2014 Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

The Mazda3 has been roaming the roadways since it replaced the Protégé in 2004, and despite a "second generation" in 2010, the design remained nearly the same throughout its lifespan. When Mazda announced its Kodo design language would make its way to the 3 in the 2014 model year, I couldn’t help but get excited, as the Mazda6 looked awesome in its new dress. Well, after I drove the Mazda6 , I called up my fleet supplier and specifically requested the Mazda3. They contacted Mazda, and they happily shipped one out to me.

The new Mazda3 was a stunner from the second it rolled into my driveway, I loved the Meteor Gray Mica paint draped over the revised body. Walking up to the car, it looked like a much more expensive car, and sliding into the cabin really kicked thing up a notch.

On the surface, my love for the revised Mazda3 only grew, but did I still love it after a week behind the wheel?

Click past the jump to find out.

Exterior

Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven
Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven
Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

seeing it in person does it so much more justice than looking at online images

Having seen plenty of press photos, I knew pretty much what I could expect from the heavily reworked Mazda3. That said, seeing it in person does it so much more justice than looking at online images. The Kodo design up front leaps out at you from both the head-on and profile views, and the rear hatch is curved in a much more European styling. This combo gives the small hatch a really sporty and elegant look that it’s lacked since its debut.

From the side, the body lines make the Mazda3 look fast when sitting still. The upper lines swoop nicely over the front fenders, while the lower lines swoop upward from the wheels, making it look like the two will intersect at some point — they do not of course.

My test model was the fully loaded model with the GT Technology package installed, so it included 18-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, bi-xenon headlights with auto leveling, auto on/off headlights and adaptive front lighting. The adaptive and auto-leveling headlights were bad-ass enough — the lights go up and down, and turn left and right with the car for optimal forward vision — but the High Beam Control added via the GT Tech Package made life a breeze by switching between high and low beams automatically.

On a whole, the 2014 Mazda3 s Grand Touring was all that I expected from the outside and then some.

Wheelbase (in)106.3
Track, front (in)61.2
Track, rear (in)61.4
Length (in)175.6
Width (in)70.7
Height (in) - (unladen)57.3
Minimum ground clearance (in) - (laden)6.1

Interior

Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven
Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven
Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

While I knew what to expect from the outside, the interior was a little more of a mystery, as I had no idea just how loaded up the Mazda3 could come. Once I got a look at it though, my jaw dropped.

The two-tone leather sports seats are absolutely stunning, plus they are pretty supple for being a lower-level model, plus they offer a lot of support

This model could easily find itself as a smaller, cheaper alternative to the 328i GT

in the corners. The touchscreen in the center of the dash is huge and very easy to read in nearly all light. The MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system includes the aforementioned 7-inch touchscreen, nine Bose speakers that sound awesome, one of the most accurate navi systems I have tested in a car, a rearview camera, SiriusXM and SMS text message reading and replying.

Also included on this model that I was not aware of is a very futuristic-looking heads-up display. When the car is off, the heads-up display lays flat on the top of the instrument panel hood, but once you start the car, it pivots upward to give you a nice look at your speed, navigation directions and other pertinent information right in your line of sight.

On top of all of these high-end features, I can also say that the gauges are clear and easy to read, the center stack is clean and the cabin is pretty quiet for a small hatchback.

In terms of cargo room, the Mazda3 swallows up to 47.1 cubic feet of cargo with the seats folded and 20.2 cubic-feet with the seats upright. Sure, that is not much, but it is right in line with the rest of the class.

While the exterior of the Mazda3 was great, the interior was on a whole new level. This model could easily find itself as a smaller, cheaper alternative to the 328i GT. Now, before you Bimmer folks tear me apart, I’ll say that in no way is the Mazda3 on the same level as the 3er GT. It is, however, a nice alternative for those who want the BMW, but cannot quite swing the payments.

