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Just as the 2014 Mazda6 is all new from the ground up; the 2014 Mazda3 is also all-new from the ground up. The 3rd generation of Mazda’s best-selling vehicle world-wide features SKYACTIV technologies in engineering and manufacturing philosophy. Not only SKYACTIV but the all-new Mazda3 features all-new active safety technologies with i-ACTIVSENSE and introduces an all-new ‘heads-up’ HMI/Infotainment system known as Mazda CONNECT. The all-new Mazda3 is 100% removed from its non-SKYACTIV predecessors. It sheds pounds but gains efficiency, a fun-to-drive attitude, and is styled using Mazda’s KODO design philosophy. Mazda3 is poised to challenge it competitors in this important, high-sales segment and is available in four-door and five-door designs. I tested the ‘top of the line’ Mazda3 S Five-Door Grand Touring model and it is something to behold and drive-more automotive high-technology inside and outside plus more zoom zoom. Base prices for the four-door sedan start at less than $17,000.00 and less than $19,000.00 for the five-door configurations.
Lower and leaner, the 2014 Mazda3 five-door sits on a wheelbase of 106.3 inches which is 2.4 inches longer than the previous generation and is a shorter 175.6 inches in total length. With a height of just 57.3 inches and a width of 70.7 inches, the Mazda3 five-door reduces its overall height by 0.6 inches and gains 1.6 inches in its toned hips, all while retaining similar headroom space and offering comfortable 35.8 inches of rear legroom. With efficiency of space and engaging comfort inside, the car packs a powerful blow far above its weight class. Just take a look at its aggressive-yet-refined character lines of its KODO design. KODO design’s philosophy is ‘Soul of Motion’-the element of speed giving the car the appearance of movement, even when parked.
The car’s shows fluid motion with the smooth, sleek, low and wide stance. The car’s cab rearward posture and highly raked profile further emphasize its sophisticated fully independent suspension agility. The new familiar face that is KODO design is a dynamic signature wing of the five-point grille to the expansive hood cresting over the sleekly slanted HID adaptive headlights, and through the wide-stance muscular fenders into taut character lines from panel to panel. Deep lower extensions, aero-styled remote/heated sideview mirrors and a ‘hockey-puck’ chrome strip further make the KODO design definitely shows motion when parked. The rear features wrap-around LED taillights, a new spoiler on top of the liftgate that juts out to the bold rear bumper and ending down below with dual, chrome exhaust tips. The Grand Touring model comes with 18X7 inch aluminum alloy wheels wrapped with 215/45R18 inch all-season radial tires fill the wheel wells very nicely.
The new Mazda3 Five Door cuts through the air like no other similar model. It achieves best-in-class coefficient of drag of 0.275 when equipped with the active grille shutters, mounted in front of the radiator, that automatically open and close according to driving conditions (speed) improving aerodynamic performance. Also improving the coefficient of drag is the optional i-ELOOP system, the world’s first capacitor-based regenerative engine braking system to power all of the vehicle’s electrical components. Both are all-new features for the Mazda3. With its name derived from ‘Intelligent Entergy Loop’, i-ELOOP is a capacitor-based regenerative engine braking system that converts the vehicle’s kinetic energy into electricity as the car’s accelerator pedal is released. The electricity captured is then stored for later use to power all of the vehicle’s electrical components, such as headlights, climate controls and audio systems. This reduces the need for the engine to burn extra fuel in order to generate electricity and therefore, improves fuel economy without sacrificing driving performance. While the increased engine braking caused by the hard-charging alternator is too small for drivers to feel, the smooth power delivery coming from the capacitor means the electrical systems do not operate differently with i-ELOOP. Exact fuel saving will vary based on electrical load and individual driving habits.
Power to move me forward comes from the SKYACTIVE-G 2.5 liter inline four-cylinder engine. This high-tech all-aluminum engine features DOHC, 16-valves, Direct Injection and VVT and a new high-tumble 4-2-1 dual exhaust system that increases engine output. That output is 184hp at 5,700rpm and 185lb.ft. of torque at just 3,200rpm. Mated to the 2.4 liter engine is a choice of a standard six-speed manual with short, crisp shift pattern like that in the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The optional SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic achieves a direct shift feel and quick gear changes using the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. This gives me quick acceleration while maximizing the best features of a direct-shift gearbox and a conventional torque-converter system.
Out on the road, straight-line stability, tire grip and ride comfort have been greatly improved by tuning the suspension system’s springs, dampers and stabilizer bars. Up front is an independent MacPherson strut setup with twin-tube gas-charged shocks, coil springs and stabilizer bar. The rear is an independent multi-link setup with twin-tube gas-charged shocks, coil springs and stabilizer bar. The car just goes where you point it to go-straight-ahead or entering curving roads. Mazda’s new mechatronic column-type electric power, variable-assist rack & pinion steering system is compact and lightweight, with a gearing ratio of 14.0:1. The gives me very quick response to my inputs with excellent control, feel for the road and very good on-center feel.
Braking response has also been improved to be even more responsive, allowing for excellent vehicle control and feel at a braking distance amongst the best in the segment. Up front are 11.6 inch vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers and 10.4 inch solid discs clamped with single-piston calipers in the rear. Standard ABS, EBD, BA, Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control all work in concert to keep me on my chosen path. I can, of course, shut the Dynamic Stability and Traction Control systems off by pushing on a console mounted button. All of these improvements also reduce rolling resistance, all benefitting fuel economy. There is also a Sport button on the center console that changes the gearing of the six-speed automatic to give even quicker acceleration. Speaking about fuel economy, this all-new Mazda3 S Grand Touring model with the 2.4 liter engine gives back 28mpg/city and 38mpg/highway. Both specs are at the top of the segment. Better than the great EPA specs I really love the way the new Mazda3 Five Door handles, the low-end torque, the excellent tracking of the suspension and new refined steering, even though this is a longer five-door model.
