Mazda3 (January 28, 2014)

EPA Automatic i-ELOOP:               Not offered                                        28/39 (28/38 hatchback)

Starts at: $16,945 (sedan); $18,945 (hatchback)

Next week: BMW X5


Paula Says

I often say that I could live with a car. The new 2014 Mazda3i is a car that I’d like to live with. It’s genuinely fun to drive.

It is also an exceptional value. My husband Jim and I had the hatchback Grand Touring model, which featured every available option except the larger engine and automatic transmission – both unnecessary in my opinion. The price came to $24,635. The base sedan starts at $16,945 with the automatic
adding $1,050 to the price.

Our review car had a navigation system that delivered information on  a screen that I thought should retract into the instrument panel, but didn’t. The screen also supports the audio and communications systems in the car. It is operated by a center console array of two knobs and five buttons. This is a little complex, but it’s better than many of the infotainment systems that are growing in popularity. Voice control is also offered, along with steering wheel controls for audio, cruise and trip control functions.

The seats in the Grand Touring are heated and upholstered in handsome leatherette. Also standard was dual automatic temperature control heating and air conditioning with simple manual controls to override the automatic functions. This model also includes blind spot warning with cross traffic alert and a backup camera. Add the standard nine-speaker Bose audio upgrade and you have a very well-equipped automobile for a price that is at least $5,000 less than the average of a new vehicle today.

On the downside, the ride is firm and I noticed higher noise levels on the highway than I have experienced in some other compacts. However, it should be noted that these compacts were more expensive and less well-equipped than the Mazda3.

As for fuel economy, the trip computer showed an ever-improving picture over a one-week review period. It started out in the mid-20 miles per gallon range, eventually working its way up to 37 miles per gallon. In the end, we averaged 34.7 miles per gallon.