, Trailblazer/Envoy, Yukon/Tahoe etc. They do this because they realize all of the basic expenses in life that take 1/3rd of our incomes to pay for are provided for free, so they can drive well with the income they have but not too ostentatiously. They then work what you and I might call crappy jobs because the whole system is setup in such a way they can earn X amount taxable income and still get all of the bennies their class provides at the expense of society and the national deficit. I hate to say it but its a scam I’m enviable of, sure your job might suck and you may not live in a Taj Mahal but you drive a newer car, have the newest tv, phone, and other gadgets, you’re probably close to your family, you have total freedom to act as a hedon without real consequences, and between your crappy job/welfare bennies if you make 10,000 clear you just add it to the cash value of your freebies which I would speculate is in the neighborhood of the 30K range (around 40K taxable). Not too shabby considering a limited education and skillset, and its the gift that keeps on giving due to your offspring.

            Which is more hazardous? I think on an even keel, the destructive subclass because they are more unpredictable and because the constructive subclass literally has something to lose. However if the constructive subclass continues to grow as it has been the past thirty years eventually it will become more threatening of the two. I’m resigned to the fact there will always be a welfare class but it must be kept in check somehow. If we as society keep rewarding the welfare class it will continue to grow.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            mike978, I didn’t want to expose my entire financial life here since this is not the venue.

            The Real Estate Business and Brokerage was sold to a West Texas company last year and includes a “non-compete” clause to protect the buyer. So all the family has left is their free&clear rental properties.

            Just because our “official” income is below the poverty level does not mean that we don’t generate untraceable income.

            Obviously, since I have been unemployed ever since I retired from the military at age 38, I have survived on my military retirement pay and my VA Disability pension, and then some…..

            Pretty common occurrence for retired military and retired civil service people in America. There’s an entire network that caters to just such talents.

            Call it the Ashley Madison of covert opportunities where you get to exercise your talents without drawing undue attention to yourself. And make a lot of money to boot.

            So I have not been idle. I built our house and maintained and repaired the properties purchased by the business owned by my wife and her family.

            In fact, they just put two of those houses I renovated on the market — one which was meant for our grandson who got out of the Marine Corps but now lives in Fallbrook, CA, and the second which was rented by a guy from NYC who moved here a couple of months ago, and decided to stay permanently to be close to his kids and grandkids living here. The mods and upgrades I made to those homes generated a lot of cash money for me.

            Which brings up another point you may not be aware of and that is that “employees” of said businesses pay themselves minimum wage and let the business pick up all other expenses and losses.

            This is nothing new you know. Happens all the time.

            Millions of business owners do this legally in the US and my Democrat business owner friends are the most creative in generating income while paying little or no income taxes.

            One guy who owns a restaurant hasn’t bought food or gasoline for his family in more than two decades! Now there are some savings for ya’.

            My wife’s dad is a Democrat and he has honed the art to perfection. He’s the guy who shows up at our doorstep with a bag full of cash money once a month, ostensibly for safe keeping, but more covertly as a redistribution of his wealth to his four daughters, in case of his death. He’s 87 — and fears death is near.

            In America it’s not about how much you make. It’s about how much you get to keep.

            BTW, MY social security retirement payment was lower than my wife’s when she retired so social security added more to my payment to equal hers. Imagine that! Even that is part of the law!

            I’m not complaining. It pays for our Medicare payments each month.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            28-Cars-Later, quite a dissertation and very well written.

            My comment about being too White was meant to illustrate that because we are White, people automatically assume that we somehow have money and live a life of luxury. Far from it!

            Like all working Americans, we actually fondle our money before we spend it, and try to live within our means. I still pick up money I find lying on the road, even a penny.

            Maybe that’s because my dad didn’t have a pot to p!ss in when he came to America in 1946. If anyone ever qualified for welfare, my dad and mom sure did, but they didn’t get any because they both held jobs while managing to raise 7 kids.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            @highdesertcat:

            I don’t know man. Charging personal expenses to a business, dropping off bags of cash, getting big payments under the table while showing poverty income on your 1040. Sounds a lot like tax evasion. The IRS is fairly toothless these days, but that can still be a dangerous game. Especially if you’re part of an entire “underground system” as you seem to imply.

            I don’t think I’d be trumpeting it over the internet.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @HDC

            Thank you, my comment was more in response to Mike’s thoughts on some of the welfare class living large. As I stated I haven’t seen that as much but I have seen the constructive subclass living rather well, much better than I did in my first job out of college or when I first moved out. I don’t blame them for wanting more because I would do the same in their shoes, I just wanted to inject reality into the topic and dispell some myths based on my own experience.

            @ajla

            I have to agree with you on your points, we’re entering a dangerous point in our history as a country and a people, best to keep one’s business to one’s self.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            aj, it’s not MY underground system nor am I doing anything illegal. I am illustrating what I know others are doing for the edification of those who don’t know.

            And since my wife is part-owner of these homes that I renovate, I’m doing it for us, as her property. Nothing illegal about that.

            If she turns them and sells them later, like the two recently sold, the business pays all the applicable expenses, including taxes. One of her sisters is married to a tax attorney who has a law office. He’s a great advisor.

            There is nothing in the law that says that you have to keep all your money in a bank account. You can keep it anywhere, including your mattress. Not advisable, but you could. I keep ours in a gun cabinet.

            Of course the feds don’t like to lose track of all that cash money, but millions upon millions of people are hoarding cash to keep in their stash. We’re not unique. Check out the old people in Florida. I have a sister who lives there in West Palm and they have ALL their money at home.

            And I’m not worried about counterfeit money either. I own an Accubanker D64 and have NEVER run across a bogus bill.

            And since you’re in LA, you should know about the various underground economies that exist there.

            My dad was an electrician and he made tons of extra cash money on the weekends working on the side for private parties and businesses alike, all while he was a civil service employee for DoD. Leftovers from his union job, I suspect.

            You don’t turn down people who seek your help. I have never turned anyone down who asked for my help, and if they should stuff a couple of Benjamins in the palm of my hand, who am I to turn them down?

            A couple of months ago, I helped a man tile his entire 4800 sq ft house. This is the guy from New Jersey, a retired Plumber now living here in the desert.

            He paid cash for everything along the way, tile, thinset, grout, saw blade, everything! Home Depot and Lowe’s didn’t mind.

            When the job was done he stuffed 3-grand (30 $100 bills) in my shirt pocket and have me a big hug. His wife gave me 13×9 dish of her authentic lasagna Italiano and a bottle of Madeira.

            You know, that’s more than my military retirement, VA disability AND social security retirement combined! Not bad. Not bad at all.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            28-Cars-Later, I completely understood what you were communicating.

            To me the answer seems pretty straight forward. To the welfare addicts I say, “Get a job!”

            My mom cleaned toilets to make ends meet. I worked washing dishes at the Officer’s Club, played in a Band, repaired cars, etc etc etc. My wife ran a day care at home while raising our own kids.

            Yep, life was tight for us but we made it! Once she got her degree in Real Estate, she was off to the races. And MY MBA didn’t hurt either.

            I always found a way to pay our bills. This new Great Society of ours may be cool, and those who voted for it and are paying for it are welcome to it.

            I won’t be contributing. And neither will millions of other Americans. They will opt to retire early or otherwise back out of the work force and employment participation.

            To wit: Employment participation is only 63% in this day and age, which means that 37% are choosing NOT to work (for whatever reason).

            That does not mean they are not making money on the side.

        • 0 avatar
          WheelMcCoy

          You had me up to the welfare part. The numbers are way overstated causing unnecessary angst and anger. Last I checked, 4.1% of the U.S. population is on welfare.

          And while some are deadbeats, there are more who struggle. Walk a mile in their shoes before judging them.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            WheelMcCoy, keep in mind that only the employed and other taxpayers pay for the redistribution of wealth.

            Everyone else, including the welfare recipients, find ways to steer around it.

            Also keep in mind that this is exactly what America wanted. In America we always get exactly what we deserve, because we vote for it.

            This is what the majority voted for. They can pay for it. I’m not contributing.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Where did you get your figure?

          • 0 avatar
            kilgoretrout

            A 10-second Google search brings up the 4.1% figure from US HHS Dept as of Sept 2013.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            There are literally thousands of welfare programs at federal, state, and local levels. TANF is just one of them, and a long way from the largest. 50 million people are on food stamps. 30 million people receive the EITC.

            Is that just 4.1% of the population?

