Winner of the small cars under $21k category is a compact wonder
The new Mazda3 makes its debut this fall for the 2014 model year completely redesigned and better than ever.
At a starting price of $15,995, it’s a superb compact car with extremely good handling and great looks. It’s also packed with standard features—like a 7-inch touchscreen, back-up camera and auto headlights—that bump up its value. This car has won the Best Small Car Under $21,000 category in the 2014 Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Canadian Car of the Year awards and is a strong contender for the overall Car of the Year.
Starting from the exterior, the long, sleek nose is reminiscent of a European sports sedan, and has a much improved “face” over the old Mazda3’s silly grin. Inside, there are a few odd details such as the touchscreen sticking up awkwardly from the dash, looking like an afterthought. The rest of the cabin is classic Mazda simplicity, updated with soft finishes and attractive accents.
Performance from this car is excellent in both the automatic and six-speed manual transmission models which are paired with a 2-litre, 155-hp engine. Each offers peppy acceleration, great handling and excellent braking, especially compared to the other cars in this class (Corolla and Versa). It’s a truly fun car to drive, yet the Mazda3 also manages to turn in fuel economy numbers that best the Corolla’s. A bigger, 2.5L engine is also available this year.
Drivers of the Mazda3 Sport (the hatchback) will have to contend with a significant blind spot. The driver’s seat also feels cheap. In the manual model, the driver’s armrest and items in the cup holders at times interfere with shifting. These shortcomings, however, are more than made up for by the car’s roomy versatility, with the split, fold-down seats and rear hatch.
This would be a great car for use in a fleet where the ability to carry moderate or bulky loads and people are needed from the same vehicle. The sedan version is less expensive than the Sport, yet still boasts a large trunk and reasonable room for back-seat passengers.