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  • Great engines and transmissions, with fine performance, refinement and economy; quieter, roomier and more stylish cabin; increased technology; still handles well
  • Steering and handling trade sharpness for stability and comfort; interior quality and quietness still not to Volkswagen Golf levels; price and equipment unknown

OUR RATING
9 / 10



2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review

Swap out of the old Mazda 3 and into the new Mazda 3 and it feels as though the fast-forward button has been pressed through not one, but two generations.

The new Mazda 3 sedan and hatch range are identical length to the five-year-old models they replace, but the wheelbase extends by 60mm and overhangs are reduced by 35mm front/25mm rear on both bodystyles.

Body width is up 40mm, while clever packaging means front shoulder room extends by a full 57mm – or about a third of the typical centre console width. Rear shoulder room is up 9mm, too, though second-row legroom actually falls by 10mm.

The larger interior reflects the newfound maturity of this Mazda 3. There’s more soft-touch dashboard plastics, although enough hard ones remain for its rival Volkswagen Golf to retain its benchmark interior quality status quo.

Beautiful touches abound, though, including the central tachometer and electronic speedometer nestled inside it, all encased in silver-finished binnacle.

The highlight is the new MZD connect seven-inch colour screen, which boasts a high resolution and is simple to use (but will only be available on higher grades).

With the diesel ditched, there will be two petrol engines and two transmissions in the new Mazda 3 – a 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre and 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre linked to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review

The first two new Mazda 3 models to arrive in Australia, and to be tested here at a private proving ground at Anglesea, Victoria, are a ‘middle grade’ 2.0-litre manual and ‘high grade’ 2.5-litre automatic.

Mazda also provided the equivalent previous-generation Neo Sport manual and SP25 auto models for back-to-back comparison testing.

The extra width and new interior of the third-generation Mazda 3 are backed by hugely increased refinement levels. Not only does the new car feel bigger and more stylish inside, but road roar on the coarse-chip and dirt parts of the proving ground, especially, are reduced.

That said, the previous Mazda 3 was one of the noisiest cars in its class, and the road and wind noise improvement with the new one still doesn’t quite match Volkswagen Golf or even Holden Cruze standards.

Perhaps even more noticeable is the engine noise reduction. Where the previous 2.0- and 2.5-litre engines are buzzy and loud as they segue through the upper and middle rev range, the new same-capacity units are both quieter and sweeter to the ear.

Being up to 90kg lighter than its predecessor – in addition to being 30 per cent more rigid – means the new Mazda 3 also feels faster.

An extra gear over the SP25 auto and the addition of proper steering-wheel-mounted paddles also better taps into the 2.5-litre’s power band, while the manual shift for the 2.0-litre is slicker, with a noticeably longer second gear that now stretches to 100km/h.

2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review

On the long, speed bowl at the proving ground the old Mazda 3 steering required only a tiny input to get the car to turn in, but the weighting was so light that delicate movements of the hands are needed. The new steering system is far more progressive on-centre, requiring more lock on turn-in, but also being more meaty and consistent once the front wheels bite.

The steering in the new Mazda 3 is quicker overall, though, so despite more initial input being required on turn in, it also takes less time to reach full left or right lock. That can be appreciated on the handling track’s couple of hairpins, where the driver doesn’t need to have their arms crossed-up.

Not only did the old Mazda 3 turn in quickly, but it also felt light on its feet, and was keen to quickly roll onto its outside rear tyres and oversteer after a mid-corner throttle lift. Some of that friskiness has been dialled out of the new Mazda 3 – in the same way it has between the most recent Mazda 6 generations – but although it now feels more planted and secure – thank the extended wheelbase – it’s also beautifully balanced and, more importantly, still fun.

Cornering limits are higher with the new Mazda 3, and the car responds less aggressively once they are reached. The stability control calibration remains excellent.

The lesser model on 16-inch alloy wheels and no-name tyres also rides noticeably better than the higher-grade car on 17-inch alloys with lower-profile Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres.

2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review

Both models lose the slight jiggliness that came from the old car’s firm suspension rates, but the newfound softness isn’t reflected by inferior handling, which is crucial for a manufacturer that retains the tag line ‘zoom-zoom’.

Mazda Australia is remaining tight-lipped about the launch line-up of the new Mazda 3, except to confirm that the entry car won’t have MZD connect and won’t cost below $20,000 (the current 3 Neo Sport is clearing out at $19,990 driveaway).

The middle grade model tested still had manual air-conditioning, but did include cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift lever, in addition to the aforementioned alloy wheels.

