We were amazed with the all-new 2014 Mazda3 from the moment we laid eyes on it - especially the slinky and low-slung sedan variant that just arrived this Spring to Mazda dealers nationwide.
After some joyful driving of the loaded 2014 Mazda3 s Grand Touring model, it is clear that the praise we shared in the "2014's Smartest Compact" article was not sufficient. This might be the best car on the market in general, with no caveats for size or price.
It is that good. I am struggling to convey how outstanding a machine it is in all regards -- with the best alternative headline I could think of below.
"2014 Mazda3 Makes Focus Look 10 Years Out-of-Date and $10k Too Expensive."
"2014 Mazda3 Makes Focus Feel Like Chevy Spark."
That is pretty high praise for someone who has generally admired the Focus's upscale approach to the compact car segment. But as the Focus restyle and upgrade for 2015 was rolled out last month makes clear: Focus is on borrowed time for the savviest customers. It is firmly in the back half of its model cycle - with little but rehashings of the 2011-launched car to keep it steady for perhaps the next three to five years. It is stuck in the medicrity gap that makes me cringe when looking at the 2010 model Focus. Yuck.
Similar story with the Chevrolet Cruze, which is refreshed for 2015 with a completely unnoticeable nip/tuck.
In truth, the Mazda3 really finds its most accomplished competition in the Volkswagen GTD and Golf, if not the full-fat GTI just yet. (The 2014 Mazdaspeed3 is still based on the previous-gen model.)
The Mazda3 is quite a handsome car. It really attracts and lures the eye into swirling all around its various surfaces. Clean shashes and crease points are subtle, but effective, at conveying the modernity of the design from all sides. LED accents front and rear are joined by LED brake lights and bi-xenon HIDs on the GT models. Besides the lack of alloys on the cheap trims, this is still an ultra-handsome and refined design that looks new, serious, appealing, high-tech and relatively expensive. Debadge this car completely and many would add a price starting in the $30,000 range.
Another big piece of news discussed in the video above is the sedan -- which is now arguably even more handsome than the low-roof design of the five-door. This is a change versus my previous feeling that the MAzda3 sedan was somehow an afterthought versus the more-resolved style of the old five-doors.
They are both incredibly handsome on the road from all sides -- with the chiseled new jawline grille a welcome break from the previous grinning Mazda3 face.
MAZDA IS NOW COMPETING WITH LUXURY BRANDS
Other true competition for the Mazda3 comes from the Acura ILX, the BMW 228i and the Audi A3 1.8 -- all three of which are priced at least $5000 or so above the loaded five-door Mazda3 S Grand Touring we tested - which carries a price in the mid-$26,000 range.
Without much fanfare or self-kudos, the Mazda lineup is quietly becoming a real player. Its Mazda6, the CX-5 and now the Mazda3 twins are seriously exceptional cars by all measures. I loved this car - and it was a hoot on the twisty roads of the test route.
The up-level 2.5-liter engine and the automatic transmission are my recommendations overall, despite Mazda's excellent manual transmission and the near-as-quick 2.0-liter that comes standard on the $16,000 sedan and base $18,000 hatchback.
Both engines, by the way, deliver real-world mileage that is nothing short of amazing: 28/39 is a realistic prospect for city/highway mileage -- all while being extremely smooth, quiet and refined. Excellent achievement for the SkyActiv Mazda engineering teams.
SUMMARY and CALL_TO_ACTION
Are you convinced yet? Good! This really is an exceptional car that out-punches its weight on handling, style, equipment, interior refinement and affordability. Go buy one. Today!
Moonroof with one-touch open, 6-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar adjustment, Variable heated front seats, Bluetooth® hands-free phone and audio capability, Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry & Start System, MAZDA CONNECT™ Infotainment system with: 7" full-color touchscreen display, multi-function Commander control, Infotainment system voice command, Rearview camera†††, Mazda navigation system, Bose® 9 speaker surround sound system with Centerpoint® 2 and AudioPilot® 2, HD radio, SiriusXM satellite radio w/ 4 month subscription, Aha™ internet radio integration, Pandora® internet radio integration, Stitcher™ internet radio integration, SMS text message audio delivery and reply, Dual-zone automatic climate control system, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED Daytime Running Lights, LED combination taillights, Active Driving Display for driving information, Paddle shifters, Bi-xenon headlights with auto leveling, Auto On/Off headlights, Auto-dimming interior mirror, Perforated leather-trimmed seats, Adaptive Front-lighting System, Rain sensing windshield wipers.
Standard safety features include advanced front air bags, front side-impact air bags, side-impact air curtains‡, Dynamic Stability Control** with Traction Control System. 4-wheel ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist. Available Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert††, E911 automatic emergency notification, Adaptive Front-lighting System, Smart City Brake Support‡‡, Lane Departure Warning System***, High Beam Control, Forward Obstruction Warning‡‡‡, Mazda Radar Cruise Control‡‡‡