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Motoring: Mazda3 gives bang for your buck

Credit: Nauman Farooq

The Mazda3 offers good value for the money you spend on it.

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | October 14th, 2013

The Mazda3 is kind of a big deal for its maker. This model has sold over 3.5 million units globally and currently constitutes roughly half of all its sales in Canada, and despite losing ground in the last year to some of its rivals, it still remained a strong seller for Mazda.

Part of the reason it had a less than stellar year was because the current model had been around for a long time, and some people were losing interest.

To regain buyers' attention, Mazda launched a brand-new 2014 model of the Mazda3, but is it noticeably better than the one it replaces?

I was invited to Vancouver, B.C. to drive this latest model and see what it has to offer.

From the outside, not much appears to have changed. Every single panel is new, but the silhouette remains very familiar. Mazda seems to have taken a conservative approach to the exterior styling. I think it looks good, just wish it had more of the Shinari concept car's lines. As per the last model, both the sedan and hatchback body styles are still offered.

Open the door and the interior is radically different. Everything is new, from the dials to the centre console to the infotainment system. Mazda's new infotainment system might have taken inspiration from BMW and Mercedes- Benz units, but the execution is fantastic. This new device, which allows you to work with the car's navigation system, stereo system, Bluetooth setup and various other features is easy and intuitive to use. It allows you to interact with the screen via a command knob or touchscreen.

The better the toys get, the more option boxes you tick. For the first time ever, you can now get a heads-up display system for your Mazda3. It features a retractable pane of glass that flips up automatically when you start the car and shows you vitals like your speed. As a long-time fan of heads-up display systems, I applaud Mazda for doing such a wonderful job of developing its own.

Apart from the design and toys, there is plenty of space in the front, rear and trunk. Special consideration was given to the design of the driver's seat, which gives you lots of support. Despite the Mazda3 being a compact car, you'll be fine travelling long distances in it (and considering Canada is huge, a good seat is recommended).

On long drives, you are likely to experience fatigue, so be assured that the car is looking out for you. Mazda's new i-ActivSense system will detect if the car ahead has suddenly slowed down or that you are catching up too quickly, and will not only alert you, but also prepares the brakes for a sudden application. The Mazda3 now also features lane departure warning system, along with blind spot alert, so in short, this is a very clever little car.

It is efficient, too. According to Mazda, its new 2.0-litre, fourcylinder motor will consume just 6.7 litres/100km in the city, and 4.7 litres/100km on the highway. That is very good, but don't expect this motor to get you anywhere fast. While it may develop 155 hp and 150 lb/ft of torque, the ratios in its six-speed gearbox (in both manual and automatic trim) are quite tall. This aids in fuel economy, but at many times, the car felt frustratingly slow. You really have to stir the gears to get anywhere quickly.

If you do want to cover distances quickly, it's best than that you pick the GT version of the Mazda3. This version has a 2.5-litre motor that produces 184 hp and 185 lb/ft of torque. This motor currently only comes with a six-speed automatic gearbox, but that's okay, because this autobox can really shift gears quickly and is fun to use, especially when you're playing with its steering wheel mounted pedal shifters.

Sure, this motor consumes more fuel, rated at 7.0 litres in the city and 5.0 litres/100km on the highway, but at least you'll enjoy your time on the road with this motor.

The Mazda3 has always been a good handling car, and I'm happy to say, it is still the best in its class. Ride comfort is excellent, but I do wish there was some more soundproofing, as there is a bit more road noise than I like, but not enough to put anyone off.

If you are shopping for a new compact car, the 2014 Mazda3 deserves to be on your list. Prices start at $15,995 for the GX trim sedan, the hatchback is $1,000 more. The GT version (my personal pick) starts at $25,855.

I think Mazda has done enough to ensure that the Mazda3 will remain its top seller. I just hope it has a MazdaSpeed version in its future model lineup also.
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