$8,894 - $13,485

2014 Mazda Mazda3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2014 Mazda Mazda3 was new.


Performance: 9.3

Test drivers are wowed by the 2014 Mazda3’s performance. They say that the base engine is competent for a daily driver, while a more powerful, optional 2.5-liter engine provides plenty of power. Auto writers agree that responsive steering, a well-tuned suspension and smooth-shifting manual and automatic transmissions make for a fun ride.

  • "In fact, aside from edgier (and pricier) performance compacts like the Ford Focus ST, Honda Civic Si, or the VW Golf GTI, the new Mazda 3 just might be the most rewarding car to drive in the class." -- Road and Track
  • "The 3 is, without question, the best-driving car in the segment." -- Autoblog
  • "In short, this is a commuter car that can keep up with genuine sports cars, and not just because the 2.5-liter variant is pretty peppy." -- Left Lane News
  • "Fire up the 2.0-liter and it groans a little, but during most driving you can barely hear the exhaust. It's smooth and pulls strongly up to highway speeds, but there's not much extra thrust for accelerating to super-legal velocities. You notice the extra power in the 2.5-liter, and its more throaty engine note." -- Popular Mechanics

Acceleration and Power

The redesigned 2014 Mazda3 comes with a 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which is paired with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. There’s also an optional 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Equipped with a manual transmission, the base engine gets up to 29/41 mpg city/highway, according to the EPA. That’s outstanding for the class and is comparable with the fuel economy of the diesel Volkswagen Golf. When equipped with the more powerful 2.5-liter engine, the Mazda3 gets slightly lower ratings at 28/39 mpg city/highway.

While reviewers say the base 2.0-liter engine will be adequate for most drivers, they prefer the more powerful 2.5-liter engine for its smooth character and quick acceleration. The manual transmission offers fast, crisp shifting and the automatic transmission is responsive with wheel-mounted paddle shifters that make it more fun to drive than a conventional automatic, they say. Still, a few reviewers wish that the 2.5-liter engine was available with a manual transmission.

  • "Enthusiasts will prefer the extra kick of the 184-horsepower 2.5-liter engine, but the even-more-fuel-efficient 155-horsepower base 2.0-liter is quite capable, if a bit less exhilarating." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The manual transmission on the 2.0-liter is a reminder that choosing your own gears is a reward unto itself. Light, direct, and free of any slop, we only wish Mazda offered the six-speed with both engines." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Acceleration isn't exactly strong in the base 3 i, but the 155-hp engine has enough muscle to pull itself to freeway speeds without eliciting any worry from the driver. Engine noise is kept distant, and the note doesn't really change as the revs increase. There's no waiting for the power to arrive, but rather a smooth, steady stream of pull." -- Car and Driver
  • "But the automatic is in no way a Debbie Downer. It uses a traditional torque converter to get things moving at crawl speeds, but beyond that, the action is far closer to a dual-clutch than a conventional slushbox. The Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic comes with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and this is one case where I highly encourage use of them during spirited driving. That whole line about being dual-clutch-quick is the honest truth, and the action is really enjoyable." -- Autoblog
  • "The 2.5-liter's additional 35 lb-ft of torque, however, offers smoother, quieter and more capable acceleration, with minimal impact to overall fuel economy. We recommend stretching your budget for the larger engine if possible. With either engine, however, the automatic transmission is a bright spot, offering shifts that are remarkably quick, responsive and smooth." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers say the Mazda3 trumps the competition with athletic handling, crisp steering and powerful brakes. It’s simply fun to drive, they say. Some reviewers note that the Mazda3 can feel moderately bumpy around curves, but others point out that any minor bumps are a worthy concession given the Mazda3’s superb handling.

  • "We struggle to think of another car in the compact segment that is this much fun to drive or feels as solid on the highway. If you don't enjoy driving the Mazda3, you're doing something wrong." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "The Mazda, however, is good for plenty of smiles from behind the wheel, simply because of how willing it is to be driven hard. The 3 is, without question, the best-driving car in the segment." -- Autoblog
  • "The 2014 Mazda3 is the full package, a car that thoroughly exceeds high expectations set by its predecessors. For one, there's not a more balanced chassis in the compact car segment. Working with one of the most communicative electric power steering setups in the business, the 3's fully independent suspension makes even the slightest bend in the road feel like one of Southern California's famous canyons. Strong brakes reign things in when needed, while the s model's 18-inch alloy wheels impact ride quality only slightly." -- Left Lane News
  • "The steering feel is simply the best I've sampled in a front-drive car (having not yet tried VW's newest Golf or the Focus ST, about which many also rave). … its steering effort builds nicely all the way up, giving some subtle tugs and jiggles as the road surface changes. You take the good with the bad -- there's modest kickback on bumps when the lateral gs are up -- but the trade-off is well worth it." -- Motor Trend

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