Car ReviewsFirst Drive

2014 Mazda3 Touring review

Isaac Bober’s first drive 2014 Mazda3 Touring review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

In a nutshell The new Mazda3 gets the full complement of SkyActiv technology making it lighter, tighter and more fuel efficient than ever before.

Practical Motoring says Easily the best model in the Mazda range, the Mazda3 is a standout small car that’s priced very well, offers plenty of standard features, has room for a family and driving dynamics that’ll keep ‘drivers’ smiling.

WHEN THE MAZDA3 launched back in 2003 it struck a chord with buyers all around the world, but particularly here in Australia where it’s become one of the most popular small cars on the market. Indeed, around the world, the Mazda3 accounts for a staggering 30% of Mazda’s sales. Yep, almost one in three Mazdas purchased is a Mazda3.

It’s worth mentioning that this new Mazda3 is really only the second-generation, because the ‘second-generation’ Mazda3 was nothing more than a heavy reworking of the original Mazda3. More than that, this new model is all Mazda, the previous two Mazda3s were built off Ford platforms.

And Mazda has saved the best to last. See, the new-look, new-engineering Mazda6 and CX-5, as clever and eye-catching as they both are, paved the way for this SkyActiv-generation Mazda3 and will undoubtedly play second and third fiddle to this thing.

Like the CX-5, the new Mazda3 is built using Mazda’s SkyActiv philosophy, meaning the body, chassis and suspension get a greater proportion of light-weight, high-tensile steel (60%) to keep it lighter but stronger. This, together with a range of efficient engines and stop/start (i-Stop in Mazda speak) and more helps make this the stiffest (by more than 30% over its predecessor) and most fuel-efficient Mazda3 yet.

2014 Mazda3 Touring

Compared with their respective predecessors, the new Mazda3, both sedan (4580mm) and hatchback (4460mm) are the same length, but are 40mm wider at 1795mm and 15mm higher at 1455mm, the wheelbase has grown by 60mm to 2700mm.

The Mazda3 might be bigger on the outside, but there’s marginally less headroom inside when compared to its predecessor (981mm Vs 987mm for the front, and 955mm Vs 964mm in the back), but there’s more shoulder room (1452mm vs 1395mm for the front, and 1382mm Vs 1371mm in the back). Front legroom is up (1073mm Vs 1068mm)

Our test car was the mid-spec Mazda3 Touring which is priced from $25,490 (+ORC) for the six-speed manual variant; our test car was fitted with the six-speed auto which bumps up the list price to $27,490 (+ORC) – hatch and sedan are the same price. For the price, the Mazda3 Touring is well equipped with leather interior, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, reversing camera, sat-nav and Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming.

Behind the wheel, the Mazda3 is easily the most sophisticated of the range with an interior that offers quality materials and excellent fit and finish. The dash layout is nice and easy to understand, although it took me a little while, initially at least, to get my head around the multimedia sat-nav set-up which isn’t as intuitive as it could be.

Getting comfortable behind the wheel is a cinch thanks to plenty of adjustment in the seat and reach and rake adjustment on the steering wheel. In the back there’s enough room for two child seats across the back, and both my kids (one’s five and the other’s three) had enough legroom. Over in the boot there’s 308 litres of storage space in the hatchback and 408L in the sedan and while that’s not huge the shape of the boot means you’ll fit a stroller or a set of golf clubs without drama.

2014 Mazda3 Touring

Under the bonnet of our Mazda3 Touring is a 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol SkyActiv engine with i-stop (Mazda speak for stop/start). Power is 114kW (at 6000rpm) and torque is 200Nm (at 4000rpm) and while our test car ran a six-speed automatic a six-speed manual is standard fitment, fuel consumption ranges from 5.7-5.9L/100km (combined).

Pootling around town or cruising along the highway and the Mazda3’s 2.0L engine is smooth and creamy, but force it out of its comfort zone and it becomes thrashy. And while I left i-stop activated, start-up is a little coarse and there seemed to be a longer pause between lifting my foot off the brake pedal and the engine sparking back into life, longer than, say, the start/stop system in our long-term Subaru XV, but I’m getting very picky.

The six-speed automatic does a good job of making the most of the power and torque on offer and no matter how hard we tried to catch it out it was always in the right gear at the right time. The brakes are also praiseworthy with a nice progressive feel.

The Mazda3 could do with a little more insulation to bring its ability to isolate passengers from road noise into line with other hatchbacks in this segment. That’s not to say it’s noisy, don’t misread me, but there’s more background rumble across coarser surfaces than you’d get from, say, a Volkswagen Golf.

One area where the Mazda3 deserves praise is in the way it rides and handles, indeed it’s only about poofteenth behind the segment’s handling leaders, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. There’s plenty of grip on offer, the body control is nice and progressive, and its response to steering inputs is quick and precise making this a good fun driver’s car. But where the Mazda3 falls slightly behind the Focus and Golf is in its ride across coarser surfaces which see it become a little fidgety.

In terms of safety, the Mazda3 gets a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating as well as a raft of active and passive safety systems. It gets airbags (front driver and passenger, side front, and curtain front and rear), it also offers stability and traction control, ABS, reversing camera and hill launch assist. A Safety Pack is available ($1500) which adds an auto-dimming rear vision mirror, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and smart city brake support, and we’d advise ticking the box.

2014 Mazda3 Touring

Price From $27,490 (+ORC) – auto
Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres
Safety five-star ANCAP
Engine 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder SkyActiv petrol
Power/Torque 114kW/200Nm
Transmission six-speed automatic
Body 4460mm (L); 1795mm (W); 1455mm (H)
Weight 1300kg
Thirst 5.8L/100km

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober