2014 Mazda3 Review: A Second Opinion

Proof that one size doesn’t fit all

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2014 Mazda3 Review: A Second Opinion
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As someone who makes a living reviewing cars, I like to think I can influence my wife’s car purchasing decisions. But that isn’t the case.

FAST FACTS

1. Pricing starts at $19,740. Our “Touring” five-door model costs $25,890.

2. Officially rated at 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, we achieved a wintery average 28.7 mpg.

3. A 2.5L four-cylinder makes 184 hp and is mated to a six-speed automatic.

Amanda is a car person through and through, most likely a by-product of listening to me ramble about all things automotive for the past 10 years.

But unlike most of the staff at AutoGuide, she isn’t an “enthusiast.” A car person yes, but speed and handling don’t impress her. Her key priorities when judging a car’s worth are different than automotive adrenaline junkies.

Although a bit of power under the hood is appreciated, it’s the comfort, usability, easiness to drive and overall value that interest her more.

RATIONAL THINKING IN THE AUTOMOTIVE WORLD

I’ll bring home the latest and greatest sports car like the Jaguar F-Type, BMW M6 Cabriolet or Porsche Cayman S and all I can get out of her is “that looks nice." You see, they are far too expensive and impractical for her to care about. We will never own one, so why get interested? But things change dramatically if it’s a new-to-the-market compact car, crossover or sedan. I’ve barely parked it in the driveway before the excuses to go out that evening start coming. It usually goes something like “We need to go to the mall tonight. Let’s take the new Toyondbaru Coriviza. I’ll drive.”

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During these brief trips, I gather her feedback to include in my reviews. After all, she is smack-dab in the middle of most mass-market automobile demographics and her priorities reflect those of many consumers. That gave us an idea. Why not give her a car for an entire week to evaluate and see what she, as the typical consumer, thinks of it.

AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

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To start, we figured why not use the AutoGuide.com 2014 Car of the Year; the 2014 Mazda3. The specific model in question would be the Mazda3 S Touring five-door that lists for $25,890 after destination charges. That may seem like quite a bump from the base hatchback’s price of $19,740, but our test car did come with navigation, leatherette seats, a sunroof, 18-inch alloy wheels and the larger 2.5-liter 184 hp four-cylinder engine.

Like pretty much everyone else who has laid eyes on this car, Amanda loves how the new Mazda3 looks. In fact, she claims it is the nicest looking compact hatchback currently on the market and I can’t argue with her.

See Also: Mazda3 COTY Nomination

Inside, initial impressions were much the same. She found the center stack to be laid out in an easy-to-use design and the steering wheel mounted buttons were simple enough to operate. The rest of the interior finishes and dashboard were alright as, in her words, “nothing wowed me, but nothing offended me either.” The placement of the cup holders and the staggered height of them were an issue though.  Being 5’2”, her seat was set too far forward to make proper use of the cup holders. She had to continuously reach back to grab her coffee mug and found two didn’t fit that well because of the offset height difference between the cup holders. 

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UNCOMFORTABLE SEATING POSITION

The far forward position of the front seat also rendered the center armrest unusable as it was located too far back. In addition, the center console doesn’t have much space, which meant the passenger seat soon became her mobile storage unit since the center console and doors also lack any real capacity.

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And that brings us to the seats. In short, she didn’t like them due to her stature. The concave nature of the seat arched her back uncomfortably. No matter how she adjusted it, she couldn’t find a comfortable position.

GREAT GPS SYSTEM

But there were some redeeming qualities inside. The GPS system received a lot of praise. Being a self-proclaimed “directionally challenged” individual, she appreciated the straightforward and advanced notice during route guidance. Entering a destination was equally effortless and the large display screen meant much of the map could be shown at once. There were two instances, though, where we had issues with the GPS system. At one point, the screen froze completely while the voice continued giving verbal directions and another time the entire system shut down and rebooted itself. 

See Also: 2014 Mazda COTY Win

The quick defrosting front and rear windows were useful during cold mornings and the hatch of the Mazda3 easily carried a week’s worth of groceries easily. The rotating dial between the front seats that controls most of the 3’s functions was easy enough to operate, but slower to respond than similar systems found in MINIs and Audis.

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QUIRKY HEAD UP DISPLAY

The optional head up display also drew a bit of frustration. Amanda’s sightlines have her partially looking through the brown-tinted pop-up plastic display window. It was like looking through a dirty magnifying glass and made her feel nauseous at times. With no way to fold it down, she was forced to keep it up at all times. Why doesn’t Mazda just reflect the head up display off of the windshield like everyone else?

I myself quite liked the system and had no issue with it. However, I am over 6 feet tall so my sightlines were not obscured by the pop-up screen. We both do agree the display seems a bit fuzzy and the numbers were not crisp. Some other manufacturers allow the focus of the head up display to be adjusted and Mazda could really benefit from this function.

See Also: 2014 Mazda3 Review - Video

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The power and composure of the Mazda3 on city streets and highways was appreciated, but Amanda found the gas and brake pedals to be a little too sensitive. The new Mazda3 is designed to be efficient and even during a week of near-wintery weather that included a lot of “warming the car up,” she still returned a fuel economy average of 28.7 mpg.

THE VERDICT

As you can tell, my wife wasn’t particularly enamoured with the new Mazda3. She didn’t hate it, but didn’t like it either. The main reason was that most of the items she does appreciate about this car can be found in another Mazda, the CX-5; a vehicle that lacks most of the Mazda3’s specific drawbacks.

As my wife proves, just because the majority of the automotive press likes a car, doesn’t mean all consumers will as well. As our valued readers, we encourage you to use our online reviews as a helpful tool to create a short list of potential candidates, but take the time to test drive these finalists as you never know, some car may surprise you. Happy Shopping!

Like this review? Want to see what Amanda thinks of a specific make or model? Let us know in the comments section!

LOVE IT
  • Looks
  • GPS
  • Easy to operate
LEAVE IT
  • Front seats
  • Head up display screen
  • Cup holder/arm rest placement

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