  • avatar

    Tempting to trade in my Mazda3. The problem is by the time you get the larger engine and those beautiful white leather seats you are paying through the nose. Not to mention where’s the manual? The price of the car gets terribly close to the BMW 320i with the sports option AND the manual transmission. The other problem is the precipitous depreciation of a full-option Mazda3.

    They need to change the option packages so that you can get those very tempting leather seats, a manual and the larger engine option without any of the gizmos like GPS. Y’know build a driver’s car, isn’t that the market they are after?

    • 0 avatar

      I have the same problem, I’m on a 2011 Mazda 3 hatch 2.5L lease and was looking to get the 2014, turns out that it’s way too expensive unless you choose the i model with 2.0L engine, that alone make me start looking at other brands.
      I don’t understand how they put a price on a car, all of a sudden, the 2.5L become a premium car, it comes in a price of a V6 Camry or V6 Altime, you can also get a nice Accord for that.
      Seems weird.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        FYI the 2.0L version has about the same weight to power ratio as the old 2004 Mazda3 with the 2.3L upgraded engine.

        • 0 avatar

          regardless, I drove the 2.5L Turing and I liked it a lot, specially the sport mode, not available on the 2.0L, it feels like driving a manual but instead of you changing the gear, the AT is doing it for you, down shift and up.
          Just to compare, I had a 2013 Focus for 2 days, the AT is so bad that I was sure something was wrong with it, to be honest, I do a lot of driving in NYC where you really need a good AT, lots of stop and go.
          Also, I rented an Altima S 3 weeks ago and the car was really good but that CVT can drive you nuts!
          We were in WA state on a mountain road, lots of turns and up and down hills, this CVT have 2 options, high or low, so stupid and limiting, it always feel like you are in the wrong gear.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            I know, that’s why I got the 2.5L, I do the 684-84 commute every day, which I’m sure you’ve at least heard of down there in Wall Street Land. :) Plenty of stop-and-go on 684. Mostly “stop.”

            My point is that the “base” engine in this car is as fast as the upgrade engine from previous generations in real terms. And yet people are complaining about it, because the (even) more powerful engine is more expensive.

            My understanding is that the transmission difference from 2.0L to 2.5L is limited to the removal of the sport mode and the paddles. And while I haven’t really and truly wrung it out yet, I haven’t noticed the difference between sport and non-sport, other than about 500 RPM.

            The paddles are handy, but also not critical, the shifter in manual gate feels very nice.

        • 0 avatar
          Demetri

          I remember driving the first-gen 2.0 sedan and 2.3 hatchback back to back and feeling like the 2.0 was actually faster through 1st and 2nd. 3rd felt like a wash, and the extra torque on the 2.3 made it stronger in 4th and 5th. That combined with the poor fuel economy and significant weight the 2.3 added, I came away thinking the 2.0 was the better engine.

          • 0 avatar

            npaladin2000:

            To be honest, I did not even try the 2.0L, it might be just enough but still, it’s too expensive unless you go with the lowest i model.
            I was trying to get a good deal on the Mazda 6, no luck.
            One thing I don’t understand, on every Mazda6 toyota sell 10 Camry, why not “push” them more aggressively, they should give me a very good deal since I have Mazda already (my second one), just to keep me as a customer.

          • 0 avatar
            Demetri

            Supposedly the new Mazdas are facing supply issues, so you’re unlikely to get a deal on one. Mazda does offer a $500 customer loyalty rebate, but that’s about all you’ll get on the new models.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            @Demetri

            I got mine for about $50 over invoice. Then again, it was right at the end of the month, which is always a big factor. Anyway, I doubt Mazda will have any trouble selling every single one of these things profitably provided they get the product mix right.

          • 0 avatar

            So far, here in NYC, I did not see a single 2014 Mazda 3 on the road.
            2014 Mazda 6, I see one every 2 weeks or so, not very popular.
            The only new Mazda you see everywhere is the CX5.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Demetri, it may be zip code dependent, but in my neck of the woods, Mazda has a $1,000 loyalty reward on the 2014 Mazda6. The loyalty reward for the 2014 Mazda3 is only $500.

            http://www.mazdausa.com/MusaWeb/displayRegionalIncentives.action

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        @dror – I’m a HUGE Mazda fanboy since I believe they do the best job of consistently offering generally affordable vehicles having the best combination of reliability, thoughtful engineering DETAILS, and genuinely good driving dynamics (whether in rwd, fwd or EVEN in *gasp* CUVs) across the board.

        HOWEVER, the idea of a 30k Mazda 3 (if even by MSRP only) or anything close to that is ridiculous, asinine & fundamentally FUBAR, runs contrary to Mazda’s raison de etre, and I don’t care how many excuses are offered up by those harping on the “but, but, but, look at the kewl options!” crowd.

        Only true imbeciles will pay anywhere close to that sum for any vehicle in the Mazda 3′s segment, with or without radar assisted cruise control (which is just idiotic in this class of vehicle).

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          “Only true imbeciles will pay anywhere close to that sum for any vehicle in the Mazda 3′s segment, with or without radar assisted cruise control (which is just idiotic in this class of vehicle).”

          Uhh I paid $26k for mine and I’m very happy with it. And given that, because of their high fuel economy these will get used at highway commuter vehicles by some people, I would say radar assisted cruise is a pretty frigging smart idea for the segment. As would be lane departure warning, etc. I don’t see the smart brake thing being as useful but it’s probably just some extra lines of code added on to the radar cruise and lane departure systems.

          The car itself maxes out at around $28 I think, the rest is accessories and add-ons.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            My intent wasn’t to insult anyone paying that much for a compact car, but it is my opinion that loading up a compact car with expensive options is, with extremely few exceptions, financial suicide as well as ironic.

            I’d much rather have a 21k manual transmission Mazda 6 with few options than a loaded to the gills Mazda 3 that costs 6k more – I do realize that not everyone shares my very strident opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      joeveto3

      This car is a huge improvement. However, have 2 issues: the aforementioned option packages that limit, say, a 2L with manual and real leather. In other words, let me pick my car.

      Second, and this applies to Mazda in general, is their minimal color pallette. Pearl white, pearl black, a silver, two grays, a blue, a red…done. It’s been this way for at least 5 years, and it’s really boring. Do extra shades really cost THAT much?

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        Given that all of Mazda’s paint colors are metallics, yeah, it does cost THAT much. It’s actually a pearl white metallic. And there’s only one gray, and two blues. I’m not sure what Titanium Flash is, but it looks like more of a bronze than a gray.

        Anyway there’s a total of seven colors, which isn’t the most expansive color palette but it’s a reasonable one.

        Snowflake White Pearl Metallic
        Soul Red Metallic (tintcoat)
        Jet Black Mica
        Deep Crystal Blue Mica
        Blue Reflex Mica
        Meteor Gray Mica
        Liquid Silver Metallic
        Titanium Flash Mica

        Just out of curiosity, what color would you like to see that they don’t have? I wouldn’t mind seeing Lava Orange come back myself, it was a nice color. And if anyone says “beige” I’ll slap them with a Corolla floormat. :)

        • 0 avatar

          Yes the color options are conservative considering the sporting nature of the car. Lava Orange would be cool. I think a nice color would be an electric blue like the M3 BMWs. A pop green color would be cool. The Fiat 500 has a great selection of colors.

          Possibly as production of the Mazda3 moves to Mexico we may start seeing more colors and custom option ordering..

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            I don’t know if I could see Mazda bringing out any more “light” colors. There’s a fairly light blue shade, plus the traditional silver and white colors. All the rest are deep, intense colors, which is what I generally expect from a sporty plate like Mazda. So it would have to be a pretty intense green, not one of those light “lime green” deals.

            I could see a deep purple, that might look especially nice in a metallic.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            I thought phantom purple looked pretty good on the first generation MZ3.

          • 0 avatar
            chiefmonkey

            Want to see bad color choices? Look at BMW’s options on the 3 series.

        • 0 avatar
          joeveto3

          Its roughly the same pallete that’s been used by Mazda for many years now. I’d like if they changed it up a bit. I think Ford does a good job with this, rotating shades in and out as tastes change. Pearly white is fine, but I’d like a standard white. And throw a green in there. And Brown, for the B&B.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Mazda’s color options are poor–not just the variety, but also the colors themselves.

            Ford does a much better job. Their Sterling Gray, Ruby Red, the blue on the Fusion, & the bronze on their trucks are all more appealing than anything Mazda has besides Soul Red.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Mazda’s color options don’t look so minimal if you check out other cars. The current GTI for example – two similar shades of gray, black, white, and red. I think the Accord sport is only black and gray.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Excellent review. There is a rendering problem towards the bottom, at least for me, but I tried internet explorer as well.

