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The 2014 Mazda3 Defines ‘Hot Hatch’

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While there are many contenders in the compact car and compact hatchback segments, there are very few that truly live up to the name “hot hatch.” The one most automotive journalists point to is the Ford Focus ST, but that’s to ignore what may be the most definitive hot hatch in the game: the all-new 2014 Mazda3. This car combines beauty, style, fun factor and performance with economy in one package. It’s the best of all worlds and has some of the most luxurious comfort offered in this segment.

Here at Guys Gab, we’ve looked at a lot of the cars in this market and were impressed with many of them. Yet each has a flaw that creates an opening for another to best it. The Corolla has a clunky CVT, the Forte is pricey in its top fitting, and the Focus is polarizing in its style. Until driving the 2014 Mazda3 S 5-door Grand Touring, I wasn’t sure that there was a car in this segment that had it all.

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The Mazda3 was completely revamped for the 2014 model year. It grew by about two and a half inches in length and proportionally in width, it got restyled to match its Mazda6 bigger brother, and it received the full suite of SKYACTIV treatments for safety, handling, and power. Finally, the interior was re-thought and completely redone.

With all of these improvements, the core essence of what makes the Mazda3 what it is wasn’t lost. Despite being somewhat larger and a lot more stylish, the 2014 3 still retains the excitement and fun that has marked Mazda’s compact car and made it the company’s best-selling global vehicle.

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The first thing noticed when looking at this car is that it has great style and a near-perfect balance of elegance and muscle in its look. The nose, hood and fenders are very similar to the look of the larger 6, but from there, things in the little Mazda3 begin to become unique. The elegant hood curve and sinuous fenders are fronted by the new Mazda grille that adorns all of the company’s current-generation vehicles. The windscreen tapers up to the roof in a coupe-like attack and the roof holds a gentle arch that continues down the rear hatch in a fastback style which gives this hatchback a far more powerful look than expected. Meanwhile, the belt-line and running board cut parallel one another upwards from the front tires to the rear where they define the muscular haunch created by the rear fenders and tail lamps.

The overall impression is one of a big, sleek cat ready to pounce on the road.

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This great design is carried to the interior, which recently won a Ward’s 10 Best for its style and comfort. It’s doubtful that any other vehicle in this segment can rival the 2014 Mazda3’s beautiful interior treatment and ergonomics. The slightly larger size of the car translates into more legroom in the rear seats and the slightly wider stance means more shoulder and hip room as well. The seats are more than comfortable all the way around and there’s ample room for four adults and their gear with room in the back seat for a third person if required. There isn’t a hint of cheap plastic anywhere and the array of standard and available technologies and options will make all but the most technophilic happy.

Under the hood, the base model 2014 Mazda3 sports the well-proven 2.0-liter inline-four the car has been known for in the past few years. It’s a capable, efficient engine with a decent amount of output for most drivers. That’s mated to a six-speed standard or automatic transmission (manual is standard in the base option, auto is standard in the Grand Touring trim). We prefer the 2.5-liter four, however, which boosts output to 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. In either engine, peak torque is at relatively low RPM thanks to these high-compression SKYACTIV engines. This gives powerful off-the-line acceleration in comparison to most other engine offerings on the market.

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On the road, the 2014 Mazda3 S is peppy, maneuverable, and confident. Fuel economy is very good at 33 mpg average for the 2.0L and 31 mpg average in the 2.5L in the five-door model. The “i” trim offers i-ELOOP for slightly better economy (roughly 1 mpg). Our test model was rated at 37 mpg on the highway and that was not difficult to achieve, though with the 2.5 under the hood, it’s a real act of self-control to keep from gunning that little engine at every opportunity.

The only complaint we had with the 2014 Mazda3 was its interior noise level, which is on par with the segment, but that’s not saying much. With such a great interior, you get the impression you’re in a luxury vehicle, but on the road, that impression vanishes. This can be made up for with the excellent 8-speaker Bose sound in the premium stereo offering. The driver will also note the ergonomics of the Commander control knob just below the shifter for navigating the infotainment system. No more missing the button because of a road bounce as you reach to the touch-screen thanks to that controller.

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The 2014 Mazda3 impressed us with its big interior, fun drive, high fuel economy, great looks, and all around excellence. It’s rare for an automotive journalist to honestly say they’d buy the car they were testing. Few segments have a truly dominant vehicle in them that makes it a hands-down choice like Mazda has done here. I would buy this car without hesitation. Now all I have to do is convince my wife that we no longer need our minivan.. Wish me luck.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. car news

    May 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Great review Aaron!