Headroom, front/rear without moonroof (in)38.6 / 37.6
Headroom, front/rear with moonroof (in)37.6 / 37.5
Shoulder room, front/rear (in)57.2 / 54.4
Hip room, front/rear (in)55.5 / 53.5
Legroom, front/rear (in)42.2 / 35.8
EPA passenger volume (cu ft)96.4
EPA cargo volume 2nd-row down (cu ft)47.1
EPA cargo volume 2nd-row up (cu ft)20.2

Audio and Infotainment System In Detail

Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

Cargo Area in Detail

Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven
Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven
Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

Rear Seats in Detail

Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

Drivetrain

Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

Under the hood of the 2014 Mazda3 s Grand Touring is a new 2.5-liter SkyActiv four-pot that delivers 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. That’s a healthy boost of 17 horsepower and 17 pound-feet of twist from the 2013 model’s 2.5-liter. The new SkyActiv four-pot hooks up to a six-speed automatic transmission that includes paddle shifters and Sport mode for those who want a little something extra in the fun department.

In my test, I clocked about a 7.5-second 0-to-60 mph time, which is pretty good for its class, which is about a half-second faster than last year’s model. Additionally, the Mazda3 turns in EPA ratings of 28 mpg city and 38 mpg highway with the i-ELOOP, which is part of the GT Tech Package. That’s an increase of 6 mpg city and 9 mpg highway when compared to last year’s 2.5-liter-equipped Mazda3.

TypeSKYACTIV-G 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder with VVT
Horsepower184 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque185 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
Redline6500 rpm
Displacement (cc)2488
Bore x stroke (mm)89.0 x 100.0
Compression ratio13.0 : 1
Fuel systemAdvanced Direct Injection
Recommended fuelRegular unleaded
ValvetrainChain-driven dual overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder with variable intake valve timing (VVT)
Ignition systemDirect coil-on-plug electronic ignition with platinum-tipped spark plugs
Engine blockAluminum alloy
Cylinder headAluminum alloy
Emission control type (Fed/Cal)Tier2 - BIN5 / Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV)

Driving Impressions

Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

The body roll was minimal and the tires were plenty sticky to avoid too much howling in the twist.

I have driven Mazda3s in the past and with exception to the Mazdaspeed version, none were overly fun to drive. The 2014 model with the 2.5-liter engine, on the other hand, was a blast. The engine had plenty of pickup and peak torque was low enough in the rev band to help get it to speed without needing to wind the engine out.

The paddle shifters and Sport mode were other additions that helped make the 2014 Mazda3 s Grand Touring feel even sportier. Sure, putting it in Drive and letting it shift by itself is fine, but these options give you a crack at rowing your own gears without the hassle of a third pedal.

The ride was firm but not too jarring over bumps, and tossing the hatchback into corners was rather enjoyable. The body roll was minimal and the tires were plenty sticky to avoid too much howling in the twist.

Overall, I felt like Mazda kept the 3’s sporty heritage intact with this redesign.

Pricing

Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

The Mazda3 s Grand Touring bases out at $26,495, and the GT Tech Package tosses an extra $2,600 to the base price, bringing the total with destination charge to $29,890.

Competition

2014 Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf Mk VII

The Golf has been the same for about as long as I can remember, but its design still holds water. Under its hood is a 2.5-liter four-pot with 170 ponies and 177 pound-feet of twist. Unfortunately for the Golf, the Mazda3 has it in power, speed, acceleration, looks and luxury. What the Golf has on its side is German quality.

2014 Ford Focus

Ford Focus

The Focus at least rivals the Mazda3’s looks, but its 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-pot leaves a lot to be desired. It does, however, sport really good fuel economy at 27 mpg city and 38 mpg highway with thwe auto gearbox.

Conclusion

Mazda3 s Grand Touring - Driven

I was excited to get my hands on the new Mazda3 from the second I laid eyes upon it, and I feared that it may disappoint me. Well, to my surprise, it was everything I had hoped for an then some. Granted, my viewpoint is a little skewed because I had a loaded-to-the-gills model, but even its basic construction and drivability was excellent. The power was plentiful, the handling was accurate and the ride was smooth; a win-win-win for Mazda, again...

LOVE IT
  • Great power for the size
  • Fuel economy was higher than the EPA estimates
  • This kind of luxury is unheard of in a Mazda3
LEAVE IT
  • $30k for a Mazda3 may scare some buyers
  • Seats could get uncomfortable on longer drives

What is your take?

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