2014 Mazda 3 S Touring Sedan 2.5L from North America

Summary:

Perfect for a city/highway sporty commute

Faults:

It's a bummer that some of the best features are only available in the S GT trim, including radar cruise (although the S Touring has a radar in front, deactivated!), adaptive headlights, and rain sensing wiper. Also, if you want a non-black interior, the S GT is the only trim you will find that in.

But what is totally maddening is that you do *not* get automatic headlights on the $25K Mazda 3 S, something that even my 2010 Corolla base sedan had. You have to bump all the way up to S GT with tech package for that... I mean, seriously?

Also, unlike essentially every other automaker, Mazda *does not* provide any complimentary maintenance (oil change etc.) for the first 2-3 years :-(

General Comments:

The Mazda 3S sedan certainly feels very sturdy compared to my previous car, a 2010 Corolla, specially when taking sharp turns, changing lanes in busy traffic, or simply when a speeding tractor-trailer crosses you. The brakes are super responsive, and the acceleration is decent without the sport mode turned on, and superb in the sport mode.

With the 18" alloy wheels, thin tires, and sport tuned suspension, the ride feels very sporty (to be positive) or stiff (to be negative). But I guess that's a matter of taste. In rush hour (50-55mph) I average about 41 MPG. At off-peak freeway (70-75mph) or in local traffic (35-40mph), it is about 35 MPG. Very decent numbers for a 2.5L engine :-)

I cannot overstate just how cool and convenient the head-up display unit is. It lets you keep your eyes on the road while getting lane/turn instructions from the GPS, and otherwise simply track cruising activity.

Although the awkwardly placed GPS unit looks like an aftermarket addition, it is very easy to navigate with the knob and quick access buttons while driving, which is same as what the 2015 Audi A3 has. However, my Mazda 3 LCD touchscreen's display, as well as the infotainment features layout, both feel much fancier and easier to use.

The steering wheel mounted paddle shifters are awesome when driving on hilly roads, and the leatherette seats feel as soft as leather :-)

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 29th September, 2014

2014 Mazda 3 iTouring Hatchback 2.0i Skyactiv-G DOHC inline 4 cylinder from North America

Summary:

Might not be all it's hyped up to be

Faults:

At 300 miles the front brakes began grinding and large grooves were being cut into the rotors. The pads were found to have cracked and began separating and falling apart from their metal backing. Replacement of the front pads and rotors was done under warranty.

Occasionally I hear a metallic "pop" noise from the rear suspension. I found that the right rear sway bar link is frozen up. However, the dealer was unable to verify the noise and told me the link was working fine.

General Comments:

Let me start off by saying that I am a fully certified automotive tech who works for a dealership (NOT Mazda). I purchased this vehicle as a college graduation present to myself.

After spending months researching new cars, test driving, and crunching numbers, I finally decided on a Mazda3 Hatchback. I absolutely love the look of the car, both inside and out. It looks like nothing else on the road. I special ordered my '14 Hatchback in Meteor Gray Metallic with a 6-speed manual transmission.

The car drives quite well. The 2.0L 4 cylinder is completely gutless until about 3,000 RPM. I have not tested the full acceleration of the car (the engine is still a bit new to be put under such a load), but have found that for everyday driving it provides adequate power. I average 38.9 MPG.

The 6-speed transmission shifts smoothly and the throws are just right. Heel-toe downshifts are made easy by the floor mounted gas pedal, however I have found that the electronic throttle in this car has a significant delay. I quickly adjusted to this however and have just about gotten the hang of where each gear meets the engine speed.

The suspension blends performance and comfort perfectly as far as I'm concerned. I drive about 85% on rural backroads in my small hometown. The other 15% is pretty evenly split between highway and city. The suspension soaks up the choppy backroads very well, and the independent rear suspension isn't easily upset by a mid-corner bump (unlike the torsion-beam set-up in my Corolla). On the highway, the car transforms itself into a sedate cruiser. 6th gear is high enough to allow engine speeds of only 2400 RPM at 70-75 MPH, and the car simply floats over uneven highway pavement. I will agree with many reviews that the car does exhibit a good bit of road/tire/suspension noise, but not enough for me to complain about. Handling on those twisty backroads is spot on. This car just hunkers-down, stays flat and tears its way through corners. Handling is also surprisingly neutral up until the limit where some light understeer gradually begins.

I would describe myself as a spirited driver, but I do not beat on my cars, nor do I drive them exceptionally hard. I'm clearly not driving it like a race car, or I wouldn't be averaging nearly 39 MPG!

So you're probably expecting me to say that even though I had some issues that, this car is still the best thing I've driven. But the truth is I'm actually a little disappointed. From the way this car was described in every automotive publication, I guess I just expected so much more. Maybe it's just me though, I suppose there is only so much a car can deliver (especially one that is still a compact economy car after all.) But, coming from an '06 Corolla with an automatic transmission and crank windows, this car should have blown my socks off, and put quite simply: it didn't.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 27th July, 2014