Mazda3 keeps on winning awards

With more than 130 international awards and citations to its credit, the Mazda3 continues to separate itself from the traffic jam in the compact car segment.

The most significant awards include Best Car Under $21,000 for two years running from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and Best Car Over $21,000 by the same group for 2014. Road Track magazine put it on its Best of Everything list and Car and Driver included it in its 10 Best Cars for 2014, while the Motor Press Guild called it the Innovation Vehicle of the Year.

With credentials like these, it’s no surprise that the Mazda3 has become the darling of the automotive press and a clear winner among people who appreciate great value and performance.

And speaking of value, Kelley Blue Book, a leading provider of new and used car information, recently named the Mazda brand as having the best residual value across the entire model line.

The all-new, third generation Mazda3 builds heavily on the success of the previous model.

While the family resemblance is very clear, the new model is built on an entirely new, wider, lighter and more rigid SkyActiv platform, shared with the Mazda5 and CX-5. This allows for a longer wheelbase (2700 mm. up from 2640 mm.), creating additional space for the cabin and engine compartment.

But the most important dimension is the width of 2052 mm. (80.7 in.). This is a whopping 300 mm. (12.0 in.) wider than the Honda Civic and 276 mm. (11.0 in.) wider than the Toyota Corolla.

The result is an airy cabin with the kind of legroom and shoulder room you’d more likely find in a mid-size sedan. And remember, too, that the Mazda3 Sport comes in hatchback form (not offered by Civic or Corolla) with even more interior space.

While overall length remains the same, the car’s wider stance, lower roof line and longer hood, give it a more lean and athletic look. It’s a better expression of Mazda’s “Kodo” design philosophy that is meant to evoke the vitality of a wild animal in motion. A more restrained five-point grille replaces the rather guppy-like mouth of the previous model with five horizontal bars flanked by neatly integrated Halogen automatic headlights and fog lamps. The longer hood allows for shapelier fenders and a swooping bodyline that sweeps over the front wheel wells, under the glasshouse and over the rear wheel wells. The new look combines a look of power with sophistication.

It’s really all about the drive. The 2014 Mazda3 takes ride, handling and responsiveness to another level, thanks to the lighter, more rigid platform and longer wheelbase. While most vehicles come with a certain amount of understeer (when the front end tends to drift out on long sweeping corners, requiring you to dial in additional steering), the Mazda3 carves an accurate curve thanks to the rpm-variable rackand-pinion steering. Meanwhile, the rigid platform allows the firm but supple independent suspension to do its job.