EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 8, 2013

New Mazda3 rewrites the rules

Car companies remake a car model every four, five or six years, bringing out a wholly new, re-engineered and re-styled version meant to maintain the vehicle’s standing.

They have to. Technology advances. Tastes and styles change. The competition to get your attention, and hold your attention, is fierce in the auto biz.

But newly re-built, next-generation models very often are place-holders that maintain the status quo. Sure, they’re noteworthy milestones. But they’re milestones like a college graduation. They’re not like the breakthrough of, say, New Hampshire’s Alan B. Shepard becoming the first American in space.

The new, 2014 Mazda3 is closer to the Shepard-style breakthrough than it is to a graduation. The car is slick and sophisticated. It stirs passions. It could incite a renewal of excitement and bring a fresh fervor to small, economical autos.

“Mazda has completely changed the game, not just for themselves, but for the competition as well,” said Bryce Hanson, sales consultant at Lannan Mazda, Lowell, based on what he sees in the showroom since Mazda introduced the next-generation 3 late in the summer.

The new Mazda3 stands out all the more because it’s a car that could be ordinary. The model’s trim and tidy size places it in the compact class, with competing vehicles that emphasize economy and practicality. Going against such enormously popular models as the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the Mazda3 needs to possess attractive amounts of usefulness and thrift. It does that, with a starting price of $17,740 for a four-door sedan version, ranging upward to $27,290 for top level of the five-door hatchback model, which works out to be a technology show-piece.

The fuel economy of the new 3 is at the top of the class. Its standard, 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers a government gas-use rating of 30 miles-per-gallon in city driving, and 41 mpg on the highway (34 mpg combined) – for a sedan model equipped with automatic transmission, a $1,050 upgrade from the standard, manual transmission.

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