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2014 Mazda3: The MPG Challenge


Small size sedans have certainly come a long way over the years. If you wanted a compact car that was fun to drive, you had to sacrifice fuel efficiency… or the other way around. With Mazda’s engineering team working very hard on the latest Skyactiv Technology development, they may have just cracked that code.

So what is this Skyactiv technology? More than just a trunk mounted badge! It all boils down to a re-engineered chassis and powertrain that reduces weight and optimizes efficiency. Basically, it’s a bunch of scientific knowledge that gives us a headache and all we need know is that it works; and it works very well. The Mazda3 offers two engine choices; 2.0 liter and a 2.5 liter four cylinder. All “i” models will come with the 2.0 liter engine for 155 horsepower while the “s” models get the more energetic 2.5 liter 184 horsepower engine – both engines use a six-speed transmission.

Because Mazda is confident in the Media’s opinion, they provided us with a i-Grand Touring drizzling in Liquid Silver Metallic paint. We were actually pleased that Mazda provided us with the lower engine model; this gave a more realistic output on what consumers will actually purchase. But don’t go thinking they skimped on the standard features; leatherette trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, blind-spot monitoring, and Bose audio system are just a few of the many standard features.

Now, Mazda makes a very courageous claim, that this 2.0-liter engine can achieve over 40mpg. We see a challenge in that… so we planned out a route; a loop around the entire City of Phoenix – approximately 120 miles of open highway. But before we start, let’s talk about the car:

The Mazda3’s 155 horsepower engine doesn’t quite follow Mazda’s slogan “Zoom Zoom”. Foot down on the accelerator it will take just under 8 seconds to 60 mph. Unlike some of its competitors, however, the engine doesn’t sound like its struggling. With gentle acceleration the Mazda3 is smooth at gaining speed. The six-speed automatic in our tester was snappy; and when we popped it over into manual mode, the gear responses were above average.

The re-engineered chassis feels solid while the suspension system is smooth for a comfortable ride. This system really goes to show in the corners when things start to get enthusiastic. Handling is very responsive and light which average drivers can enjoy. The brakes are firm and provide a substantial stopping distance; although the brake pedal is soft and has a lot of play room.

Mazda has done an exceptional job fully redesigning the 3. The Mazda3 maintains that strident sporty sedan that its consumers have grown to admire. The large mouthed grille adds an aggressive curb appeal and the standard 16” alloy wheels attractively fill the wheel wells – though adds a cheap look on our highest trimmed “i” model.

The interior was also fully redesigned, with a completely new contemporary dash, designed around its 7” color screen command center.  The overall design is reminiscence of an earlier model BMW 3-series with its smooth curvature shape and 3-dimensional pop-out display. This new design gratifyingly works well with the Mazda3 accented by piano black and silver trims with impressionable carbon fiber around the steering wheel and window controls. The overall fit and finish is pleasant and feels of good quality. With the addition of the black leatherette seating tied with red stitching, it completes an overall satisfaction of comfort.

For its class the Mazda3 is very spacious and comfortable; the front seats are well bolstered for support and are heated; the driver also has a 6-way power adjustable seat. The rear seats are not quite the same story; they are comfortable… for a small period of time. The rear seats are not as well supportive as the front; they sit lower and don’t have much thigh support. For its size, leg room was decent and head room was exceptional for taller passengers.

Mazda’s latest innovative technology really goes to show in their 7” color display. Controlled by a center mounted command control, navigating this system was entirely user friendly. The 7” screen was perfectly clear with a high resolution output and a fantastic rear view camera. With Satellite, Pandora & Stitcher radio at our fingertips, jamming to our favorite tunes through the Bose Audio system was just a click away.

Now, how about back to that challenge?

The goal for us was to achieve the minimum EPA rating of 40mpg. We choose a starting point; topped-off the tank, and reset the trip computer before setting off. And already we weren’t off to a good start. The day of our challenge; the elements were against us from the start: stormy weather with wet roads and high winds.

With the weather dampening our journey, we settled in for the long haul; cranked up the heated seat and let the cruise control do all the work. We set the cruise for 65 mph, maintaining the legal limit. It didn’t take long for the Mazda3 to achieve its 40mpg; only 20 miles into our 120 mile route – the trick was to keep it there with all the small hills, snug traffic, and freeway changes we had. Luckily that’s where the weather played into our favor and nobody was out clogging the highways.

After 60 miles in, we reached what would most likely be the maximum the Mazda3 could get; a very impressive 44.7 mpg. But then the weather started to clear, traffic picked up and as we started to enter the downtown district our mpg fell to 43. And that’s where stayed for the rest of our journey. During the course of our venture the Mazda3 was quiet and refined. For as windy as it was, it wasn’t noticeable on the inside.

At the end of challenge, we finished where we started and ended with an astonishing 43.2 mpg; thus, another successful challenge completed. At the end our week, we averaged 36 mpg city/highway combined on regular unleaded fuel that gave over 430 miles of range.

The Mazda 3 turned out to be an exceptional compact sedan. It may not have that “Zoom Zoom” effect that Mazda customers could be looking for, but it does have eagerness and drivability that Mazda drivers are looking for.

Price (As-Tested):
2014 Mazda3 i-Grand Touring $23,795
Destination: $795
Notable Standard Features:
Leatherette Trimmed Sport Seats
Dual-Zone Climate Control
Push-Button Start w/ Proximity Key
7″ Color Screen w/ Navigation and Back-Up Camera
Blind Spot Monitoring w/ Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Featured Options:
Cargo Mat: $70
Scuff Plates Door Sill Trim: $125
Grand Total: $24,785


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