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Mazda3 review

A small car that's fun, fuel-efficient and affordable

Published: March 2014

 

Fun to drive, fuel-efficient, and affordable—that’s an inviting combo that can be hard to find in one car. But it perfectly sums up the redesigned-for-2014 Mazda3. It has long been a small-car favorite among our testers, and the agile handling and precise steering of this revamped model make it one of the most enjoyable compacts to drive. It’s right up there with the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf for the highest fun factor in the class.

We tested two versions: a sedan equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission and a hatchback with a six-speed manual. Both were powered by a 155-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which provided ample power and excellent fuel economy of 33 mpg overall for the sedan and 32 for the hatch. That’s better gas mileage than you’ll get in any other compact car, or even a subcompact, without spending more for a hybrid or diesel. And with the 2.0-liter’s spirited performance, we see little reason to go for the optional 184-hp, 2.5-liter four, which is livelier but gets 2 mpg less, according to EPA estimates.

Both engines carry Mazda’s Skyactiv designation, which means they use direct fuel injection and a high compression ratio to help improve fuel efficiency. And our results back that up. On the highway, we got an amazing 45 mpg with the automatic transmission and an impressive 41 with the manual; that’s similar to a diesel car. Moreover, the automatic delivers quick, smooth shifts, and the manual is crisp and precise. In fact, driving the manual car reminded us of the Mazda3’s ultra-fun corporate cousin, the MX-5 Miata roadster.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the May 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


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