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Review: 2014 Mazda 3 SV

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On: Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 1:28PM | By: Jon Summers

Review: 2014 Mazda 3 SV

As we watch Toyota competing at the Le Mans 24-hour race, it is worth remembering that one Japanese company has already won this European endurance classic: Mazda, using the Wankel engine technology which they alone have pursued for nigh on five decades now. Mazda would like us to believe some of this motorsports pedigree, this engineering cool, rubs off on their workaday Civic competitor, the 3. I spent a few hundred miles with a 2014 Mazda3 to determine if they're right.

It is one of the ironies of the car business that more steel - a larger car - always conveys value to customers. Thus cars steadily grow in size, and our 3 is close in size and weight to the Mazda 626 of years ago. That is to say five medium-build adults fit easily, although with all five aboard more than an hour in the car might be a bit tiresome. It is the perfect size for US cities, fitting easily in to parking spaces.

Visually, the 3 seems to strike the right balance between looking modern/trendy without being overstated. It has a large, aggressive grille, which might be too loud for some, but certainly is not the statement many of the competitor products make. Contemporary, without being showy might be a good description.

Climbing aboard, all the controls fell easily to hand, the seat and mirrors having plenty of adjustment to get your seating position just so. The display is an appealing LCD, a round central speedometer flanked by a tachometer which is a series of blocks.

In use, the 3 is benign: the steering and throttle light and precise, the brakes well up to the job in hand, if not for a dozen laps of Laguna Seca. There's plenty of thrashy four-cylinder roar if you exercise the motor, but it is never too loud, and the car does have some get up and go. The transmission, while not spectacular, was quite responsive, and, unlike some of these 6/7/8-speed automatic transmissions, was not continually hunting between one gear and another.

Some years ago I was in negotiations to buy an ‘80s Alfa GTV. The seller explained "...so I am giving up on Alfas, and just getting a Mazda 3...." the implication being the 3 was almost as fun to drive as the Alfas, but with bulletproof Japanese reliability, and it was this story I had in mind as I drove the 2014 3. Thus, I had high hopes the 3 would be sporty and engaging, but it wasn't. It was, however, a competent and inoffensive right-sized car.

11-18 arm

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