    And I refuse to call it Mawzda. It’s Mazda with the ‘a’ like ‘apple’.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m using google chrome and I get that rendering problem at the bottom too.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      “And I refuse to call it Mawzda. It’s Mazda with the ‘a’ like ‘apple’.”

      Canada, eh?

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        +1 ‘A’ like apple.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          except no. The Japanese name is “Matsuda Kabushiki Kaisha” (MKK) and given typical Japanese pronunciation, “Matsuda” sounds more like “Matsda.” There’s no “short A” in Japanese.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            I think you mean there is no *flat* English “A” sound in Japanese; i.e., cat, rat, hat.

            The Japanese short-A is pronounced “ah” as in German and you’ve got four of them in “Matsuda Kabushiki Kaisha”.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            I was taught the sound is “short” in school, not “flat.” But it doesn’t really matter which term is used, IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @Scott_314
      Our American friends have some funny pronunciations for car brands.

      Mazda here is pronounced – Maz’da, not Maaawzda.

      Nissan hereis pronounced – Nis’sin not kneesan.

      Hyundai here is pronounce – Hi’une’die, in the US I heard some weird sounding word.

      I don’t know if anyone can recall the Toyota Celica. In the US its pronounced Sell’a’ka, here Cee’lee’ka.

      Others ones that get me are more to do with the fanboi’s pronounciation of Porsche and Renault, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        “Our American friends have some funny pronunciations for car brands.”

        See above. The US pronunciation of Mazda is far closer to “Matsuda” than whatever you spit out in Canada and Australia.

        “Hyundai here is pronounce – Hi’une’die, in the US I heard some weird sounding word”

        And the Japanese say “Hyoon-die.” In Korea, it’s “Hyun-day.” So you’re just as weird as whatever you heard in the US.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          It’s “Hun-day”…like Sunday

          http ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY-5dn3t4xM

          • 0 avatar
            gogogodzilla

            It’s spelled “현대” in it’s native Korean.

            That’s transliterated as:

            Revised Romanization: Hyeondae
            McCune–Reischauer: Hyŏndae

            That’s it. That’s how it’s pronounced.

            And it means ‘modern’ or ‘modernity’ if you translated it.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I always mis-pronounce car makers like those just to see if anyone catches me, ditto for “Beemmer” and “Mer-khuer”.

          I’m sure to emphasize the “yoo” too, just so that my “Hyoondai” sounds sillier, why take them seriously?

        • 0 avatar
          BuzzDog

          Subaru did something similar after a few years in the US, changing the pronunciation from “sue-BAH-roo” to “SUE-ba-roo.”

          Here’s an example: http://youtu.be/zLPp-NFInXw

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        Before Hyundai ever started selling cars in the U.S., a co-worker at a student job I had then knew someone connected with the shipbuilding part of the company, and therefore knew that Hyundai should be pronounced as it’s spelled. A few years later, TV ads appeared with Fred Gwynne’s voiceover: “Hunday. Cars that make sense.” No doubt Hyundai paid someone a lot to convince them that for the U.S. auto market, “Hunday” should be the pronunciation. I know Hyundai was in the Canadian market earlier; isn’t the car called Hyundai and not “Hunday” there?

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          @gottacook
          When Hyundai were first released in Australia they pronounced it in a similar fashion, but somehow it changed.

          I don’t know if it was a marketing reason or not.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            When the Excel came to these shores in the US, Hyundai intentionally chose to market “Hyundai, like Sunday” to avoid issues with the name. It was intentional and Hunday said so themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      “Maaazda” sounds much sillier to me, but then so does “paaasta.”

  • avatar
    carguy

    Thanks for yet another thorough review Alex. Your focus on substance as opposed to witty prose is much appreciated.

    I find myself driving mainly in city traffic these days and this looks to be a perfect replacement for my current 3 series. It looks good, has great seats, is fun to drive and gets good mileage all at a reasonable price. While it may seem a little pricey when compared to other compact economy cars, the better interior and fun factor are worth the extra dollars – particularly if you compare it to an entry level X1.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    That screen coming out of the dash, or the cheaper controls on the base model, would be a deal killer for me. Then there is the price. Nearly $20k for a base model?

    For a measly cheap FWD car. I know, it’s getting that across the board, and the cars have been getting nicer compared to 10 years ago. But still, add in some decent features, nice seats, and you’re talking mid-20′s for a economy car.

    Ridiculous. Oh well, lunch is over, time to go outside and fix my 78′ Chevy. Articles like these just inspire me even more to keep the old stuff around. $20k for a POS plastic economy car, or a few grand for a solid, durable, dependable, built piece of machinery. The $400/month car payment I’d save goes pretty far in gas and basic repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      bkmurph

      I don’t think of the Mazda 3 as an economy car. Compact, sure, but not economy. That’s the 2′s role. And it costs less than the 3.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Its a compact FWD 4-cylinder that gets reasonable gas mileage, I feel that it qualifies as an economy car which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

        • 0 avatar
          WheelMcCoy

          Alex mentioned the top end Mazda3 could actually roll with the Acura ILX, Lexus CT200h, and Buick Verano. I hadn’t thought to compare them, but Alex makes a good point. Wow, Mazda has come a long way.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            It’s really interesting that they can do it legitimately with the same model that’s competing with the Civrolla on the low end. There’s probably a higher profit margin competing with the near-lux guys though, so it’s smart on their part to try, if they can.

        • 0 avatar
          gogogodzilla

          Yes, a FWD 4-cylinder with decent gas mileage.

          Just like the Audi A3?

          -

          The point is that simply having FWD and a 4-cylinder engine does not make an econobox.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      If you really are still daily driving a 78 Chevy, I’ve got to assume that any car less than a 3 series selling for under 15 grand is probably perceived as overpriced,

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      That $400 / month buys you more than just a plastic car. Think fixed budget, reliability, massive service and oil change interval differences, gas mileage savings, 25 years of safety engineering development, warranties… etc. Depends on what you need I guess.
      Anyway at 20k $400 / month, you should seek out a better interest rate…

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        I’m a mechanic by trade with enough tools to pretty much rebuild or make anything.

        Now here is the thing. I live a double life. We have six cars in total, and in fact I am making about a $400/mnth payment on a 12′ Mustang; 5-year loan, 3.9% gotten with absolutely no credit history what so ever.

        But really, let’s break it down. 3 years ago I bought my 78′ Chevy for $2,250. I did about $100 worth of basic stuff to it off the back, a few hundred more in cosmic stuff that it didn’t need it, and about half way into that I got side swiped by another driver and a insurance check that covered a new paint job (body work done myself).

        I’ve replaced these over 3 years/30k miles.
        - Patched a hole in the floor board $20 in metal, undercoat
        - Re did the interior with junk yard parts out of a buick, black spray paint, and Tommy Bahama headliner -$100
        - New catalytic converter $45
        - Muffler, various exhaust piping; Free (spare parts)
        - Tires $400. Mounted on steel wheels I had left over from another car
        - Fuel pump $25
        - Water pump, all hoses, thermostat, fan clutch, belts $150
        - Starter $75
        - Some fuel lines $20
        - Rear brake shoes and cylinders $60
        - Radio $65

        I get about 20mpg. It’s never left me stranded. Oil takes 15mins to change. I pay no property taxes on it and it’s really cheap to insure. It glides down the road, looks cool as hell, and the best part is that was 30k miles I didn’t put on one of our newer cars. Just recently I started driving 01′ Jetta my wife use to commute in before she got her company vehicle. I alternate between that and the 78′. The Jetta gets good mileage, but dries like crap, is very unreliable, and a lot more expensive to fix. At this point we’re just driving it until it blows.

        When the engine goes in the 78′, It’s getting a mild small block and 700R4. So a completely new drive train for under $3,000k.

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        —- 35 years

        Excellent, comprehensive review. One of the best I have read in a long time… Kudos! Alex

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The idea that a ’78 Chevy with the structural rigidity of a chicken fillet and all the loose interior fittings you can eat is more “solid” or “built” than any modern car is really funny.

      The modern stuff is ridiculously stiff, built to super-tight tolerances, made of much better materials, and largely maintenance-free until you exceed six figures of miles.

      I’m glad it’s so cost-effective for you because you know how to wrench on it, but a 2013 economy car is a better car in any respect you can name. Unless your Chevy is modified, the 2013 economy car is a whole lot faster, too.

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        “made of much better materials, and largely maintenance-free until you exceed six figures of miles.”