  2. Aaron

    May 10, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks. 🙂

  3. Pingback: The 2014 Mazda3 Defines ‘Hot Hatch’ | Aaron on Autos

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Sell Your Car And Buy a One-Way Ticket To One Of These Cities

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You’re probably not ready to pack up your entire life and move to another city just because it’s more walkable than your current area. However, if you’re on the lookout for opportunities to move to a different climate, make an improvement in your career, or get a change of scenery, then you might want to focus your research on some of these walkable and bikeable cities.

Why Ditch Your Wheels?

If you play your cards right, you might save money while getting a better standard of living. Without a car, you can subtract that major line item from budget and use the money for funding various other expenditures. For example, you could subsidize a higher cost of living in a place like New York City, or else give yourself a bigger party budget in a more affordable metropolis, such as Chicago.

Made in America

We excluded cities in Europe and Asia, such as Copenhagen, Paris, Tokyo, and London — but feel free to dream about moving there too. We left these great candidates out because the USA is the country of the automobile, and many other countries in the world that don’t share this vehicular passion boast major cities that are, on average, a lot easier to navigate on foot, on a bike, or on public transportation.

An Unlikely Candidate

If you know anything about the sprawling west-coast city, you probably know that Los Angeles has a lot of cars and a lot of traffic. In decades past, the city’s name was a byword for air pollution, with a massive amount of vehicles pumping out exhaust while they sat jammed onto the collosal superhighway system. More recently, the city has been building bicycle infrastructure. It’s also introducing some enhancements to public transportation.

A Dense Metropolis

Obviously, you can live without a car in New York City. In fact, it’s prohibitively expensive to own a car in the Big Apple. High gas prices, skyrocketing land prices that drive up parking rates, and the never-ending traffic in the busier areas all contribute to NYC’s love-hate relationship with taxis and the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Bike-share systems and bicycle lane conversions sweeten the deal for New Yorkers who go car-free.

Many other dense cities in the United States are also easy to navigate without a car, and the Windy City certainly qualifies. The Chicago Transit Autority serves every corner of the city with busses and the L. Metra trains and Pace buses take care of the suburbs, all the way out to Wisconsin and Indiana. Even people who live in fairly distant suburbs tend to go with mass transit for their daily commutes.

A Country of Cyclists?

As you’ve probably noticed, biking is a growing trend across the USA. In Chicago, for example, the city has been building new bike lanes all across the central area in the past few years, as well as rolling out a bike-share program.

A great street bike costs more money than you might expect, but you have options if you’re a little strapped for cash at the moment. There are plenty of places that offer a good amount of cash for cars in Chicago. If you’re in a major city with expanding bike accessibility and you’re considering ditching your automotive option, then you might be able to subsidize that fancy street bike with the money you get from your clunker.

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On Track With The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

There’s no question about it, the mid-cycle refresh that the 2018 Ford Mustang received was a total game-changer, with the iconic pony car getting a host of upgrades in the styling, power, and handling departments, making the world’s best-selling sports car even better than before.

With 460 horsepower on tap, a 0-60-mph time of under four seconds (with the new 10-speed automatic transmission, which shifts lightning-quick), and the optional MagneRide active suspension system, this new Mustang performs like no other pony car before it, save for the track-ready Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.

But the passionate Mustang team couldn’t leave well enough alone, curious to see just how far they could push the performance of the new ‘Stang, focused on improving the car’s handling capabilities. To achieve this, they started by adding an aggressive front splitter (inspired by the Boss 302 Laguna Seca Mustang) and rear spoiler to deliver more downforce and gives the car more grip in the corners.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

From there, they added a set of 305/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (1.5 inches wider than the wheels on Performance Pack Level 1) wrapped around 19×10.5-inch front and 19×11-inch rear wheels. These sticky tires provide a firmer grip and work with the retuned chassis to put the car more than a half-inch closer to the ground.

Custom tuned MagneRide dampers and quicker steering calibration provide better response. Other improvements over the Mustang Performance Pack Level 1 include a 67% stiffer rear stabilizer bar, a 12% stiffer front stabilizer bar, 20% stiffer front springs and rear springs that are 13% stiffer, all of which contribute to a more stable ride around corners with less body roll.

The results of their skunkworks efforts? The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2, a $6,500 package for the Mustang GT that transforms the already-capable pony car into a true sports car, one that you can take to the track on the weekends.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

To prove that point, Ford invited us up to Monticello Motor Club for a track day with the Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2, and I was giddy with excitement, as this would be the perfect setting to showcase what this car could really do, as this challenging track will really highlight a car’s strengths and weaknesses. This was going to be a fun one!

