Our Four Seasons 2014 Mazda 3 s Touring has been a surprisingly popular winter favorite among our staffers. The 215/45R-18 93V Pirelli Sottozero Series II winter tires recommended to us by our partners at Tire Rack have been a notable success, and I was happy to have them on all four corners as I plowed through some ghastly winter weather on a road trip to my hometown of Philadelphia and back.
We embark on the road to glorious Philadelphia
My dad and my brother joined me for the ride back home after flying in for the Detroit auto show. Looking at the forecast, I could sense that there were silent musings that the front-wheel-drive 2014 Mazda 3 wouldn’t see us through to our destination. My mom would not be pleased if the three of us turned into human popsicles before we even hit Pittsburgh.
But I wasn’t really concerned after hearing associate editor Greg Migliore praise the Mazda 3’s new rubber. “It’s an excellent snow machine,” said Migliore. “I white-knuckled my way across metro Detroit in it during a scary blizzard, and it had the proper amount of balance and security on the road.”
The other Weiner gentlemen agreed once we got going, and we could settle into the nine-hour journey at ease. The Mazda had no trouble charging down the road in faint tracks left on the snowy surface of the turnpike by the traffic ahead. My dad found the car’s sporty handling and firm ride to be an exciting surprise on a seemingly mainstream compact hatch.
Squeezing the gas pedal means shrinking the mpg
On the other hand, fuel economy from the 184-hp 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine proved to be a real head-scratcher. We achieved just 33 mpg on the highway despite traveling at a steady 74 mph with cruise control for the vast majority of the trip. That’s well short of the 37-mpg highway rating.
When I told my brother that the car had been averaging just over 29 mpg combined so far in the test (short of the 31 mpg rating), he wasn’t sure whether we were being ripped off or if all Automobile staffers just drive with lead feet. Finally I realized that the government doesn’t calibrate mpg ratings at 74 mph, steady or not.
Our biggest complaint was the Mazda’s lack of long-distance comfort. My brother and dad were soundly unimpressed by the front seats, which for them lacked the necessary lumbar support for a long road trip.
Road noise was another noticeable problem, and it often drowns out the otherwise top-quality Bose sound system. Sitting in the back, I was unhappy to feel every gust of wind sway the car side to side. Although I usually prefer a light and nimble car, the Mazda 3’s 3002-lb curb weight made me wish for extra road-hugging weight when the winds began to compromise stability.
A polar vortex in Philly
After a restful stay with my family (I cannot say more for fear my mother might be reading this), I was eager to get back to Ann Arbor. Mother Nature would have none of this, however. Sheets of freezing rain and inches of slush on the road slowed me the whole way.
I pulled the washer-fluid stalk every two minutes as I tried to keep the windshield clear of salty gunk, and it got so bad that my wrist actually cramped up. I ran out of fluid and had to buy more at a rest stop, and then I went through over half of the new jug in the last three hours of my trip. (If you wondered why turnpike gas stations sell jugs of washer fluid, now you know.)
For all of this, I felt pretty good when I finally reached Ann Arbor. Despite the crummy weather, the $26,185 Mazda 3 ferried me a huge distance in horrible weather without incident. I didn’t die or even smack into anything, and for that, I’m willing to forgive a bit of noise and lackluster fuel economy.
After three big road trips in its first few months in our Four Seasons fleet, we think the 2014 Mazda 3 deserves a sunny vacation somewhere warm. Out west? Down south? What kind of fuel economy can we get at 80 mph?
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