        Than what? Major maintenance for timing belt replacement? What about the other stuff that goes wrong? Looking at that skyactiv catalytic converter and I’m thinking how expensive that’s going to be to replace when it clogs up or falls apart. You’ll have to buy that whole damn unit, exhaust manifold and all, and it’s probably packed in there and going to be a bitch to replace.

        As far as what’s stiffer/ more durable. You’re clueless. My car has a full frame. It has front A-control arm suspension; not some cheap Macpherson struts mounted to a unibody. I have gotten that front suspension airborne once; by accident. In the rear there is a solid axle. No IRS bushings to wear out, get loose, etc.

        As far as speed goes? I’ll take a big under-powered lazy engine over a small one that sounds like it’s going to come apart at 7,000rpm when you have to rev the piss out of it to get it to go anywhere.

        It’s about preferences. We have three newer cars, and three older cars. but by all means, most people are unable to keep a old car going these days. My generation is weak and a good portion of them are so dependent on everybody else it’s sickening.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          You’re aware most cars use timing chains these days? You being a mechanic I would hope you knew that. Clearly you’ve never touched a SkyActiv engine.

          Clearly you’re happy with a car that’s so simple you can fix it with a rock, a pocketknife, and maybe some chewing gum. What I’m wondering is, if you’re so happy about it, why you feel so threatened by more modern vehicles. Did you perhaps get bullied by an L-head when you were younger? :)

          Personally I LIKE revving up to 7k RPM, there’s something cathartic about taking control of a screaming banshee that is about to seriously haunt that 20 MPH Panther in the other lane.

          Oh and there’s quite a bit of room to get at that SkyActiv header. Almost like they left room to be able to work on it.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          That exhaust manifold scares me. Unlike a catalytic converter, I don’t normally consider an exhaust manifold to be an eventual maintenance item.

          BTW, I think my 2.3L MZR engine both sounds and feels fine at 7000 rpm. Thousands of runs to that engine speed have shown that it’s not going to easily come apart!

  • avatar
    jz78817

    it’s eleventy billion times better looking than the previous model.

    though I’m not sure why they made the infotainment look like a someone just stuck their Garmin on top of the dash.

  • avatar
    daiheadjai

    I want my next car to have a fixed HUD.
    With a lead-indicator and a little diamond-shaped box that sends a “missile lock” tone when I get other cars into it…
    And a gear shift shaped like an F-16 control stick (manual transmissions would be even cooler since we could actually move the stick around).

    I’ll still hate Toronto traffic, but at least I can imagine that the buttons on the stick actually launch traffic-clearing goodness out of the headlamps or something…

  • avatar
    Aleister Crowley

    Excellent review. However, you showed us a video of you sitting in the trunk of the sedan while reviewing the hatchback. The infotainment seems to be a copy of BMW’s latest i drive while enhancing it with the touch screen as you point out. I would love to see your review of the Dodge Charger AWD SXT Plus. I had a BMW 535 loaner with the heated rear seats which my daughter loved, and I found that the AWD Charger SXT Plus has the same 8 speed auto as the BMW as well as the heated rear seats, and you can probably buy 2 for the price of the BMW since they are heavily discounted. Those Chargers are relatively inexpensive and I think would prove interesting to your readers. Thanks for the great review.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    It seems too expensive to me in higher trims. How would you think this compares to the current and upcoming golf/gti and the Impreza/WRX hatches?

  • avatar
    dcuccia

    Nice review. Really like how you dig deeper into powertrain details than most. And I haven’t sat in the 3 yet, but I think I agree with your comments about the location of the infotainment screen. Keeps the profile low, improves visibility/roominess, AND…I can probably jury-rig my phone/tablet du-jour in front of it. That’s great for long-term buyers – this display may be snappier than most, but it won’t compete with anything available 10 years from now.

    But more importantly…how were the mushrooms?

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      >> But more importantly…how were the mushrooms?

      Since we are talking about food, Alex likens the Mazda3 to pumpernickel because both are for discriminating tastes and neither sells very well compared to the competition. I’m hoping the Mazda3 becomes more like multi-grain bread which is gaining in popularity and good for you too!

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I like the Mazda 3, I really do. It is probably the best compact out there save the Impreza, which is sort of in a class of its own with AWD.

    There is just one flaw with the Mazda 3. It is priced too high for what it is. A mid-level model with Skyactiv costs as much as a low level (but not base) Mazda 6, which has about the same level of equipment and Skyactiv. To me it would make sense to buy the bigger car for that. Mazda needs to drop the price around $2000 on all models.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      The base 3 has the full skyactive suite of technologies. The 150hp engine is more than sufficient for the light weight 3. It’s power to weight ratio will be similar to the 6 with the 2.5 engine. It also is more powerful than most of the competition (Corolla, Civic etc with better fuel economy).

      The gap is more like $4K on a like for like basis – remember the 6 doesn`t have the HUD or 7″ screen. A fully loaded 6 is pushing more than $33K with the i-Eloop system and the active safety stuff.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Someones going to have to tell me how standard 3s are anymore “sporty” or fun compared to a Civic or base Golf, I just don’t see what makes them that much more fun, especially if its built from a modified 6 platform. Is it because theres an i in the name like Ipods and BMWs?

    Looking at the “Build a Mazda” site I was greeted with the last 3 series, unfortunately the car has too many standard features I’d rather not have that I can’t remove.

    I was hoping I could build a manual hatchback model with a 184hp engine in it, and get rid of the following:

    Rear roofline spoiler (Don’t need it)

    Dynamic Stability Control†; and Traction Control System (Don’t need it on something like this)

    Power door locks with 2-stage unlocking feature (I have no idea what this is nor do I care to learn)

    Push button start (This isn’t the 1940′s)

    Bluetooth® hands-free phone and audio streaming (I can park and use my cellphone for this, or hook it up via CBI style)

    Auxiliary audio input jack and single USB audio input (I have my music on CDs)

    Steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls (These will break in 10 years and will be a pain in the foot to replace)

    I’ll gladly ditch these things in favor of using the money on extra rust protection, and actual dipsticks.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I think some of the sportiness comes from chassis tuning, the steering (as mentioned by Alex with respect to the caster angle), the overall weight balance, the precise and fun manual transmission.
      It has been reported that the 2.5L will come with manual in due course. It does take time to roll everything out. Bare in mind there is much more variety than with say the Corolla – 2 body styles, two engines, two transmissions etc.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      Rear roofline spoiler (Don’t need it) – This is part of the chassis near as I can tell.

      Dynamic Stability Control†; and Traction Control System (Don’t need it on something like this) – Stability control is now required by law on all new cars.

      Power door locks with 2-stage unlocking feature (I have no idea what this is nor do I care to learn) – They’re power locks. Mazda didn’t bother buying a manual system.

      Push button start (This isn’t the 1940′s) – Nor did Mazda waste money on a keyed ignition system, all of their new models are pushbutton start. 100%. Probably saving money on keys and lock cylinders.

      Bluetooth® hands-free phone and audio streaming (I can park and use my cellphone for this, or hook it up via CBI style) – They all come with this, no one’s making you use it though.

      Auxiliary audio input jack and single USB audio input (I have my music on CDs) – You’re probably the last person in the world using CDs. I’d rather they ditch the CD player. Anyway, your aux input and USB are in the armrest, so you’re good.

      The 6 speed manual is coming, and while I’d like to see maybe an “s SV” or an “s Sport” trim, it’s still going to have a lot of stuff you might not want. That’s the reality of buying a car these days, it’s just not as a-la-carte as it used to be, for cost-savings reasons, as well as simplification of manufacturing.

      Anyway, they’re much more sporty than a Civic or Golf because of the handling…though Golfs handle relatively well, they still ride a little softer, same with Civics. Get a GTI or an Si and then you’re talking about a pretty sporty vehicle, but if you want the handling chops of one of those, but the fuel economy of a regular Civic, the Mazda3 is an option, along with the Focus.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        While you do have some good counter points to the stuff I’d rather not have on my car, I do wish that I could get a car with key entry and key ignition without a chip that costs a lot to re-program, but again its just how cars are.

        Call me nuts, but my idea Mazda would be a 2 with a souped up 6 engine crammed into it.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          Even the 2 has chip-based ignition I think. Pretty much all cars these days have them, which is why keys are going away, the real security is in the chip and fob, so why not dump the key-and-lock-cylinder mechanism? Just another thing to break.

          • 0 avatar
            Beerboy12

            With my Golf, I need to start it by turning the key in the ignition but… it does the rest it’s self, so it might as well be a button.

