2014 Mazda3 GT Sedan
2014 Mazda3 GT Sedan
2014 Mazda3 GT Sedan
2014 Mazda3 GT Sedan
2014 Mazda3 GT Sedan. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

Life was better when cars were suckier. Well, at least it would have been for me – let me explain.

I have here written in my driving notes for this highest trim version of the Mazda3, “Indicators are too quiet.” Really. That’s the sort of mean-spirited nitpicking I’ve been reduced to.

I also happen to have a copy of a 1977 Consumer Reports testing the compact cars of the day, and it includes the following quibbles about the Ford Granada’s performance. “…usually stalled once when started from cold. Acceleration was apathetic… bobbed and occasionally shook on secondary roads… One or more wheels locked up prematurely during hard braking, causing weaving from side to side.”

Can you imagine the sort of field day one could have with this material? Unstable brakes! Consumer Reports is, as you’d expect, as matter-of-fact about their road test as they are about the four-page discussion of mayonnaise that follows, but the fact remains: old cars were mostly terrible and would have been a lot of fun to lampoon.

Mazda, on the other hand, has spoiled everything by building a very good car. This being the GT version, you get the 18-inch alloys the car’s designer clearly always intended it should come with – base and mid-level trims get a 16-inch alloy that’s just a tad too small visually.

From the side, this is a great-looking machine, with the long-nose, short-decked profile of a sportscar. Partially, that’s a packaging requirement of the lengthy exhaust system Mazda uses in their high-compression engine setup, but whatever the reason, that’s some classy sheetmetal.

Moving around to the front, we find a reason to be jealous of everyone in Alberta, Quebec, PEI, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Why? Because the rest of us have to bolt on a mandatory front plate, and it looks terrible.

Like the wheel diameter, once again we have an example of a car’s designer not thinking clearly about real world conditions. The ‘3 is beautiful up front, the GT model’s HID headlights blending into the sort of breathtaking swoopiness of an Alfa Romeo, and then “whap!” it runs over somebody’s math homework. I may be reduced to nitpicking, but that’s annoying.

Stepping into the cockpit continues the general theme of a compact car that’s upscale enough to wear a luxury badge up front. Even the base models are well put together, but the GT specification brightens up the interior with a little more silver trim, adds leather trimmings as part of an available Luxury package, adds power adjustability to the driver’s seat, and – hallelujah – ditches the digital tachometer of the lower trims in favour of a proper analog gauge.

This is a proper driver’s car cockpit, with the only possible complaint being that it might be a little too closed-in for some. The Mazda3’s styling has a high beltline, as do most modern cars. It’s serious, slick, and stylish, not necessarily cheery.

Also, while I’m being fussy, the stuck-on look of the central screen remains a minor irritant. Surely this could have been blended in a little better to what is a well-polished effort elsewhere.

2014 Mazda3 GT Sedan2014 Mazda3 GT Sedan2014 Mazda3 GT Sedan
2014 Mazda3 GT Sedan. Click image to enlarge

Looking a little harder for practical problems, anyone considering the ‘3 as a family car is going to have to do some test-fitting of the child seats. The first generation car was really tight out back, and while things have improved greatly over two redesigns, there is less space here than in a Corolla or a Sentra or an Impreza. The flip-side to this is that the Mazda3 scores extremely well in IIHS crash-testing, and is a Top Safety Pick. No unstable braking here.

Further on the functional front, a little praise for the easy-to-use setup of the Mazda’s infotainment system, and a little frustration to be taken out on the digital fuel gauge. This last didn’t move at all over a brief period of driving, and when I topped off the tank for some hand-measured fuel economy testing, I managed to put six litres of gas into a car that was assuring me that it was full to the brim. The major gradations on the gauge are divided into 12ths, and the fuel tank holds 50L, so it should have moved – I had the same niggling issue with the GS sedan I tested against the Corolla last year.

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