Like a Broadway premiere the 2014 Mazda3 will take a bow in New York City today. Mazda’s best-selling compact car has received a bumper-to-bumper redesign along with some significant improvements. The company’s latest C-Segment offering brings a healthy dose of style, performance and technology to an extremely competitive slice of the market.
It’s always tricky for an automaker to update a successful product. How do you improve a vehicle without destroying its essence and alienating customers? Very carefully, that’s how.
Globally this car is the Zoom-Zoom brand’s best-selling vehicle. More than 3.5 million of them have been sold in more than 120 countries around the world. Calling the 3 Mazda’s most significant product is something of an understatement. It accounts for 30 percent of the Japanese automaker’s annual sales. Like Ron Burgundy in the movie Anchorman, it’s kind of a big deal.
The first thing anyone will notice about the 2014 Mazda3 is its striking new body. It’s the latest product to wear the company’s so-called KODO design language, which means “soul of motion” in Japanese, but we’ll have to take Mazda’s word for it; we can’t keep our katakana from our hiragana, and don’t even talk to us about kanji.
As expected from a clean-sheet redesign the latest 3 shares almost nothing with its predecessor… aside from a name, of course. The car’s wheelbase has been stretched by almost two-and-a-half inches making for a grand total of 106.3; it’s also 1.6 inches wider, but the car’s overall length has actually gone down by nearly two inches.
This is the latest vehicle in Mazda’s lineup to take advantage of its SKYACTIV technologies, which are designed to save fuel while preserving the brand’s famously entertaining on-road dynamics. Available as either a traditional sedan or a five-door hatchback, the 3’s body is 30 percent more rigid than its predecessor’s, but surprisingly that stiffness does NOT come with a weight penalty; the car is actually lighter, though the company has not said by how much.
North American customers will have two engines to choose from and the both run on highly refined liquid dinosaurs. The base powerplant is a 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G (that’s “G” for gasoline) four-cylinder that delivers 155 horsepower with 150 lb-ft of torque. It features an elegant four-into-two-into-one exhaust manifold that really helps improve output as well as efficiency.
AVAILABLE 2.5L SKYACTIV
The up-market engine is a 2.5-liter SKYACTIV unit that delivers a bigger kick in the rump, 184 horses with 185 units of twist. Of course customers in other markets around the world have a much wider array of powertrain options ranging from a 1.5-liter unit to a 2.2-liter SKYACTIV-D clean diesel. Japanese buyers can even get a hybrid version of the car.
Speaking of electricity, the company will also offer fuel-saving regenerative braking courtesy of its curiously names i-ELOOP system; that’s short for “Intelligent Energy Loop.” Mazda representatives claim this is the world’s first capacitor-based version of the technology on the market. In addition to this efficiency-boosting system active grille shutters and slippery bodies help improve fuel economy. Best-in-class aerodynamics are part of the car’s winning formula. The five-door features a .275 coefficient of drag (Cd) while the sedan slithers through the wind with a score of just .255.
Two transmissions are available; both feature six speeds and SKYACTIV branding. Predictably one requires three pedals and driver involvement, the other not so much.
RETRACTABLE DISPLAY SCREEN
Of course the 2014 Mazda3 features a brand-new interior to match its swanky redesigned body. The cockpit’s signature feature is a retractable display mounted on the dashboard ahead of the instrument cluster. It shows important information like vehicle speed and navigation directions. Interestingly it folds down when the car is shut off.
Additionally there’s a brand-new infotainment system that should interface more easily with modern smartphones. It can read and respond to text messages as well as e-mails. Bluetooth connectivity, an auxiliary jack and USB port are also available, though this is pretty standard fare these days.
The car’s seats have also received some attention. They’ve been redesigned for greater comfort and efficiency. Yes, seats can actually help improve the numbers on a vehicle’s window sticker. They’re lighter than before, which adds to the Mazda3’s fuel economy. Additionally the front chairs have been re-sculpted to give back-bench passengers more legroom. All told the car is offered with cloth, leather and leatherette seat coverings. Disappointingly burlap and Tattersall are not available.
NEW SAFETY FEATURES
Complimenting the 2014 Mazda3’s enhanced efficiency is a comprehensive array of safety features. Things like blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, automatic city braking and radar-based cruise control are part of the i-ACTIVSENSE technology suite. This combination of cutting-edge electronics will be made available to customers in North America, presumably as an extra-cost option. Of course there are literally dozens of other safety systems incorporated into the car.
When it comes to money company representatives have not mentioned how much the 2014 Mazda3 will cost. However, they say the car will go on sale this fall, which is just a few months away.
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