          • 0 avatar
            Japanese Buick

            The next step needs to be making the “key” fobs smaller. I guess the car makers think big key fobs are upscale but once my Lexus, Miata, and wife’s Prius keys are on my keyring it’s too bulky to go in my pocket. But really how much of that fob is chip+battery and how much is plastic and chrome frippery?

          • 0 avatar

            I’m pretty sure that all of the fob based ignition systems that I’ve used on review cars have had emergency physical keys stored inside the fob with lock/cylinder mechanisms somewhere on the door and on the instrument panel just in case the fob fails. So the fob/button system can’t be cheaper. I’m not a huge fan of push button starting because with a key you have certainty about the position, but I’ve gotten used to them, and in terms of opening up doors and trunks smart fobs are a lot more convenient.

            They are bulky, though. I think it’s intentional, a status symbol in your pocket.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            The only lock cylinder Mazda puts in is on the driver’s side door. Nowhere in the dash is there one: the emergency start procedure involves contacting the start button with the fob rather than uncovering an emergency key hole.

          • 0 avatar
            ...m...

            …no, the 2 has an old-fashioned ignition key, at least for the current generation…

            …i actually cross-shopped the 2 against the mazdaspeed 3 this spring and much to my surprise ended up driving home in a fully-loaded 2…the 2 decisively beat the ‘speed 3 in both handling and throttle response, which combined with its everything-you-need-but-nothing-superfluous interior and feature set to make a compelling case in its favor; it’s just a better driver’s car all around…

            …it’s funny, though: i drove into the dealership already having made up my mind to buy a mazdaspeed 3 ready-to-go that day, only to place a six-week factory order for a custom 2 instead…

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Yes, but the ignition is still chip-based, there’s a chip in the head of the key.

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          Any money you saved from non-chipped keys you’d end up paying in extra insurance.

          Besides, they aren’t all that expensive if you program them yourselves.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …..(I have my music on CDs) – You’re probably the last person in the world using CDs….

        I have yet to find any downloads that are equal in sonic quality to a CD. The “download” revolution may be great for access and portability, but for those of us who appreciate true high fidelity, downloads might as well be herpes.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          That and finding downloads are often tricky to find without running into potentially dangerous sites.

          I have a few CDs with downloaded music and the qualities nowhere as crisp as a my professional CDs.

          Just call me old-fashioned though, I’m planning on throwing a cassette tape unit into my car just to get the factory radio back in.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            You have to look at the encoding. 256k MP3 is very high quality, 320k is considerd virtually lossless.

            Bottom line is I can fit more MP3s on a USB stick also, versus a 700 MB CD-R. Particularly using 360k encoding, which makes a 3 minute MP3 about 10 MB.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            You have to look at the encoding. 256k MP3 is very high quality, 320k is considerd virtually lossless.

            Where can I find those?

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            “Where can I find those?”

            The obvious answer is rip them yourself, and if you don’t have access to 320K mp3s, you’re likely buying the CDs anyway.

            But considering that we’re talking about audio in a car, not a theater, 256K mp3s should be perfectly good for nearly everyone, and that’s the quality that Amazon sells.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          Double blind tests have shown for 15 years now that self described audiophiles consistently fail to identify a moderate bitrate MP3 against the CD original. Let alone at 256-320kbps encoding. This in studio environments with the source hooked up to five figure speaker setups.

          From a $300 stereo in a moving car with a 68 decibel noise floor? Please.

          Audiophilia has never been about audio. It’s about selling $100 (or $1,000, or $10,000) placebos to control freaks.

          • 0 avatar
            Demetri

            Exactly. There’s a lot of delusion in audiophile culture, combined with the belief that you always get what you pay for, which is why companies like Monster Cable are still in business despite being frauds.

          • 0 avatar
            ...m...

            …nonsense hearsay from parties with a vested interest in pushing lower-fidelity-technology fifteen years ago: i’ve personally participated in double-blind studies which consistently distinguished 16/44 lossless playback from otherwise-identical 320kbps VBR AAC files…

            …that said, of *course* any such distinction is highly dependent upon the source material, playback equipment, and listening environment (not to mention the listener), and unless you’re rolling in epic maybach-grade acoustic isolation, road noise will overwhelm that sort of subtlety more often than not…thankfully, most portable audio devices these days support lossless playback, so we can have it both ways, portable convenience without the need to maintain a separate library for high-fidelity listening experiences…

        • 0 avatar
          lilainjil

          You may or may not be aware of HD Tracks https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php
          They offer 96khz/24bit downloads. Sometimes even 192/24.
          (I am not a subscriber as it is not yet available in Canada)

          Obviously better specs than CD, and certainly a step or two up from herpes.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            I will most certainly check them out. Thank you. Regarding the idea the high end audio is just ego, food, well your hearing must suck. Then again, if you can’t hear the difference between a Mark Levinson and a Pioneer, you certainly can save some money. Common sense must be applied as there are companies that take your money and return no sonic improvement. The above mentioned Monster Cable is a great example. Both audio and video. I laugh at those hard sell folks at Best Buy who push $90 HDMI cables. My wife asked why I would want to spend $900 on a Definitive Technology subwoofer as opposed to a Klipsch or a Polk Audio. We went to the store and spent some time listening. Did not take long for her to say, no contest. DT it was.

          • 0 avatar
            kvndoom

            My hearing doesn’t suck… I live for hearing the subtle nuances and sound quality on recordings. Hearing the triangle on Lee Ritenour’s “Shades in the Shade”… the conductor tapping the podium during a low passage in one particular recording of Holst’s “Saturn”- yeah I live for that. But at 42, I’ve tested and my hearing response drops sharply above 14kHz. 15k I can barely perceive, and 16k not at all. No doubt this shall continue to diminish over time.

            All this tested on some pretty high quality headphones (Sennheiser HD-600′s) so they weren’t the bottle neck. I used some mp3 test tones at home, then followed up with a VERY expensive signal generator at work to be certain.

            So in my case, no I can’t hear the difference, so long as the bitrate is 256k or higher. I can definitely tell how “dead” a 128k mp3 sounds though.

            That being said, there are some really nice tools available for MP3′s that make them my format of choice regardless. Audiograbber with LAME is my tool of choice for extracting music from CD’s and converting it to 320k joint stereo. MP3Tag allows me to edit all the tags and insert album art (seeing the album cover on screen while a song is playing is pretty cool for me). MP3Gain lets me adjust track gain or album gain, and analyzes to show clipping levels, which has benefited me by letting me tame a few tracks on some of my CD’s that were recorded too loud.

            The biggest downside for me concerning MP3′s is how few players get gapless right. That really detracts from listening to any Pink Floyd album.

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      Honestly, when I tested the Mazda3 vs the Civic coupe in 2008, I felt like they drove about equally. The Mazda seemed to have a slight advantage in acceleration. I mainly bought it because it killed the Civic on interior and price. Now if you’re comparing those two cars (although my understanding is the Civic has regressed since then) to a Sentra, Elantra, or Corolla, there’s a huge difference in how they drive.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    “Opting for the hatch gives the Mazda3 a side profile reminiscent of BMW’s X1, not a bad thing to be reminded of.”

    I would seriously beg to differ. The X1 is one of the ugliest BMW’s of all time. Weird proportions, and styling that looks like the chinese knockoff of itself.

    Other than that….great review!

    Oh and nothing gives my American-living-in-Canada wife a constant chuckle then hearing the Canadian pronunciation of Mazda. That and Pasta. After having been gone from Canada for almost a decade, I have to admit it sounded weird when I came back. I didn’t realize how many “ae” sounds there were here.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Mazda seems to be doing quite well lately in handsome designs with superb handling. I pray that mainstream America actually bothers to test drive and cross shop Mazda against Toyota/Honda/Hyundai/Kia/Ford/Chevrolet.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I like a lot of what Mazda did here. The styling doesn’t work as well as it does on the 6 but it’s still surely more interesting than a Focus. It actually has a hood!

    But it’s all wasted by the trim bundling that makes the tolerable – or at least less intolerable – motor into a $5,000 upgrade.

    That effectively splits the 3 into two different cars. The i that you can’t take seriously for its gutlessness and the s that you can’t take seriously because for $25,000 you could have something that isn’t an economy car.

    A loaded cheap car is the worst value out there.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      What is wrong with the 2.0L engine? I personally would like the 2.5, but if you are comparing the 3 to the Civic, Cruze, Corolla etc then the 3 has a more powerful engine and similar or lighter weight than those three mentioned. Therefore if you are criticizing the 3 for being slow then that applies to every other compact car at the same price point.

