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2014 Mazda3 i Grand Touring Hatchback 6-Speed Manual Review & Test Drive

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2014-mazda3

The all-new 2014 Mazda3 is completely redesigned for the model year featuring a sleek new design and interior all exhibiting the new design language for Mazda. The new design and features of the 3 keep up with the latest car-tech offered for compact vehicles on the current market. The 2014 Mazda3 5-door hatchback builds off of the attractive design and fun-to-drive spirit enthusiasts have sought after for many years now. Now with more-powerful and efficient engine choices, the 2014 Mazda3 is a competitor in the top tier of desirable compact hatchbacks for enthusiasts and those seeking compact-sized transportation without compromise in looks, comfort, space and efficiency.

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The 2014 Mazda3 comes available in several different trims with the 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback being the two body style variations. For the two body styles, there are up to 11 different trim configurations in all and two engine choices being the SkyActiv-G 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 155 horsepower and 150- lb-ft of torque for the “i” variant or the SkyActiv-G 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque for the “s” trim models.

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My 2014 Mazda3 i 5-door Grand Touring hatchback features the SkyActiv-G 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a SkyActiv-MT 6-speed manual transmission, which is only available for the 2.0-liter i trim levels. The 2.5-liter engine choice gets stuck with the 6-speed automatic transmission as the only choice. I find the manual transmission configuration somewhat conservative but eager to appease enthusiasts who are willing to extract every bit of power from the 2.0-liter up to its 6,300 rpm redline. The 6-speed manual’s gearing is ideal for either cruising around town or having a little fun in the process. The 6-speed is easy to drive with just enough feedback from the drivetrain to limit complaints from picky enthusiasts. The mulled sound of the Mazda3 hatchback with the 2.0-liter engine does prove to be an afterthought and a bit deceptive at times. Basically, you only rely on the rather smallish digital-hash-marked rpm gauge for your shift points instead of listening to the roaring buzz of the 4-cylinder engine.

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Power delivery of the Mazda3 2.0-liter hatchback is smooth for a 4-cylinder but leaving some extra power desired, which can be found in the 2.5-liter s trims. The easy-to-drive nature of the Mazda3 makes up for its lack of punch, especially at low rpm’s where torque is lacking. Though, I would not say the Mazda3 is a slouch as it handles its 155 horsepower well to give off an emulation of a bit more oomph, possibly due to the 6-speed manual transmission’s gearing. The 6-speed shifter has a good feel, rather prices like its MX-5 Miata brethren. I rather enjoy the manual while the clutch pressure is just right and it isn’t too much work to keep the engine in the higher rpms for an enjoyable experience. Steering feedback is somewhat lacking from the electric rack but still firms up nicely when approaching highway speeds to ensure a sense of confidence. Additionally, the stability of the vehicle and its nice balance prove to be excellent driving and handling traits of the all-new Mazda3. Never is the chassis upset from pushing it a little hard. It is not until it reaches its limit that things get a little sloppy with a bit of pushing and understeer, all as expected from a compact, front-wheel-drive vehicle. You can still break the rear out a little with some effort, which comes as a surprise when you really thrash the relatively lightweight 2,815 pounds around. The ride is over-all compliant and comfortable for a compact-sized vehicle.

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Inside of the all-new 2014 Mazda3 you will find a few glossy black interior trim pieces and carbon fiber-simulated plastic surfaces, as equipped on my Mazda3 I Grand Touring hatchback, which nicely accents what would otherwise be a boring black cabin. Of course, opting for different interior colors will nicely accent the black carpets and dashboards via tow-toned seats and trim. Many of the touch areas are padded, and a limited amount of hard plastics to prevent any cheap perceptions. Together, the interior and dashboard exhibit an appealing layout. The dashboard gauge cluster is on the small side with an even smaller RPM gauge proving to be difficult to make out in some situations where you attempt to keep your eyes on the road. The center high-mounted LCD infotainment screen appears to be much of an afterthought as it is placed atop of the dashboard visually floating like an aftermarket navigation unit would with suction cups affixed to the console. However, the screen is bright and supports touch with drag functions. Somewhat disappointing is the fact that the touch interface is disabled completely when you start to drive limiting your controllability to the floor console controls, which seems to be a page taken from infotainment systems like Audi, only in a simplified version.

