Last week we presented the five finalists for the AutoGuide.com 2014 Car of the Year Award.
Diversity was the name of the game this year as our five finalists represent five different market segments and hail from three different continents. As a recap, the compact 2014 Mazda3, the mid-size 2014 Mazda6, the full-size 2014 Chevrolet Impala, the luxurious Cadillac CTS and the segment busting Mercedes-Benz CLA all made the cut into the final five. But there can only be one winner.
For days we evaluated the finalists, had heated discussions and finally came to a consensus. The 2014 AutoGuide.com Car of the Year is the 2014 Mazda3.
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LIVING UP TO THE SELF-IMPOSED HYPE
During the introduction of the new 3, Mazda claimed this compact car would be a game changer. With such a presumptuous claim, our expectations were sky high. But after each staffer took a first drive in the 2014 Mazda3, they came back with the same impression; what a great vehicle.
And that’s just it. It’s not that the Mazda3 is a great compact car; it is a great car period. The styling on the outside of either the sedan or hatchback looks attractive, elegant and upscale. Inside, the same theme continues with the luxury-car-like dial and knob controls between the front seats and tablet-looking display screen jutting up from the dashboard. The 3 offers all the latest safety technology and class exclusive items like head up display.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Mazda3 Review – Video
Like all Mazda3s before it, this third generation is a blast to drive. The chassis is tight and the car loves to rotate through corners. With the upgraded engine, 184 hp is on tap through a six-speed automatic. Aside from niche segment sporty specials like the Honda Civic Si Sedan and Ford Focus ST, there isn’t a vehicle in this segment that is more fun to drive.
NOW WITH NEWFOUND EFFICIENCY
Unlike with previous generations, a large emphasis was put on the new making the new Mazda3 one of the most efficient in the segment. With official EPA fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg city and 41 mpg highway for the entry-level automatic-equipped car, not only is this one of the most efficient cars in the segment now, but the Mazda3 has improved an impressive six mpg city and 8 mpg highway compared to last year’s base model. Even with the larger 2.5 liter engine, the new 3 can achieve 37 mpg on the highway.
Versatility is another strong point for the Mazda3. Available in two body styles, with a choice of two engines and two transmissions, the Mazda3 can be optioned as an entry level fuel sipping economy car or a full loaded near-luxury compact. This versatility and wide price range make the Mazda3 accessible and relevant to a large number of consumers; more so than any other vehicle in our top five finalists.
THE CLEAR CUT CHOICE
Ultimately though, the Mazda3 became the clear winner when we considered the question: would we recommend each car as the choice within their respective market segments? The Impala, CTS and Mazda6 we agreed would be strong candidates, but each had a competitor or two that should be considered along with it. The CLA created a new segment without any direct rivals, but even then we found suitable traditional luxury competitors and upcoming rivals worth taking a look at. When it came to Mazda3, however, we unanimously agreed this would be the first model we’d recommend to any prospective customer shopping for a compact car.
Being the best car in any segment is quite an achievement, but being the best car in a market as competitive as the compact car segment is astounding and worthy of winning the AutoGuide.com 2014 Car of the Year Award. Congratulations Mazda!
GALLERY: 2014 Mazda3
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