      Also for pricing we should compare sedan to sedan since that is what most people bu and the only option with the Cruze and Corolla. A sedan is $500 cheaper than the hatchback.

      When it is loaded, who says it is a cheap car? From this review and others it hangs well with the Verano and ILX. Please tell me what other cars that are “premium” you could get for $25K – an A3 (no), a BMW 1 series or 3 series (no), a Mercedes CLA (no) – see a pattern developing.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        It should go without saying that the non-SI Civic, Cruze, Corolla, etc. are also slow appliances. I wouldn’t buy one of them either, but if that’s your benchmark then the 2.0 is just fine, and more and better besides, and also irrelevant because we should be talking about knee room instead.

        It’s a cheap car because it’s slow and looks like $17,000 from the outside. Premium means different things to different people. To me it means bigger, or faster, or bigger and faster. YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          The $17K base sedan is “slow” – although more powerful (and less slow) than the competition. Mazda then offer for those so inclined a faster model (2.5L) which has premium features like HID, HUD, navigation etc.

          They are offering European style variety as opposed to the more limited (but cost effective) standard fare in the US. Like for example the Corolla which has one body style, 4 spec levels – three of which have one engine and essentially one transmission. Toyota know the mainstream market and build accordingly. Thankfully Mazda offer variety for those who want it, whilst also catering to the mainstream with a base sedan at $17K.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        The Verano and ILX are also loaded cheap cars. The Verano I will at least give credit for offering a strong engine at the top end of the price range as well as a quiet cruising experience. The ILX is almost universally ridiculed for being a $30k civic, so I don’t think the Mazda3 comparing well to it is a huge compliment.

        So what can you get for around $25k that might be worth the price? GTI and WRX.

        WRX certainly isn’t for everyone, but at least it offers the hardware. As for the GTI, I don’t think many people would object to its road manners.

        There is also the Jetta GLI. Boring looks and interior isn’t great, but for anyone that values the performance bits over things like leather,HIDs, and radar cruise control and related safety equipment, it’s a strong contender.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I wasn’t aware a WRX could be had in the 25K range, I would imagine its the performance buy in the category.

        • 0 avatar
          gogogodzilla

          Coming from an owner of a MkV GTI, the problem I find with the new ones is that they have been severely decontented… and, at the same time, the price has gone up by about $5,000.

          The new Mazda3 hatchback with the 2.5L engine is looking very nicely to be a replacement. All without having to give up the nice bennies.

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      That’s my problem with performance models in general (GTI, Mazdaspeed, ST, WRX, Si, etc); they always force you into a model that is fully loaded or close to it, and you pay accordingly. Just give me the go fast goodies and some alloy wheels and eff the rest.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Go fast goodies and eff the rest is essentially what the GTI and the WRX do. The Mazda3 at around $26k definitely has more toys than the GTI, but I think the GTI has the ones that count.

        A base GTI lacks a sunroof, leather seats, and I think even HID lights. But I think the cloth seats look good in the plaid, plus they are heated. I’ve had a sunroof for the past 12 years and I do use it, but I think I can live without it. Well done halogen headlamps don’t give up a whole lot to HIDs, plus they are much cheaper to replace/repair.

        The best toy in the GTI’s favor is a stronger engine that is actually offered with a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The Mazda3 is one of the biggest sellers in Australia.

    I do think Mazda is placing itself as an affordable product that’s slightly different.

    The comment on the rear leg room is really a none issue to most who buy these vehicles. Most are only driven with a driver on board and maybe a passenger. The rear seats are generally used by kids.

    I do think Mazda will do okay in the future if it keeps on producing good quality vehicles.

    A Mazda philosophy here in Australia is to produce more of a ‘drivers’ car, so it isn’t all about the biggest, mostest, longest or whatever. It’s more about balance.

    Even my Mazda BT50 is different than the global Ranger. The steering is quicker, the suspension tuned to be slightly tauter. Even the engine which are ‘identical’ receive their torque at slightly different rpm’s.

    The instrument cluster looks extremely similar to the BT50s as well.

    I’m starting to become a Mazda fan.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      I have to disagree, as families are tightening belts and downsizing cars, they’re seeing if they can squeeze into compacts. Toyota and Hyundai put large back seats into their cars for a reason you know, and especially if Toyota did it, you have to figure there’s really REALLY good data to support it, given how conservative they are. At least the Mazda3 back seat is very tolerable, I’m a 6-footer and I can sit behind myself pretty comfortably.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        In Australia now Corolla/Focus/Mazda3 etc are becoming the 2nd car and the family wagon has become the dual cab midsizer/SUV/CUV.

        In many case the husband drives the small car and he wife has the larger vehicle for the kids etc.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        A lot of these cars will have child seats in back. Installing those can be a pain even with plenty of space, so a cramped back seat certainly could hurt Mazda here.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Okay, put the 6MT in a GT hatch with the 2.5L and I will at least test drive it. I have sworn off big M many times on these pages, but if they’ve got interior noise and rattles exorcised, and can put 3 pedals in their top trim (something they used to ALWAYS do on all their cars), then I will allow myself to consider them again.

    Until then, the new tC is still at the top of my list. That double-DIN replaceable radio is such a big deal for me.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Yes, the new TC is majorly under-rated and gets bashed on here, however it’s an incredibly useful car due to it’s hatch. Have you considered a golf or a GTI?

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        I have, but I’m eying this as a long-term ownership, which I’d rather not do with a VW. I can easily score a 2-year old tC with low miles for around 15k. Only 20k new, 2 years of depreciation, the salesman screwing the original owner on trade-in because “nobody likes manuals” and I don’t doubt that I could haggle a 2014 down to below $16000 in a couple years.

        I keep comparing the value proposition, in terms of maintenance and repairs, of a 5-10 year old Toyota vs a 5-10 year old VW, and the tC comes out on top every time.

    • 0 avatar
      gogogodzilla

      I find the Scion tC to have incredibly sloppy steering, with far too much play in the wheel for a ‘sporty’ car.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    How on earth does Mazda pass the bumper protection test with their new models? Looking at the CX5, the first thing that makes contact is the chrome strip around the bottom of the grille, followed immediately by the Mazda emblem. This model seems to have the same profile. It seems as if Mazda has forgotten what purpose the bumper is supposed to serve. I wonder if insurance rates are going to be affected in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      Given current design trends, I’m thinking bumper protection is pretty low on everyone’s list. The Focus, Forte, Elantra, and Corolla aren’t really any better. Everyone’s integrating the front bumpers into the grilles. For the life of me I can’t figure out why, since they’re only integrating the LEAST likely portion to show damage, and not the corners, so it’s not going to disguise small impacts.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Having watched enough clueless tools trying to parallel park by feel, something tells me Mazda is going to be selling a lot of replacement grilles. I hope they’re inexpensive.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Remember that the blunt nose trend is partially directed by styling and partially directed by pedestrian impact legislation in the EU and other countries. The fact that there is no compliance check for the USA 5-MPH bumper doesn’t help either.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        IIRC, the US bumper standard requires safety equipment (read as: lights and airbag sensors) to be protected from one 2.5 mph frontal impact.

        There’s nothing about the bumper, or any other cosmetic parts, or the radiator for that matter, surviving that impact. If the headlights still work it’s a win.

        That said, a $2000 front end once every 10 years isn’t a very significant part of insurance costs against the backdrop of megabuck injury suits.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      How on earth does any modern car pass bumper protection tests?

      Easy, they all band together and vote to make the tests deemed unnecessary, which they did sometime in the early to mid-90′s.

      Now we have cars that often cost about $2000 in repairs for parking lot accidents, and I doubt that the automakers mind it when it means more money for their part suppliers and less cost to build their cars.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    The 3i in any trim looks like winner to me. It is a good proposition compared to the Corolla, Civic, and Focus. But I am perplexed about 3s pricing. Is 3s Touring really better than a base GTI, Civic Si (with 6mt, navi, and summer tires) or Jetta GLI (or even the mid-level Jetta with 1.8T engine). Heck, for the same money you can also have Mazda6 Touring. I suspect the 3s will be sold below the MSRP if they want to move a lot of these.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      Bottom line is that yes, it is better in some areas, most significant of all being MPGs, though feature content also tops the Civic Si. The GTI is getting a redesign for next year, to bring it up to the new Golf, so time will tell on that one.

      And I’d rather have a 3 hatch than a 6 sedan. I don’t like big cars. And the 6 still has the severely inferior infotainment system.