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Interior space is adaptive in that the front seats have a lot of travel considering how my 6-foot 3-inch frame was able to comfortably find a position with room to spare. Cargo space out back opens up to over 47 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, another added benefit to the hatchback’s versatility. As far as rear seat comfort goes, they seriously lack enough space for anyone near 6 feet tall. Up front is where you want to be in the nicely bolstered seats with heated simulated leather surfaces. Steering wheel controls are plentiful yet kept simple for accessing the audio controls, cruise control, vehicle fuel information display and voice commands. Surprisingly the voice recognition proved to pick up the correct words from my voice on the first try even when entering full addresses all in one sentence for a new destination.

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Mazda has pulled off yet another bout of successfully marketing a highly desirable compact hatchback in the new 2014 Mazda3. Aside from its splendid physical attractions and delightful drivability, the new Mazda3 is extremely efficient and economical. The SkyActiv technology has opened up a new level of efficiency where the new Mazda3 equipped with the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine gets an astonishing EPA estimated 40 mpg highway and 29 mpg city. In my time with the new 3 I was able to just match the 40 mpg highway figure and around my city endeavors I saw a consistent 30 mpg. I would say that toting around two or more passengers seems to diminish the highway mpg figure slightly to around just below 39 mpg, but that was just above the posted speed limit for our local highway traveled on.

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The other economical side of the new 2014 Mazda3 remains to be its pricing, starting at just $19,740 for a base Mazda3 i Sport hatchback. With my new Mazda3 i 5-door Grand Touring hatchback, including several unexpected standard features, such as blind spot monitoring, rearview camera with cross traffic alert, push-start with advanced keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, 6-way power driver’s seat, moonroof, dual exhaust, Bluetooth connectivity with Audio streaming, 2 USB ports, 7-inch color LCD touch screen with navigation, and satellite/HD radio/CD within a 9-speaker Bose audio system, the pricing comes to the an as-tested $24,635 including a $795 destination charge.

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From Automotive Addicts Senior Editor, Chris Brewer:

The compact car market is arguably the most competitive segment today. Strong new (or newish) offerings from Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Dodge, Fiat, Honda, Scion, and others make the question of where to spend your $18-$25k extremely difficult. And every, I know the word every can get you in trouble, new car in this price range is loaded with features that were reserved for cars costing twice as much less than a decade ago.

I was able to see the 2014 Mazda 3 up close for the first time at the 2014 Miami Auto Show and although my time was limited to sitting inside the car and having a Mazda representative explain the marketing strategy and incredible value, I was impressed.

The 2014 Mazda 3 is the whole package. It looks great on the outside, think a more practical BMW Z4 coupe, has THE best interior of any car in this segment, and gets an incredible 40 mpg on the highway!

This past week I was able to spend a few days behind the wheel of the 3 and I can now add that the little red hatchback drives like a sports car (granted an underpowered sports car) too. The engine feels like it is working harder than the 155 horsepower rating that Mazda gives it credit for. The transmission is absolutely a blast to shift; lightly notchy, noisy and impressively responsive like a standard transmission should be. I would love to drive one of the MazdaSpeed3 models built using this chassis. I have a feeling that a 250+ horsepower Mazda 3 would become my new favorite car front wheel drive car under $30k.

I am blessed to be able to drive quite a few cars and I can honestly say that the 2014 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring Hatchback with the 6 speed manual is something that I would buy with my own money…it is that good.

Copyright: 2014 AutomotiveAddicts.com

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price: Mazda3 i Sport Hatchback $19,740 / As-Tested Mazda3 i Grand Touring Hatchback $24,635
  • Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder DOHC 155 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm / 150 lb.ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
  • Total length: 175.6 inches
  • Total width: 70.7 inches
  • Total height: 57.3 inches
  • Track: f/r-61.2/61.4 inches
  • Ground clearance: 6.1 inches
  • Headroom: f/r-37.6/37.5 inches with moonroof
  • Legroom: f/r-42.2/35.8 inches
  • Turning circle: 37 feet
  • Fuel tank: 13.2 gallons
  • EPA passenger volume: 96.4 cu.ft.
  • EPA cargo volume: 47.1 cu.ft. with rear seats folded
  • EPA Fuel Consumption: 29 mpg city / 40 mph highway
  • 0-60 mph: 7.9 seconds
  • Curb weight: 2,815 pounds

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