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rev higher and faster, and gives it a big boost in responsiveness. The engine note changes too, giving it a satisfying pitch and volume. Handling and driving stability appear to have improved marginally as well, thanks to a slightly longer and wider wheelbase. The GT version we tested has a 4-cylinder, 2.5 litre engine producing 184 horsepower, enough to give this light hatchback decent acceleration. Smaller 2.0 litre, 150 horsepower engines are available in lower-end versions, which start off at just $17,000. New to the Mazda3 is a decently-large

navigate, and synchs easily enough to smartphones. Unlike many others on the market, this is not a touchscreen, and is instead operated with a little knob located between the seats next to the cup holders. This is not necessarily a bad thing. While touchscreens are all the rage these days, they tend to get greasy and dirty in cars, and can be distracting to use. In the glove box are two USB ports, which make charging phones a snap. There’s also an SD card port, auxiliary audio jack and cigarette lighter-style power plug.

flat screen on the dashboard. The software on this console computer is mercifully intuitive and easy to

The backseat in the 2014 Mazda3 seems to have gotten smaller somehow, despite its larger footprint. This makes seating four adults comfortably a challenge, particularly if the driver is tall and needs the seat all the way back. The back row has a fold down armrest with cup holders, which is a nice touch. Rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split, to make an unbelievably very large trunk. Though it might not look it, all sorts of unwieldy furniture and even two bicycles can be squeezed in.

Given the wide range of improvement and its decent starting price, the Mazda3 shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone in the market for a small car. It offers a combination of performance, quality, functionality and fun that’s quite simply hard to beat.

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Verb Issue S273 (Jan. 17-23, 2014)  
Verb Issue S273 (Jan. 17-23, 2014)  

Verb Issue S273 (Jan. 17-23, 2014)

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