Review: 2014 Mazda3 Sport GS – Part 4

The Mazda3 Sport GS that I’m driving this week has one key piece of technology that I am going to focus on. That’s the infotainment system. But before I get to it, let me talk about the safety technology that comes with the car:

  • You get anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control
  • You get dual front air bags, dual front side air bags and dual side air curtains

Then there’s the fact that you get auto-off headlights and keyless entry w/push-button ignition which makes life easier. But the real star of the show is the infotainment system called Mazda Connect. It’s got a 7″ touchscreen that sits on top of the dash. That’s much bigger than the 5.8″ screen that comes with the Mazda CX-5 or the Mazda6. As an aside, the first time my wife saw it, she said that it looks funny just sitting there on top of the dash like that. My response was “if this were a BMW 3 series or a Mercedes Benz B Class, would you make the same comment as they do exactly the same thing with their infotainment screens?”

There was no response as she knew I had a point.

You can use the screen to your heart’s content unless the car is in motion. In which case the touchscreen gets disabled for your safety. Thus if you need to adjust something, you need to use Mazda’s HMI (Human-Machine Interface) Commander Switch behind the shift lever. It’s a knob with redundant buttons around the sides that is quick to adapt to and use. You can use rotary, push and tilt operations to do what you need to do. It works very well and I adapted to it very quickly. There’s also voice commands that worked well to allow me to do things such as make phone calls.

Now the user interface is geared towards the use of the HMI as it has large icons and clear text to let you know what each function is at the top level. The menus below them are equally as clear. That allows you to figure out where everything is quickly. Now you get controls for the entertainment, communications, navigation, and an application section along with a setting section that allow you to change the settings of the system. Moving around the infotainment system is easy and fluid.

Now one thing that I would like to point out to you is the application section. My test car had apps for the HD Traffic Map, fuel economy monitor, an app to let you know when to service the car, and another app that gives you guidance on any warnings that the car generates. Other apps can be added to Mazda Connect once they become available.

In terms of entertainment, you get Aha Radio, Stitcher Radio along with Pandora. All of these work with apps that are installed on your smartphone to bring you Internet radio to your car. You also get Bluetooth audio as well as the ability to plug in two USB devices such as a pair of iPhones. One thing that I loved was the fact that once you plugged in your phone (in my case an iPhone 5s), the playlists and songs on the phone were almost instantly available. That was in stark contrast to the system that Mazda uses in the CX-5 or the Mazda6 where it could take minutes to accomplish the same thing. The sound from the six speaker audio system was decent. But those who are serious about their audio will want the optional Bose audio system with 9 speakers. Now there’s one other trick that’s interesting. You can use Aha Radio to access your Facebook and Twitter accounts. It’s not something that I would do, but Generation Millennial I am guessing would be very interested in this functionality.

The navigation system (which is powered by TomTom Nokia HERE) is easy to enter destinations into and the directions it gives are clear. Though it doesn’t read out the street names. It however makes up for that by displaying the names of streets at the top of the screen regardless of what mode you happen to be in. Still, having street names read aloud would be nice.

It also has these features:

  • 2D or 3D perspective for landmarks and city views
  • On-screen speed limits
  • Advance notice of upcoming exits and appropriate driving lane

All of this makes the navigation system easy to use and you’ll appreciate having it.

One final thing, it took me a minute to pair my iPhone 5S to the system and I believe anyone can do it without a problem. You can also get your e-mail and receive and send text messages from your phone if you’re so inclined.

After several days of using Mazda Connect, I am going to declare that this infotainment system has replaced Chrysler’s UConnect system as the easiest to use infotainment system on the market today. If I were Mazda, I would take this system complete with the HMI and use it in everything that they make. I would also promote it to death and get people to use it. They will find it to be simple to use and it works exceptionally well. Kudo’s to Mazda for coming up with this system.

The final part of this review will tie up some loose ends and I’ll give you my final verdict.

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