Press-Republican

Community News Network

February 10, 2014

Redesigned Mazda3 among best new small cars

Mazda must be dabbling in black magic.

How else can you explain the fact that this relatively small Japanese company is doing what no one else in the car industry seems to have figured out? They’re building cars that get amazing gas mileage and are exhilarating to drive at the same time.

Doing one or the other is easy. If you cram a giant engine into a little car, you’ll get people’s hearts racing. And on the flip side, you can put a puny engine into a tin-can car and get good gas mileage.

But what Mazda has done with this car, the all-new Mazda3, is remarkable.

First of all, it’s rated for 41 mpg on the highway. To put that in perspective, it’s the exact same mileage figure as the first-generation Toyota Prius hybrid, which set the standard for hyper-efficient cars when it was introduced.

Unlike many fuel-saving cars, though, the Mazda3 doesn’t feel like a dinky, hamster-powered contraption. It feels quick and nimble, matching the breathtakingly fun feeling that I loved in the previous generation 3.

I’m not quite sure how Mazda managed to do that. Mazda’s Department of Marketing Mumbo Jumbo came up with the term “SKYACTIV” to describe how the engine, transmission, body and chassis work together to boost performance and gas mileage, but black magic still makes more sense to me.

Whatever the root cause, this is one of my favorite small cars to drive in a long time. And it’s for reasons that go much deeper than gas mileage.

From the driver’s seat, this new design feels like one of the fastest, most fun compact cars you can buy. It doesn’t drive at all like a car that’s designed for good gas mileage, strangely enough.

I love the new look Mazda gives this car for 2014. It gets a long, sports-car-like hood, swept-back headlights and a sleek, expensive-looking overall shape. I think it looks like a smaller, sportier version of the pricey Lexus RX 350 that I tested last week.

Inside, this is one of the best cabins I’ve ever seen in a compact car. It has soft materials on the dash, tight construction, and — at least in my test car — all the bells and whistles you could possibly imagine being in a commuter vehicle: automatic headlights, a heads-up display, lane departure warning, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, blind-spot sensors, a navigation system and lots more.

On the downside, all those extras added a lot to the price of my test car. It rang up over $29,000, which — to me, at least — seems like an awful lot of money for a Mazda compact car. The base version of this car, starting under $17,000, makes more sense for most people.

As a whole, though, this is one of the most impressive small cars I’ve driven in years. Even at the end of its lifespan, the previous generation Mazda3 was one of my favorites, and this new version raises the bar even higher.

It’s kept the lovable, fun-to-drive spirit of the Mazda3 while adding better gas mileage for today’s world. If Mazda had to stick pins into Honda and Toyota voodoo dolls to do that, so be it.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • A night in Ferguson

    For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby.

    August 14, 2014

  • weightloss.jpg The scales of injustice: Weight loss differs between men, women

    You're not imagining it: There really are differences between the way men and women diet, lose weight and respond to exercise.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Robin_Williams.jpg Williams among many who cracked jokes while fighting depression

    Robin Williams isn't the only comedian who has struggled with a disease suffered by an estimated 350 million people worldwide. Williams, a comedian known for his manic energy, committed suicide Aug. 11 at age 63.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo