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New 2014 Mazda3 loses the smile, gains plentiful tech in a sharp new package

Mazda has been on a roll lately. The Mazda6 sedan and CX-5 crossover have reinvigorated the brand with standout styling and new powertrain tech, and now the heroes from Hiroshima are trying to keep that momentum going with a reskin of the compact Mazda3.

Unveiled Wednesday at a press event in New York, the redesigned Mazda3 takes the winning attributes of the company’s bigger cars and puts them in a smaller, compact segment package.

The most apparent change is end of the happy-faced styling, which was one of the previous 3’s less desirable traits.

“We got rid of the smile,” Mazda Design Director Derek Jenkins said, referring to the current car’s previously extroverted visage. Instead, the 2014 Mazda3 takes on the “Kodo” design theme we’ve already seen in the Mazda6 and CX-5.

With it’s upright, shield-like grille, flowing front fenders, and sculpted sides, the new 3 is much easier on the eyes. Mazda is definitely doing its part to beautify the compact car segment.

Underneath the new sheetmetal is an impressive amount of technology. The instrument cluster has gotten a complete makeover, with a large centered tachometer and inset digital speedometer flanked by two information screens. Would-be fighter pilots will want to spec the optional Heads Up Display, which shows speed and turn-by-turn directions.

A new infotainment system features Harman’s Aha and its associated apps (including Facebook and Twitter); Pandora will also be available. Mazda eschewed the normal center stack screen for a fixed unit mounted atop the dashboard. The company says this puts the display closer to the driver’s line of sight.

The 2014 Mazda3 also comes with expected tech options like Bluetooth and a USB port. An optional Bose audio system includes Centerpoint 2 virtual surround sound playback.

Overall, the designers have done an impressive job of putting a lot of information within an eye twitch of the driver. The question is whether said driver will suffer from information overload when everything is turned on!

The new 3 won’t just be a four-wheeled smartphone, though. The mechanical bits have also been thoroughly overhauled.

The base engine will be the 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder from the current 3, which produces 155 hp and 150 pound-feet of torque. A 2.5-liter mill with 184 hp and 185 lb-ft will be offered as an option. Fuel economy numbers weren’t available at press time, but Mazda says the 3 will rival hybrids in the mpg arena.

Mazda will also offer its i-ELoop regenerative braking system from the 6 in the 2014 3. The system uses a capacitor to store electrical energy, taking some of the load off of the car’s alternator. Since the engine doesn’t have to spin it as hard to deliver the power, it saves a bit of gas. Every little bit counts these days.

Also new for 2014 is the i-ActivSense suite of safety tech. Features include: High Beam Control, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Obstruction Warning, Smart City Brake Support automated braking, and radar-guided cruise control. Sorry, there’s no option for missile launchers for slow-moving left lane hogs.

The 2014 Mazda3 goes on sale in September. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date and get a test drive impression for you later this summer.

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