New Mazda3 sheds pounds, gains connected features

Although the Mazda3 received an update for the 2012 model year, for 2014 it sees an extensive rebuild, with a whole new look and new cabin electronics.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Watch this: Smaller Mazda3 gets new tech

Editors' note: This article has been updated to reflect new reports of an upcoming Mazda3 sedan version.

Today, Mazda pulled the covers off its bread-and-butter hatchback, the Mazda3, which receives a major update for 2014. The car gets a new engine, styling, and cabin electronics, along with a unique head-up display.

Some years ago, the company set off on a program, named Skyactiv, to re-engineer all of its models, giving them modern looks and electronics and greater efficiency. The Mazda3 takes advantage of every facet of the Skyactiv program.

The 2012 Mazda3 benefited from the new 2-liter Skyactiv engine, using direct injection to produce 155 horsepower and achieve 28 mpg city/39 mpg highway in EPA testing.

The 2014 model gets that engine option, but may increase fuel economy because of lighter weight and Mazda's i-Eloop regenerative braking technology. Buyers can also opt for a 2.5-liter engine, currently used in the Mazda6, which makes 184 horsepower.

All-new Mazda3 takes the stage in New York (pictures)

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Interior photos of the car show a whole new cabin tech interface, a fixed LCD sticking up from the center stack with a dial controller on the console. This LCD will show stereo and phone controls, and optional SD card-based navigation. Mazda also adopts Aha Internet radio integration, a connected feature that runs on a driver's smartphone but shows information on the car's LCD.

As a unique HUD technology, the Mazda3 sports a transparent panel sticking up from the dashboard, which will show a projection of the vehicle speed and other useful information for drivers. This panel allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road while still monitoring speed.

Mazda also said the new car will be offered with a number of different driver assistance features. A blind-spot monitor will alert the driver to vehicles traveling in the lanes to the left or right of the Mazda3. A laser-based system can initiate automatic braking if it senses an impending collision at speeds below 20 mph. Radar-based adaptive cruise control matches the vehicle speed with slower traffic ahead.

The body received a huge overhaul. Mazda reduced the length and height, though widening it a bit. Much of the body re-engineering was done to shed pounds, which will lend to greater fuel economy.

Big changes to the styling reflect the new look of the Mazda6. The 2014 Mazda3 appears to have a longer nose and a more heavily raked hatchback. Heavy sculpting in the sides shows off Mazda's Kodo design language.

Online reports suggest Mazda will show off a sedan version of the Mazda3 in the coming months.