There was also a suggestion that the SP25 may not be the flagship Mazda 3 range, indicating that the top 2.5-litre may wear Akera or Atenza badges, following the new Mazda 6.

That’s especially likely considering the new Mazda 3 will be available with blind-spot monitoring, head-up display and auto braking between 4km/h and 30km/h, features standard in the Akera versions of Mazda 6 (and CX-5).

Those safety technologies, supported by the new HMI that features app and internet integration and an iDrive-like controller, further makes the previous Mazda 3 feel more than a generation behind.

Add excellent ride and refinement, terrific new drivetrains and the all-important new design that will no doubt help with showroom appeal and, if priced right, the third-generation Mazda 3 looks set to continue its sales success.


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MAZDA 3 BREAKDOWN

2014 Mazda 3 v old Mazda 3: Comparison Review
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  • TG

    CA writes: “There was also a suggestion that the SP25 may not be the flagship Mazda 3
    range, indicating that the top 2.5-litre may wear Akera or Atenza
    badges, following the new Mazda 6.”

    Considering the Mazda6 is known the Atenza in Japan, maybe the top-of-the-range newgen Mazda3 will be called a Axela?

    • Gevenish

      The top of the range is going to be called the Astina.

  • Edward

    I was skeptical at first about the new styling direction, but after seeing a Mazda 6 up close i must say i’m completely sold on the looks. The new line looks more upmarket while still keeping that flair Mazda is known for. Assuming the prices are in check, it’s a win-win.

    • no more please

      If you squint your eyes, looks like a Volvo S60

      Version 1 and 2 Mazda 6 drivers will be pleased.

      4 article in less than a week

      • performance

        Zero to 60 mph: 7.9 sec
        Zero to 100 mph: 22.4 sec
        Zero to 120 mph: 39.8 sec
        Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 8.3 sec
        Top gear, 30–50 mph: 14.3 sec
        Top gear, 50–70 mph: 13.8 sec
        Standing ¼-mile: 16.3 sec @ 87 mph
        Top speed (drag limited): 131 mph
        Braking, 70–0 mph: 178 ft
        Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.82 g

        • DAVID.ZYK

          FORGET ALL THAT RUBBISH,,,THE REAL WORLD NEEDS MPG!!!

          • MPG

            ok, get a Mazda 2

          • Nathan

            MPG is for dull people with no excitement in their life.

  • Zandit75

    Rather disappointing that there are no side-by-side photos of the old and new models. Would loved to have seen the evolution between the two.

    • Daniel DeGasperi

      Your wish is our command, Zandit75. Well, in this case it is. I’ve managed to find some pictures of new and old, side by side. Enjoy. Cheers, Dan, deputy editor, CarAdvice.

      • zahmad

        The rear end looks world apart now!
        The old model just looks horrid in those colours!

        • Norm

          Silver doesn’t do the new one any favours either.

      • Zandit75

        Awesome! Thank you very much. Looks more like a two or three generation gap now!

  • Sumpguard

    I’d take this over a golf.

    • $29896495

      me too

    • Zaccy16

      it be a very close call for me if i was choosing, both are top notch small cars and way a head of rivals, both are at least a generation ahead of other small cars, can’t wait to see a shoot out between this and the golf!

      • $29896495

        Can we stop calling them small cars? They stopped being small cars some time ago. Lets start calling them what they are medium.

        • Fgfgfgf

          All classes of cars have become larger, simple to understand! Yesterday’s medium is today’s small

          • $29896495

            You mean yesterdays small is todays medium. Sure cars have been grown that way since they started building them. Usually what happens is the big car falls off the top of the tree and a new small one comes in at the bottom. Like what is happening to the Falcon and what happened to the Holden before Commodore.

        • Zaccy16

          i agree they are medium but dumb v facts still calll them small

          • $29896495

            V facts works off information provided by manufacturers Zaccy. Not the other way around. The manufacturers tell them what sort of car it is and so it goes on from there. Toyota Camry/Aurion. Same car Toyota tell V facts one is big the other medium or what ever. Now others are trying to do it. Nissan for example.

      • Chad

        Let’s not forget that the VW would be at least a generation or 2 behind in terms of reliability.

        • Kelvin

          Says the person that doesn’t own one.

          • birdseye

            Wise man that Chad, a wise man.:)

          • Chad

            There is a very good reason i don’t own on one, between friends and family i know 5 people with them and looking at the constant recalls and going back to dealers has turned me off them. I almost brought one once but decided on something else and I’m glad i did.