The next best thing that I really like about the new Mazda3 S Grand Touring is the all-new interior that is more comfortable, more ergonomic, more luxurious, more infotainment and more safety systems to keep me and my passengers safe. It is just as expressive and purposeful starting with the driver-oriented cockpit. The seats feature power adjustments on my side with heat adjustments for both in front that provide great comfort and great lateral support. In following with Mazda’s Jinba-Ittai philosophy of a rider and horse connected as one, everything from the arrangement of switches and knobs to the physical location of driving controls such as the leather-wrapped shifter and sporty, leather-wrapped/tilt/telescopic steering wheel that feels so great in my hands. The pedals have been laid out symmetrically to the left and right of my center line for further precision and easy use to lessen fatigue when in stop and go traffic. Another example of Mazda’s design and engineering teams’ attention to detail is the location of the A-pillars. Repositioned 3.9 inches rearward increases the range of vision for all occupants and adds precision to driving maneuvers. The outside mirrors also are mounted onto the doors instead of the industry-norm placement being at the base of the A-pillar post. A new driver-control switch on the center console next to the dual cupholders allowed me to easily switch from the radio to the navigation system and to the Home Page for further displays and adjustments for the trip computer and tire pressure gauge. The 2014 Mazda3 is also the first vehicle to feature Mazda’s all-new Active Driving Display, a clear pop-up panel that is vertically mounted behind the meter hood to provide vehicle speed, navigation directions and other pertinent driving information safety and directly within my line of sight. This display automatically folds back into a hidden position when the ignition is shut off. All buttons, dials and switches are placed within easy reach. The redesigned instrument cluster features a centrally-positioned analog gauge flanked by a pair of wing-shaped digital displays. The dial face for the center gauge is characterized by three-dimensional metallic numerals while its red –ringed border pulses in brightness. From the gauge clusters extends a decorated dash panel outfitted in satin chrome with piano black trim pieces adorning select areas of the center console and front door inserts. The stick shifter is surrounded in aluminum trim. The superior feel of the various textures, grains and touch points provide an unexpected yet definitive above-segment feeling of quality and luxury. The seat architecture and materials also have been paid close attention to. A two-toned almond-colored leather seat trim is new for 2014 and features contrasting gray stitching to emphasize craftsmanship in the needlework patterns while red thread is used with the black leather seat trim. The seats’ structure was reshaped with an added focus on comfort, space and weight yet did not sacrifice its sporty look and feel.
All new for Mazda vehicles and being launched with the new Mazda3 is a new HMI (Human Machine Interface) approach and MAZDA CONNECT, a next-generation infotainment system. Based on the heads-up cockpit concept, the new HMI system aims to help drivers maintain proper posture, concentrate on the road and drive more safely, even while handling larger amounts of data. The information is divided into groups, and an innovative screen layout is employed to let me safely balance me primary job of driving while obtaining other peripheral information. MAZDA CONNECT was developed to be a less distracting and more intuitive in-vehicle operating system, its purpose to increase overall safety as well as create a more pleasurable driving experience. MAZDA CONNECT connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone and can easily be updated to ensure users always have access to the latest features and services without the need to swap out hardware. In addition to the current music access channels via standard AM-FM radio, CD and USB/auxiliary port connections, Pandora internet radio and premium content such as Sirius Satellite Radio and HD Radio Technology, new features such as internet-based apps Aha by Harman and Stitcher will be available. An optional Bose premium audio system with Centerpoint 2 virtual surround sound playback brings the harmonies and vocals to life for even the most discerning of audiophiles.
The system can also read short messages aloud while the car is in motion using text-to-voice technology. Short Message Service (SMA) messages can be received and shown on the seven-inch full-color touch screen monitor. The system can then articulate the messages as well as allow users to send replies using customizable fixed phrases. A new speech recognition system also allows users to repeat and shuffle audio tracks, as well as search and select folders. When connected with a smartphone, Twitter and Facebook updates can be read by the system with audio responses available using the Shout function. Additionally, the system also allows users to search the internet for business information, map directions and learn Yelp reviews through the Aha Radio app. An SD car-based navigation system is optional but included in my test model including the Bose Audio system with nine-speakers. Awesome!
Standard features not mentioned above in the top-of-the-line Mazda3 S Grand Touring model that I was privileged to drive include-rain-sensing wipers/washers, rear wiper/washer, power/heated sideview mirrors with turn lamps, moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, power windows/door locks with driver-side express up/down, advanced keyless entry, push button start/stop, auto-dimming rearview mirror, four grab handles above each door, dual map lamps, sunglass holder, dual lighted vanity mirrors, 60/40 split rear folding seats, pull-down rear armrest with dual cupholders, center armrest with storage up front, leather covered parking brake, auto on/off HID headlamps, foglamps, LED daytime running lamps, active driving display, multi-function commander control, all MAZDA CONNECT systems, cruise control, aluminum scuff guards door sill plates, cargo mat, rear bumper guard, and carpeted floor mats.
Standard safety features include 5-passenger 3-point safety belts with front pretensioners/load limiters, LATCH child seat system, anti-theft engine immobilizer, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Adaptive Front Lighting System, Hill Launch Assist, advanced dual front airbags, front side-impact airbags, front/rear side curtain airbags, SKYACTIV-Body Ring structure and a rearview camera.
The all-new 2014 Mazda3 is a tremendous step upward in terms of overall exterior and unique styling, performance, handling, comfort, infotainment, and safety. The all-new Mazda3 is on the cutting edge in the small compact sedan segment of the automotive marketplace. It is definitely worth looking at.
COPYRIGHT: 2013: HARVEY SCHWARTZ
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