Pros: Sporty, nimble driving character; crisp manual shifter; well-assembled interior
Cons: Middling acceleration with 2.0-liter model; tacked-on navigation screen can wash out in bright sunlight conditions; some complicated audio controls; tight rear-seat space
CG Says: The 2014 Mazda 3 is new from the ground up, and it’s the third vehicle to offer the company’s full suite of “SKYACTIV” technologies. SKYACTIV is Mazda’s way of improving fuel economy without sacrificing driving enjoyment through the use of a strong, lightweight body and more efficient engines and transmissions. Mazda’s other two SKYACTIV models are the CX-5 compact SUV and 6 midsize sedan. The latter is also all new for 2014. The Mazda 3’s base engine (available in “i” models) is a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder; “s” models get a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. Both engines come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission; a 6-speed automatic is optional. The 2014 Mazda 3 brings a more-sophisticated platform, nicer interior materials, better fuel economy, and new technology features while maintaining the spunky, fun-to-drive personality that made the previous 3 a standout in its class.