    • guest

      Ummm the 3 interior quality is about a decade behind Golf.

      • $29896495

        The Germans on Drive It don’t think so. They did say the dash was rubbery though.

        • Sumpguard

          Looks fine to me. My neighbour bought a brand new Passat a couple of weeks back. The interior is no better than this car. No worse but no better.

  • zahmad

    What would be the no-name tyres?
    Not running chinese or korean branded tyres is it?

    Just found out the 16″ are infact Yokohama’s – Since when is Yokohama a no-name brand?

    • Daniel DeGasperi

      By no-name, zahmad, I meant the sidewalls were not stamped with a name, not the colloquial ‘no-name’ branding, and Mazda did not confirm the tyre specification. Cheers, Dan, deputy editor, CarAdvice.

      • zahmad

        Thanks Daniel for clearing that up…
        Strange Mazda put out cars to test with tyres that are not stamped at all….

  • JPM

    Great review! Is there a designated footrest this time?

  • Zaccy16

    Looks fantastic inside and out, has class leading efficiency for the performance and now adds more refinement to its fantastic handling!

    • Backa

      I agree zaccy better than and current vw

  • crouchy35

    I cant beleive im going to say this……. I think I like the sedan’s stlying better?!
    They really have outdone themselves.

  • crouchy35

    They need to get finance and servicing right. A few years back I bought a Corolla (company car) over a 3 simply because the finance and servicing cost savings.
    I knew the 3 was a better car but my bank account did not understand.

  • TomW

    I have to admit I’m one of the few who prefers the old car’s styling, and I wasn’t particularly impressed with that. The new one with its creases and “squeezed” head- and taillights looks over-done and will date quickly. That said, it probably is styled perfectly for right now.

    Oh, and it will undoubtedly soon be in plague proportions on Australian roads.

  • ABCDEFG

    The old one is more durable and will last longer. The simpler engine/gearbox/electrical system have fewer things to go wrong and they have been time tested. No engine auto start/stop, no direct injection, no complex battery charging system, no first gen gearbox, etc. Get it if you keep your cars for 20 years or longer.

    • Nathan

      20 years… There’s hardly anyone out there that keeps a car for even 10 years. Most cars have died after 20 years.

      • Old guy

        Behave, My wife is still driving her 15 year old Mazda 323 and loves it. I tried to move her into the last 3 but she didn’t like the styling. I think I have a chance now.

  • F1orce

    Loving that 2-tone interior. I can see that they had the American market in mind when designing it..

    Getting very tired of all the drab black on black plastic interiors.

  • Bo

    Dear CarAdvice,

    Will you be able to have a comparison review between Golf 7 and 2014 Mazda 3 in the near future?

    Cheers,

    • birdseye

      Yes please :)

    • Rocket

      Add the Focus Sport to the comparison also. Dynamically it is very good car but does need an interior makeover and the 1.6 Ecoboost from the Kuga. Are you listening Ford?

    • Daniel DeGasperi

      We in fact can’t wait for the Mazda 3 v Golf v others showdown, Bo. Stay tuned… Cheers, Dan, deputy editor, CarAdvice.

  • birdseye

    Sedan in red for me, thanks:)..hmmm or maybe the charcoal? Such a tough choice! BTW good snap shot video review carsadvice, Well done:)

  • WishfulThinking

    How tempting is it to remove the front number plate! Save on some camera fines too hehe

    • jke

      Speed/redlight cameras normally take the rear plate not the front as front plates aren’t lite and motorbikes don’t have them at all.

    • Robbo

      It is tempting and I looked in to it, but it’s illegal nowadays. Not like days of old where you could get away with it. But they have to catch you first ;-)

  • Norm

    Comparing it to the face lifted old model doesn’t really tell the full story. Certainly the new hatch is the better looker – and the new sedan is very good – but for me the very first original Mazda 3 sedan remains a classic.

  • Guest

    A good report. Enjoyed reading it.

  • Benzened

    Base Model in the UK is rumored to cost 16,500 pounds, and if we assume that the price is similar in Australia (most likely, its not!) then thats a huge price jump. No wonder they’re not telling us the price.

    • $29896495

      Saw a test a week ago on a US mag of this car – price there (as a means of comparison seeing our dollars are so close) is 18,000 including on roads. If Mazda push the price up here, they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot.

