Photo by Vince Taroc.
When it comes to Mazda, I tend to get a bit nostalgic—a Mazda 323 was the model on which I first honed my driving skills back in the day—so any opportunity I have to drive one I take a running leap and get in the driver's seat.
This was the case with the 2014 Mazda3 S four-Door Grand Touring model I tested, and it didn't disappoint. Equipped with Mazda's signature Skyactiv-G 2.5L engine and matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with sport mode, the Mazda3 S smoothly transitioned from city to highway driving. The engine produces 184 hp and 185 lb.-ft. of torque, and has great get-up-and-go.
Driving the Mazda3 was a pleasure. Clean acceleration, deft handling, and a comfortable interior, filled with plenty of storage added up to a commuting experience I looked forward to each day. This is definitely a vehicle I wouldn't mind spending a day in making sales calls or going to visit clients.
The car's technology features were intuitive. The heads-up display clearly showed the speed I was traveling, while the 7-inch navigation screen, in 3D mode, showed not only approaching streets, but gave at-a-glance info about fueling stations and restaurants. The onscreen speed monitor also indicated whether I was in danger of exceeding the speed limit. While I really liked the navigation system, it also provided my only quibbles about the sedan. I found the radio to be less-than-intuitive to use, and depending on the time of day, the touch screen tended to pick up glare fairly easily, making it hard to read at times.
Photo by Vince Taroc.
Among my favorite features in the Mazda3 S were the safety systems. The collision alert system was accurate and responsive without being jarring. Backing onto my busy street in the morning from my garage, the back-up camera with rear cross traffic alert was a godsend, and provided a clear warning if an oncoming car or pedestrian was in the way. Unlike some earlier systems that I've encountered with continuous sounds that beep while the back-up camera was activated, I liked that the alarm only sounded if there was a danger of collision. The Mazda3 also features an anti-theft engine immobilizer, dynamic stability control, dual front air bags, front side-impact air bags, front and rear side air curtains, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
While the Mazda3 has the clean, fluid, elegant lines, and a compact profile, it offers more than enough storage for sales material, luggage, or equipment that might be needed for a fleet driver who needs to spend his or her day on the road. Adding to the storage capability, the rear seats feature a 60/40 split.
The mpg indicator was my favorite feature, and one that should resonate in the hearts of fleet managers everywhere. Each time I parked the car, I received a report about my mpg for that particular trip. I was pleasantly surprised that I typically scored near or above the combined mileage rating of 32 mpg.
The Mazda3 S features a 36-month/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 60-month/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. It also is available with 24-hour roadside assistance.
PHOTOS: Mazda3 Compact Sedan