Review and photos by Mark Stevenson

We’re just under two months into our long-term test with the new 2014 Mazda3 Sport in mid-level GS trim. Our time on the road with Mazda’s newest compact included a long drive from Toronto to Halifax (a distance of close to 1,800 km), running around the city (with and without furry companions), and holiday journeying to visit family and friends.

We initially picked up this Mazda3 Sport in Toronto with under 300 km on the odometer. Shod in winter tires, the compact does reverberate a fair bit of road noise at highway speeds; the deeper rubber creating a hum that only winter tires can.

 2014 Mazda3 Sport GS
2014 Mazda3 Sport GS. Click image to enlarge

Within the city of Toronto – its many highways and surface streets – the Mazda3 performed as a compact should, with minimal fuss and not much thought in the driving process. Mazda’s HMI Commander (i.e. the little knob between the front seats) makes controlling the dash-mounted screen logical and intuitive 95 percent of the time. During the remaining five percent, it can prove to be a gargantuan pain. When in motion, the touchscreen locks itself out, so there is no alternative but to fumble with the HMI Commander in dire straits.

Parallel parking on Toronto core streets was an easy feat. The backup camera is better than most (even better than the $30,000+ Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class) due to a brighter view and more contrast in the image displayed. This is necessary as the car’s beltline is quite tall, creating a very compromised rear field of vision.

As I commenced my journey home to the Atlantic coast, the Mazda3’s Bluetooth streaming was put through its paces. Paired to a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (also called a ‘phablet’ by some, a word I promise only to type once), Bluetooth audio quality was great. If you want to save some battery, you can plug in your Android phone via the vehicle’s USB port and play music directly from the device. Not only will this charge your phone, it’ll also save battery draw by not having a constantly active Bluetooth connection.

 2014 Mazda3 Sport GS 2014 Mazda3 Sport GS
2014 Mazda3 Sport GS. Click image to enlarge

When returning to the car after pulling over to stretch my legs, Bluetooth reconnected to my device without issue. However, trying to play music again sometimes needs to be triggered by the phone due to the play button on the car’s audio system not producing the expected tunes. This could be the fault of the phone, the car, or both.

As sunlight dimmed behind me on the long journey home, the dash-mounted screen dimmed with it, creating a comfortable driving environment with softer light. You can crank up the brightness, if you so wish, but the last thing you want during an 18-hour drive is a distraction.

For long trips, the Mazda is more than capable to haul you and your loved ones (bi- or quad-pedal), in decent comfort. The seats, while firm, are supportive and not tiring. What is tiring is the firm suspension. Mazda has opted for a sportier tune for ride quality, making long journeys over less-than-smooth pavement a bit fatiguing.

 2014 Mazda3 Sport GS 2014 Mazda3 Sport GS
2014 Mazda3 Sport GS. Click image to enlarge

Upon returning home, our long-termer was immediately enlisted in dog hauling duty. My two black lab mixes, while travelling in the rear seat, gave the fabric and cushioning a thorough test. I’m happy to report not a single tear or any other kind of permanent damage has occurred up to this point. The pups were also able to self-load via the rear passenger doors without the assistance of their human.

Folding down the rear seats provides exponentially more room for my canine companions and it’s now their preferred method of transportation. Putting the rear seats down required sliding the front seats forward for clearance, which is a slight annoyance but an annoyance none-the-less. In and out through the rear hatch is easy enough for larger dogs but you will pay for it in the end with a scratched rear bumper or bumper protector.

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