    • 0 avatar
      piggybox

      Well, some people who like the power and FE of 2.5 engine but not happy about Mazda package that forces them to buy stuffs they don’t care, can choose a base GTI.

      While others who do like some hi-tech and cool looking options, 3s is a good value comparing to a loaded GTI.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      The 3 sTouring has Bose stereo, GPS Navigation, HIDs and HUD that the 6 Touring doesn`t have. You have to go to the tech pack starting at $27K in the 6 to get the Bose stereo and GPS. So the $25K 3 is cheaper, more fuel efficient, has more equipment and a better power to weight ratio. Your point?

      • 0 avatar
        jefmad

        That only matters if you want Bose, Nav, and HID’s. Many of us don’t care about such things.
        Speaking of which I really don’t understand why anyone wants Nav in their car anymore. Your phone does just as good a job, the maps are not outdated after a year, and if it breaks it doesn’t cost $1000 or more to repair.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          It’s handy if they do things like integrate the nav prompts into a line-of-sight HUD in the dash. I’ve messed around with Mazda’s system, and it’s pretty good. Updates should be easy too since it’s SD-Card based.

          What bothers me a bit is that there’s no way to windshield mount a phone easily in the new 3. The power points are all in the armrest, so I can really use my phone as an option. Given that I always embed locations in my calendar appointments, it was more convenient to use my phone for nav. Especially with Waze-sourced traffic.

          Maybe Mazda will come up with an app later and upgrade the system….

        • 0 avatar
          gogogodzilla

          The navigation on the Mazda3 is housed in an SD card. When the maps get out of date, you download (or have the dealership download) a new map-pack into the card… and you’ve just fixed the problem.

          And they don’t charge $1,000 for it, either.

          (Ford does the same thing)

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      This is the same price structure for the larger engine that they had last year. I have to assume they were satisfied with the sales results, otherwise they would have changed their strategy.

      As it is, this 2.5L is much more compeling because it is significantly more powerful AND significantly more efficient, justifying a higher price than last year’s model.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    Excellent review, but you missed the MPGs, you listed it as ” 28/39/32″ with the 2.5L but that’s only with the i-ELOOP system, otherwise it’s 27/37 and I don’t know what the combined figure is, but probably 31.

    Also, the touchscreen is only enabled when the car is going less than 5 MPG I think it is, it’s basically disabled when the car is in motion, limiting you to the controller knob, steering wheel controls, or voice controls. My salesman didn’t even know that. ;)

    • 0 avatar
      piggybox

      28/39 mpg is correct for 2.5 sedans, though on Mazda official website it doesn’t say that’s with iEloop or not. Maybe that system doesn’t make much difference on sedans in EPA testing cycle.

      For hatchbacks, the numbers are clear:
      27/37 mpg (SKYACTIV-G 2.5L AT)
      28/38 mpg (SKYACTIV-G 2.5L AT with i-ELOOP)

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        That is correct. i-Eloop doesn’t change the EPA numbers because electrical load in the test cycle is low and the benefit is minor. Even under load Mazda estimates an approximate 1-2% MPG gain which could be less than 1 MPG.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          I have to disagree with you Alex. The i-Eloop package also comes with active grille shutters, which improve aerodynamics and bumps up the hwy number. (It’s the same in the 6.)

          Per press releases, here are the mpg of each configuration:

          . . . . . . . . 4-door . 5-door
          2.0L . AT . 30/41 . 30/40
          . . . . . MT . 29/41 . 29/40

          2.5L . AT . 28/39 . 28/37
          . . i-Eloop . 29/40 . 29/39

          To calculate the combined mpg, it is:
          1/(60%/city + 40%/hwy)

          • 0 avatar
            Alex L. Dykes

            I stand corrected on the numbers. After discussing this with Mazda they say the highway improvements are mostly due to the shutters while the city number does have some benefit from the aero improvement as well.

  • avatar
    ajla

    How does it compare to the Juke and various MINIs?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Thats an odd comparison since Minis and Jukes are tailored to very different buyers, I’d take the 3 over either of them though.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        IDK, all three try to market themselves as the “fun” alternative to the common car. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to compare micro-CUVs to compact hatches.

        Personally, I’d cross-shop them. And, if someone told me they were looking at a Clubman or a Juke I’d tell to check out the Mazda and vice versa.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          Minis are anything but “common” cars, especially when you look at the pricing.

          The Juke is a different story, it’s actually pretty popular around here for what is esentially a subcompact hatchback, though a tall one. Then again, this is the snowbelt and it’s reasonably fuel-efficient. I do wonder what Mazda could do with something similar like a CX-3…they’re rumored to be working on a Juke competitor.

          • 0 avatar
            kvndoom

            +1 As a Juke owner, I can attest that it equates to a subcompact with a lift kit. Fun to drive, don’t get me wrong, but WAY too short on space.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Around here Jukes are somewhat popular, but despite the unique styling they’re always brought in grey or white.

            Minis are just a joke at this point, want 4 doors? How about 4WD? Would you like a backwards baseball cap roof? How about a Mini that was made into a CUV and then made BACK into a Mini?

  • avatar
    Ion

    The last gen 3 had one of the best manual gear boxes around, easily on par with Audi. It’s nice to read that hasn’t changed. I can’t recall if it was paired to the 2.5 back then though.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I loved my ’06 Mazda3 S 2.3 manual hatch: it was sophisticated and rewarding. However it was not particularly fuel-efficient, rev-happy, or fast-feeling (although the stopwatch begged to differ), and interior noise levels on anything but brand-new tires were intolerable. I’m a little bummed now that last year I gave up waiting for the all-new 3 and bought something else, but it sounds like the new 2.5 may be a bit like the old 2.3 in these respects. Mazda did offer the old 3 with the big engine, the manual, the big wheels, and none of the high-priced geegaws, but sadly they no longer do. And what’s with only offering the tan-colored seats on the model that’s bumping up against $30k? Some of us prefer a tan interior (especially those of us in the golden retriever cohort).

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      You can also get a tan interior with the 2.0L i Touring, i Sport, and i SV. Admittedly it’s tan cloth though. I don’t know why there’s such a big black-only gap, but I also don’t get the point behind vinyl seating as an “upgrade” from cloth, “Leatherette” label or no. I thought we managed to ditch that stuff in the 80s. Maybe they can’t use their cloth seats with a heated seat system or something, I don’t know, but it would be interesting to hear the reasoning.

      I figure the volume models will be the i Touring and s Grand Touring just because of that, though.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I have the same complaint. I would strongly prefer the two-tone interior with either sand cloth or almond leather to all black. Why bother selling leatherette? Wouldn’t it be cheaper for Mazda to stick with premium cloth all the way through the touring trim and then go straight to real cow?

      For me, there is no desirable middle ground the way they have priced this car.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        Given that none of the cloth seats are heated, I wonder if there’s an issue with the heating system not working right with a cloth surface. And the leather is obviously going to be relatively expensive (especially since it’s perforated leather). In that context maybe there’s a reason, but I still predict the vinyl is NOT going to sell well. It’s not perforated, it’s not going to breathe, and it’s black, so it’s going to get REALLY hot.

        I hear the cloth seats aren’t all that comfortable though. Maybe they should offer non-heated power cloth seats with lumbar support and call them premium cloth seats, replace the vinyl jobs with those.

        Then again they could just dump the i Grand Touring and s Touring. :)

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Every review I have read up to this point says the manual is eventually coming for the 2.5L engine. Alex says manual for 2.0L only. While this is true at the moment, I’m not clear if Mazda is going to change that. If I only read/watched Alex’s review, I would think no manual for the 2.5L ever.

    Has Mazda said anything definitive on this?

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Mazda has barely started shipping the new 3. What do you expect them to do? Just wait and see.

      I personally think that they won’t offer the manual with the 2.5L models because they don’t want to market the 3s to the go fast crowd. After all, the go fast crowd would rather buy a 25K base GTI, base Focus ST, or loaded Civic SI. The Mazda 3s will lose to those cars any time of day, even with manual transmission. Instead Mazda is going for the crowd interested in leather seats, fancy head lights, electronics, and all that. If Mazda will have an answer to Focus ST and GTI MK7, it will have to be a different car, like a new Mazdaspeed3.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        I thought the same about the Focus but Ford decides to offer the Focus Titanium with a manual (despite plans for the ST) so I would not be surprised if Mazda offer a top of the line 3s with a manual too. Given that the 3 is aimed at people who like to drive the the demand is probably there to make it worth their while.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        What do I expect them to do? How about confirm or deny that the 2.5L will get a manual? That way anyone in the market can either wait for it or move on to a different car.