The only problem? Rain. 🌧

Yes, Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade… literally, cutting short our time with the Performance Pack 2. Still, we managed to get in one session on the track (one warm-up lap, two hot laps, and one cool down lap) before the rain started coming down. I hoped that we’d be able to continue driving in the rain (at a slower pace), but unfortunately the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are not suitable for rain the least, with very little tread to speak of.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

While I would have loved more time to really explore the Mustang PP2’s capabilities, from my brief time behind the wheel, I can tell you that this car felt right at home on the track, ripping through the course with surgical precision, with nary a squeal from those meaty tires, the Cup 2’s keeping the car glued to the road.

On the road, the Mustang was surprisingly comfortable, and one could realistically make this their daily driver (assuming they live somewhere where it doesn’t rain). The only issue is that those massive 305s up front lead to some tramlining on less than perfect roads. Still, it is a small price to pay for the handling benefits they provide on the track and in the twisties.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

Mustang chief engineer Carl Widdmann says it best: “We wanted to do a car that maximized the ability to put the power down, to create a car that you’d love driving up through, say, the canyons around L.A. It’s not the ultimate track Mustang, it bridges the gap between the Performance Pack and the track-ready GT350.”

And that’s really the best way to describe it. Ford has built a number of different Mustang GT variants (base GT, PP1, PP2, Bullitt), all with different customers in mind. For most folks, the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2 is overkill. But if you’re an enthusiast like me who plans on driving your car hard, I think this $6,500 package is a no-brainer.

Game on, Camaro SS 1LE.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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Review: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T

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2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

In general, the midsize sedan world is about as sexy as a Billy Bass with Alexa’s voice. Where supercars with curvy looks get all the credit for automotive sexiness, though, midsize sedans actually do the work of being realistic. The good news is that being pragmatic and going for the 2018 Hyundai Sonata doesn’t mean you have to settle for frumpiness, as this is a really sleek-looking sedan.

For the 2018 model year, Hyundai didn’t do much to change the already well-done Sonata. A few tweaks to the interior design, some added suave to the exterior, and a lot of extra safety features make up most of the changes for this model year. The 2018 Sonata is otherwise the top-shelf sedan it’s been for some time.

From the outside, curb appeal is eyebrow-lifting with the 2018 Hyundai Sonata. The signature Hyundai diamond-shaped grille is flanked by a curved, beautifully sculpted hood and long, narrow LED headlights. Tapered fenders and a sporty lower intake and aero baffle are set off by large intake/fog lamp bezels. The bodywork on the Sonata features a strong upper beltline groove and edge, a well-defined and curved running board cut below, and an aggressively sporty roofline and fastback rear end. Noticeably on this new Sonata, the deck lid has an integrated spoiler replacing the add-on aero from before.

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

The rear wheels of the 2018 Hyundai Sonata are pushed to the corners’ edge while the front wheels feature some overhang ahead that promises smooth handling. Ground clearance is a sporty straight line that matches the beltline above.

This is a great look for the 2018 Sonata and it’s really set apart in the crowded midsize market. Once inside the Sonata, we found, the exterior’s beauty continues with intelligent and well-done interior design.

A new three-spoke steering wheel is fitted to the Sonata to emphasize a driver-centric feel for the cabin. The dashboard and center console have been reworked to make them less bulky and more modern. Seating is very comfortable with a lot of creature comforts available to add to that. The rear bench can seat three across and has excellent outboard positions with plenty of head and legroom despite the sloped roofline and smaller appearance of the rear doors.

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

Many of the additions to the 2018 Hyundai Sonata are in the technologies found behind the beautiful design work. Updated suspension and handling mean better ride quality and more engagement at the wheel. Technologies now standard in the Sonata include advanced options like blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist.

The Sonata has a host of trim level options (seven in all). Three four-cylinder engines can be chosen from, each with either a six-, seven-, or eight-speed automatic transmission on offer. That’s a lot to choose from, sure, but it means that the Sonata can be tailored to meet needs without sacrificing looks and comfort.

The base model is the SE, followed by the SEL, the Sport, and the Limited. These four models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 184 horsepower to a six-speed automatic transmission. A much more interesting turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder (245 hp) and an eight-speed automatic transmission are found on the Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T trims. Finally, the Eco trim has its own 1.6-liter turbocharged four that outputs 178 horses into a dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic.

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited - Interior

Prices vary based on which trim level you choose, of course, but the base model’s price tag is lower than all but one of its competitors in the segment, and the Sonata comes with more standard equipment than almost all of the others. The Eco model is only $600 more than that, upgrading just the powertrain to improve fuel economy.

We drove the Limited 2.0T trim and would highly recommend the turbocharged two liter for its peppy drive quality, fast responses to the throttle, and smooth-shifting transmission. This combination brings a whole ‘nother level of sexiness to the 2018 Sonata and is well worth the extra money spent.

It is possible to have everything in one package and the 2018 Hyundai Sonata certainly does a good job of offering just about the whole shebang in one car.

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