When I was 10, my dad set me and a go-kart loose in an abandoned parking lot, free to zip around the blacktop. At that age, you don't give a thought to how much gas costs; it's all about the fun. At this age, however, fuel economy is a big consideration when it comes to buying a car, but it doesn't have to trump the fun-to-drive factor.
There are plenty of cars that offer both fun and fuel savings, from affordable subcompacts and gas-electric hybrids to pricier luxury cars and diesel-powered vehicles. To qualify for this list, a car has to have an EPA combined rating of 30 mpg, while bringing out the inner go-kart-loving kid in all of us:
Vehicles Affected: Approximately 5,700 model-year 2014 Mazda3 compact cars and model-year 2014-2015 Mazda6 midsize sedans equipped with the 2.5-liter engine and a regenerative braking system. Only Mazda3 vehicles manufactured from June 12 through Dec. 18, 2013, and Mazda6 vehicles manufactured from May 20 through Dec. 4, 2013, are affected.
The Problem: Driving through rain or heavy puddles could cause the alternator belt to slip and send a faulty message to the power control module. This could cause a loss of power steering assist and possible engine stall, increasing the risk of a crash.
The Fix: Dealers will reprogram the PCM for free.
What Owners Should Do: Mazda will notify owners later this month. Owners can call Mazda at 800-222-5500 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 888-327-4236 for more information.
Two redesigned-for-2014 vehicles have joined the ranks of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's five-star safety club. Both the sedan and hatchback versions of the Mazda3 compact car made the grade, as did regular and hybrid versions of the Toyota Highlander three-row crossover.
Both versions of the Mazda3 received scores of five stars in frontal- and side-impact tests and four stars in rollover tests for an overall score of five. The newly redesigned Mazda3's safety ratings compare favorably to those of its predecessor; the 2013 models both received an overall score of four stars, including five for frontal crashes, three for side-impacts and four for rollovers.
The 2014 Highlander models got four stars in frontal-impact and rollover ratings and five stars in side-impact tests for an overall score of five stars. The 2013 Highlander got an overall score of four stars.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander reached the top of the hill this week, relegating the consistently popular 2014 Nissan Rogue to No. 2 on our SUV-dominated list of most-read reviews. Newcomers this week include the 2013 Honda Fit hatchback and the 2014 Mazda3 compact sedan. Check out what else was popular:
1. 2014 Toyota Highlander
2. 2014 Nissan Rogue
3. 2014 Jeep Cherokee
4. 2014 Subaru Forester
5. 2014 Infiniti Q50
6. 2013 Toyota RAV4
7. 2013 BMW 328i
8. 2013 Honda Fit
9. 2014 Audi A8 L TDI
10. 2014 Mazda3
Whenever we give out our Best of Award, we focus on quality, innovation and value, and all six of these nominees performed well in all three of those arenas. It's never easy to pick this award; the voting this year was particularly contentious. I can personally vouch for that. Here are this year's nominees:
The nominees for the Best of 2014 are (in alphabetical order):
We will reveal the winner at our annual awards event on Jan. 14 in Detroit during the North American International Auto Show, and of course, here on Cars.com.
While the 2014 Mazda3 redesign looks good on both the sedan and hatchback versions, the automaker's retooling didn't increase legroom over the 2013 model. That caused some problems while installing a rear-facing child-safety seat in the Mazda3 hatch. Our Car Seat Check results apply to both the hatchback and the sedan since the two cars have the same interior dimensions.
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