        I get that manuals have a relatively low take rate (though I bet higher with Mazda), but if they have decided it is worth it, they should say it is coming so those interested can wait for it. If they don’t care about that segment for the 2.5L engine, then deny it – they weren’t getting those sales anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Mazda would not say anything, one way or another. Some have chosen to “read into this” by saying it will happen later and I’m say don’t get your hopes up.

      • 0 avatar
        darex

        According to my dealer, I can order an S Touring with a manual now/already. I was skeptical, but he swears there’s one on the truck just like that, if I want it. So, if true, the wait wasn’t nearly so long as we were all led to believe.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Good review Alex. This appliance is a sales hooker. It will keep the trend. What a long stretch from the tugboat. I’ll check mine out from a Zip stand. Young folks less the car more the onboard gadgets – so Mazda may have to re-tweak there.

    I think this Mazda sits well poised between the extremes of Golf and Sentra. It should appeal to those who want Teutonic fun without the repair bills.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Would have liked to know the actual mpg this Mazda 3 got. Reason is my brother and wife bought a CX-5 with the 2.5 recently, expecting good mileage, but are getting identical 23.5 mpg US to their old Honda Element. You know the present day refrain, ” Oh, but it has to run in, you know!”

    Great, so it eventually gets to 24 mpg, maybe. Still a long way off the 27 mpg combined EPA rating. They’re quite disappointed, because the Element was shaped like a brick and the engine howled at highway speed. But reality slaps one in the face like a wet noodle. Hell, I get this average in my 2008 Legacy GT turbo with less highway mileage, same weight (3600 lbs) and heavy foot.

    Edmunds seems to only be getting 24.7mpg, so maybe 23.5 isn’t bad, it’s just not obviously better than an 8 year old Element, so where are all these fuel economy improvements that are supposed to have happened?

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      I have suspected that while newer engines are getting significantly better EPA ratings, the actual real world difference is not as big, but I have yet to test this. On older engines, there is generally a lot “on the table” to gain with more efficient driving technique compared to the EPA rating. For instance, I can squeeze 30% better mpgs than EPA highway out of a 1st gen Mazda3, so you would think I would be able to do the same on the new Mazda3 as well, resulting in 53mpg. I doubt that’s achievable, but time will tell.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      It’s their driving environment and style. Fuelly.com reports an average of 26 mpg for the CX-5 and an average of 22 mpg for the Honda Element.

    • 0 avatar
      BobbyS

      I drive a base 2.0L GX CX-5 (no AWD), and I get about 32mpg via a 70/30 highway/city split. I find the vehicle very light and agile with enough power for what I need.

    • 0 avatar

      I got a consistent 22mpg with my four cylinder 00 Contour in town, on the highway it was was all over the place, but shorter road trips it was actually cheaper to take my six cylinder 95 Explorer with its 23-24mpg which matched the Contour. In town on my work commute the two very different vehicles got nearly the same 18 vs 20-21.

      Drive that Explorer at 80mph though and it pegs the economy needle right on EPA numbers for highway at 20mpg, the Contour when it was in its groove could nail 40 (took 3-4 tanks to get it up there on a road trip).

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Nice review as usual, Alex. Very interesting perspective on the hint-of-steering-feel-in-an-EPS-desert issue. I remember a few years ago many auto reviews would mention that an EPS wasn’t bad for an EPS, but that qualifier is mostly gone now. I do wish you would honestly question the usefulness of your dB readings on interior noise, though. It is nearly pointless to compare between cars if they weren’t taken on the same pavement, and differences in tail/head/cross winds may conflate these results. What did your ears tell you? You’ve driven a lot of cars, is this 3 quiet at speed or not?

    I think I like this car. A lot. I want to drive it even though I have no intention of buying anything for quite a while. I wonder if there is a way of keeping a Saturday morning of testing this 3, the Focus, and the new Golf from from being a complete waste of my and the sales persons’ time.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I agree with you but the dB numbers are there because readers wanted them so I provide them. On my usual weekly review the reading is always taken at the same speed on the same road in the same conditions, but at launch events like this that isn’t possible.

  • avatar
    redav

    It appears that the stereo cannot ff/rw within a song, only skip to the next track. If so, that’s disappointing. It appears that carmakers have decided that’s a function we don’t need.

    Regarding the HUD, not only would the Mazda design mean a cheaper windshield, the exact same unit should plug-and-play in any vehicle without modification.

    I’m curious of what comes in the way of a Speed3. The press release for the 3 (Alexa) in Japan indicates that the 1.5L engine will have optional 4WD. If they do make a Speed3, not including that 4WD system would be a waste. I liked Dave Coleman’s comments that Mazda engineers try to make a speed version of every model, and if they could do a Speed CX-9, they would.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      You can FF/RW within a track by bumping the controller upwards (toward the front of the car) to get to the progress bar, and then ff/rw using that. You can use left/right to do it but spinning the controller either way is easier.

  • avatar
    danwat1234

    A Honda Civic definitely isn’t ‘white bread’ ‘vanilla’! At least not an older model, say a 6th gen Civic with train horns and a slight case of piston slap and no intake resonator.
    The whole train horn system including the 2 gallon air tank and Viair compressor and horns fits under the hood, nothing in the trunk or cabin.
    God is this thing moddable and reliable and the double wishbone suspension with an aftermarket 19mm rear sway bar, oh my!

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I saw one of these in the wild for the first time yesterday (with a dealer tag on it) and in all honesty, I didn’t care for the. The proportions are all off, the nose is too long and the 6 styling just doesn’t look right when shrunk down to 3 dimensionn. And I’m saying this as someone who really likes Mazdas, thinks the new 6 is the definition of “sexy” and until recently owned a second generation MS3 and actually like the way it looked.

  • avatar
    Autoboy

    Agree totally Mandalorian. I considered the Mazda3 but am leaning towards the Mazda6. For $21,300 I can buy the 2014 Mazda6 iSport with an automatic. I really want a moonroof, but will have an excellent $1200 aftermarket moonroof installed by Superior Auto Restyling in Westbury, NY. They do incredible work (many dealers use them). I wanted heated seats, and will have the heated pads and switches installed aftermarket for $350.

    In-fact, you can only get heated seats in the $30,000 Mazda6 iGrand Touring. That’s ridiculous. I love the 19″ Mazda6 wheels, but I live in NYC…and those roads will jar me to death with the 19′s. The 17′s do change the muscularity of the car a bit, but the ride is so much more compliant.

    So for $23,000 I will have a new Mazda6 with a roof, heated seats, and the compliant ride that I want. Would I like some of the other goodies? Sure, but not for the price premium.

    For 2015, Mazda did smarten-up and will be offering an optional Moonroof/Bose package for $1,325. Adding the aftermarket heated seats, the total will be around $25,000…still a great deal for that level of car.

  • avatar
    Jack in Jax

    The Mazda3 sGT we drove – a sedan vs. the hatch – was very much the car Alex described. Brand stereotypes, aesthetic opinions and views on Mazda Inc. aside, this specific car at the sGT level is very impressive in finish & features, nimble on city streets and has a lot of scoot, especially using the paddles.

    Alex, keep using the decibel readings but recalibrate your understanding of what they mean. It’s a logarithmic scale and e.g 3db is a *very* meaningful difference. Just to give you a sense for how much, you measured this car at 73db and 85db of sustained sound can cause hearing loss.

    The only big miss in this review: Noting the consequences of buying from very small Mazda. Mazda lacks depth and breadth in its platforms, engines, warranty coverage and much else. The dealers are typically of relatively small size and so with less ability to pamper, fewer broadly trained mechanics, and U.S. dealers are soon to be further weeded out if you listen to Mazda’s Chairman. Given Mazda’s limited economy of scale, it’s quite remarkable Mazda has produced a compact car of this caliber. We’ll buy soon and this is currently at the top of our list.

    • 0 avatar
      dcuccia

      Good points re: Mazda’s size etc. This was my only real concern in recent car shopping, but the CX-5 GT ended up at the top of our list and we just finally bought a 2015. One piece of encouraging news this morning, Toyota’s now sourcing Mexico-built Mazda2 Skyactiv engines for a future subcompact:

      http://www.autonews.com/article/20140306/OEM04/140309883/toyotas-new-subcompact-will-use-mazdas-skyactiv-engine

      As an aside, BMW and Mazda engines in Toyotas…that might actually me take another look at Toyota.

  • avatar
    shipping96

    Just test drove a touring level 3 yesterday. I really liked it. Small cars have come a long ways.


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