    • birdseye

      A ‘Reputable’ ( ;) )Country dealer said as much, the Neo manual will be $21,990 driveway with cruise control but metal wheels. The Maxx for $2,000 more, adds things such as reversing camera and mags. He didn’t say anything about infotainment- don’t know any other details. Zoom zoom ;)

      • ABCDEFG

        Come back in 3-4 more years and the Neo with alloys will be $19,990 drive away no more to pay.

      • matt

        top of range model will be called astina sp25

  • DAVID.ZYK

    It WILL still be $20k + ORC for a baseline m/t model YOU HAVE MY WORD

    • matt

      WE ALREADY KNOW THIS

  • Neil_Way

    Awesome looking vehicle (aside from the number plate location, but alas, nothing is perfect).

    Loving the new higher-grade interior, though I’m more interested to see what the base interior looks like. Considering that even the base Cruze gets a touch-screen display, Mazda will need to ensure their connectivity options remain up to spec for the Neo grade.

    • Exar Kun

      You’d think that after over one hundred years of designing cars, the designers would have figured out that number plates are mandatory front and back in most countries in the world and would start to account for this when they put pen to paper…

      • $29896495

        Apparently they did. There a thick black piece in the grill where you are meant to attach the plate.

  • Kerplunk

    Does anyone else think that the front license plate location looks terrible. However I love the overall look of the car, and will be driving a sedan home as soon as they become available… but 1st thing ill change is the plate location.

    • Robbo

      But to where?

  • Tappy

    looks good

  • Madam

    This review has failed to mention if The new Mazda 3 will feature Skyactiv on all models. This is an important issue since previous models are Not economical on petrol. My Mazda 3 neo chews 8.1/100 litre. Pretty poor for a small car.

  • Glenn Stewart

    The Mazda 3 has always been manufactured in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan. Mazda 2 was temporarily produced in Thai until fault increases, then it was swapped back to Hiroshima, Japan.

  • DC_Kodo

    The sedan is about 6 inches longer, but the wheelbase (that distance
    from the front hub to the rear hub) is the exactly same. So the sedan
    has some extra body work to make it longer and
    does look make it more filled, would suit a lifestyle of A to B driving, thats
    it.. the trunk is tiny! It looks great though but for a small compact car segment, the hatch is the most
    practical choice for versatility. If i really wanted a Sedan i would go
    for a Mazda 6.

  • guest

    The Thai made Mazda 3 if far from perfect.Service costs are expensive.There are issues with the transmission and driveline.Rear vision is poor in the hatch.
    Thailand have broken signed FTA with Australia.All Thai imports should be subjected to 15% tarrifs.

  • Zaccy16

    Mazda 3′s are made in japan and always have been, the only mazda built in thailand is the BT50 and briefly the Mazda 2 until they realised quality wasn’t as good as Japan

  • birdseye

    Can’t believe 3 people fell for your totally ignorant and rubbish statement. Heh heh. The only issues with the 3 is your source?! Wikipedia;)?! Zach is spot on… log in so you can be accountable buddy ;)

  • gtrxuone

    Is that right zaccy.Is that why Honda sales are falling,most Hondas are Thai made.

Mazda 3 Specs

DIESEL : 2.2L DIESEL TURBO F/INJ - 6 SP MANUAL - 4D SEDAN
Car Details
Make
MAZDA
Model
MAZDA3
Variant
DIESEL
Series
BL MY13
Year
2013
Body Type
4D SEDAN
Seats
5
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
DIESEL TURBO F/INJ
Engine Size
2.2L
Cylinders
DIESEL TURBO 4
Max. Torque
360Nm @  1800rpm
Max. Power
110kW @  3500rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
76.5W/kg
Bore & Stroke
86x94mm
Compression Ratio
16.3
Valve Gear
DUAL OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP MANUAL
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
2.954
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
DIESEL
Fuel Tank Capacity
55
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
5.7L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1438
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1470mm
Length
4580mm
Width
1755mm
Ground Clearance
155mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:900  Unbrake:550
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.9
Front Rim Size
6.5x16
Rear Rim Size
6.5x16
Front Tyres
205/55 R16
Rear Tyres
205/55 R16
Wheel Base
2640
Front Track
1535
Rear Track
1520
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Standard Features
Comfort
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones
Control & Handling
16 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution
Driver
Adjustable Steering Wheel - Tilt & Telescopic, Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Power Steering
Entertainment
CD with 6 CD Stacker, Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Exterior
Body Kit, Fog Lights - Front, Power Mirrors, Rear Spoiler
Interior
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Other
Service Interval
6 months /  10,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
9-H-14
Country of Origin
JAPAN