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

Review and photos by Mark Stevenson

When you’re about to say goodbye to a car and the only thing on your mind is “I wish I had driven it more often,” that’s a good thing, at least for consumers and the manufacturer. For me, not so much.

Mazda’s newest compact may be a pricey bit of kit, but for those looking for smiles per gallon in the lesser trims and costs, it’s a no brainer. However, when you get into the upper price bracket, things start to get muddy.

For one, a fully decked-out Mazda3 Sport GT (2.5L SkyActiv four-cylinder, automatic transmission, Technology and Luxury packages checked) is north of $30,000 before tax. It makes me tremble in fear of what the next Mazdaspeed3 will cost. Comparing the Mazda3 Sport GT to the Focus ST – which is arguably a sportier, performance-oriented car in the same class – you’re only looking at an extra couple grand more for the turbo-four and boy-racer tech in the Ford.

Anyway, back to the car we have, the Mazda3 Sport in GS trim. Mechanically, the little car is a great drive. During the bitter cold this year, I’ve yet to have trouble starting up the little beast, even after periods of prolonged negligence as it sat in the driveway waiting for me to return home from a trip. Nothing broke, sputtered, or groaned, and it wasn’t like I was easy on it either.

Over the course of our time together, the Sport averaged 8.5 L/100 km in mixed conditions, but mostly town/city driving. To put that in comparison, my personal vehicle – a 2008 Saturn Astra – manages only slightly better, with a smaller engine and manual transmission down one gear, but 20 kg more heft to haul around. The 2.0L SkyActiv four-cylinder mill isn’t what you would call an enthralling engine by any stretch. Torque delivery is fairly flat, for what it’s worth, and I would label it as adequate.

The true shining quality of the 3 is in how it handles without giving up too much to potholes. Sure, you are going to feel them, but not as much as you would in an Elantra, a car I absolutely detest when it comes to suspension tuning. I’ve yet to hit the bumpstops, or so it would seem, driving the little Mazda around Halifax, a city with more potholes than zit craters on a dozen teenagers’ faces. The Elantra (and other cars from the brand) seems to reach the limits of its suspension much more easily.

2014 Mazda3 Sport GS2014 Mazda3 Sport GS2014 Mazda3 Sport GS
2014 Mazda3 Sport GS. Click image to enlarge

Steering is spot on as well, though possibly a bit heavier than most people shopping in this class would expect. Not extremely noticeable, mind you, but enough of a difference to be felt when hopping out of one car and into another. Again, comparing to the Elantra (and other Hyundais), with their configurable steering settings, it makes me wonder if the Mazda could benefit from something similar without losing its direct feel.

Those of you toting around passengers – even those in full-size adult specification – will be happy to hear I never once received a complaint from someone in the back about legroom. Yes, it might be a bit cozier than some others, and if you do happen to be hauling around six-foot tall future athletes in the back, Mazda will more than happily sell you a CX-5. But those who rode on the backbench during our Mazda3 long-term test didn’t seem to mind.

Cozy is how I would describe the front as well. As one after another compact has made it through my driveway this season, the Mazda3 gives me a sense of cockpit comfort not provided in most, if not all, of the others. Maybe the seat lets you sit a little lower or everything else is up a little higher. I felt coddled, similar to being in a single-seater without the restrictive shoulder or knee space.

So, mechanicals are good and interior ergonomics are pleasant as well. I won’t go on about rearward visibility, because we all know that chorus (that back window is tiny, etc.).

However, there is one thing worth mentioning: electronics.

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