Is the 2014 Mazda3 Road Noise Excessive?


I am taking delivery of the new Mazda3 (Maxx sedan) in two weeks. My decision to choose the Mazda3 (2.0) was based on the very positive reviews I have read over the past six months.

I was surprised to read a review by Chris Riley in the cars guide lift out of the Express Advocate (NSW Central Coast) on the 7th of February.


"Maybe it's our roads, maybe it's the brand of tyres Mazda has fitted, but the low rolling resistance Toyos fitted to the 2.0-litre model generated quite a bit of road noise."
Chris Riley, car reviewer


I would appreciate your comments. If this is a genuine problem, should I be requesting the dealer to replace the vehicle with another tyre brand before I take delivery? The question then would be, what is a recommended alternative?

I enjoy your segment on Radio 2UE with Clive Robertson on Friday nights. It's great to get an expert opinion without any bias. Keep up the good work.



2014 Mazda3 Images

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G'day Jeff,

Thanks for the kind words on the Friday evening motoring segment on 2UE with Clive. I've been doing motoring with Clive subjectively for ever, and I really enjoy working with him. He's great fun, an industry legend and he certainly keeps you on your toes.

I've not driven the new Mazda3 as yet. But I have done a review of credible reviews by credible reviewers. Jez Spinks at CarAdvice says the road noise is improved but can still be intrusive. 

Consumer Reports in the US (which is like our Choice magazine but more credible in my view) says:


"At highway speeds the main noise source is wind rush, which is pronounced, but engine hum and tire noises are better suppressed."
Consumer Reports, USA


The consensus view is that there are quieter cars out there, but the new one is better than the old one. That is, to the extent these things can be determined by test drive.

What I can tell you absolutely, speaking as a professional engineer, is that pronouncements on road noise by so-called motoring journalists are generally rubbish. It's impossible to assess this by the seat of the pants, and to do it objectively, you have to drive competing cars back-to-back at a range of identical speeds on exactly the same piece of road. And ideally you'd measure the in-cabin noise level with an instrument like a sound level meter. Motoring journalists have not had an opportunity to do comparative tests on the new Mazda3 yet, and they don't measure the noise objectively when they do.

That means most assessments of road noise by motoring journos are about as credible as reading the future in the tea leaves. So I'd discount just about every sweeping generalisation you read between now and collecting the car.

A couple of relevant facts to consider, which cannot be disputed:

The Mazda3 is a vitally important car for Mazda. It's in the most hotly contested segment, with incredible mass-market appeal. It's predecessor was a great little popular car. Car companies generally don't make the next model worse, and Mazda is one of the better car companies. The new model is generally either identical to its predecessor in some respects, or better. So the new model tends to be slightly bigger, slightly more powerful, better equipped, more fuel efficient, cheaper, safer, nicer looking, quieter and better to drive. If not then it might be the same on one or more of these fronts.

Rule one for car companies is: the new model must be better.

If the car were roughly the same on road noise, a smart PR department would probably invent some spin about better noise suppression by virtue of new insulating material in the firewall - or something - to sow the seed in the minds of the attending press that the noise was better dealt with, even if it isn't. These kinds of tricks go on frequently at launches. Generally they incorporate partial truths.

Low rolling resistance tyres are not noisier or slipperier than conventional tyres. There's silica blended into the rubber matrix to better manage hysteresis (which loses energy and burns excess fuel). Silica does not affect grip or harshness.

The final fact to consider is that noise, vibration and harshness is a very complex subject, technically. Hard to measure objectively, and there's significant interplay between the components that comprise it. Here's an example: Let's say they tweak the aerodynamics - the new car cuts through the air better. There's less turbulence, so there's less wind noise. Let's say they also tweak the engine and make it and the transmission smoother, with less engine/transmission frequency vibrations. Quieter drivetrain. You're thinking: great. However, if they then leave road noise the same, it will be relatively louder (even possibly subjectively louder) because the wind noise and engine noise are no longer effectively masking the road noise. You might think road noise has gone up when in fact everything else has just gotten quieter. Especially if you let yourself get obsessed over one comment you read in a review, which the reviewer might not have spent even 30 seconds considering.

So I really don't think you should worry. Your new Mazda3 will be a great car. If you obsess about the road noise from day one you will only detract from your enjoyment of owning it. You can't reasonably put the bite on the dealer for different tyres - road noise isn't a defect. There will be some.There's no evidence that different tyres with the same profile and load rating would 'cure' the 'problem'. (To the extent that there's even a problem that needs curing.)

Buying a car is a big deal, Jeff. I get that. It's a lot of money. It's easy to second-guess yourself. I get that too. However, I'm confident you've made a smart choice, and you won't regret it. You're contractually obliged to purchase the vehicle now in any case, so just enjoy it.If there are any problems (actual problems, not ones you read about) the dealer is your first port of call, then Mazda's customer care line.

Finally, I presume you took it for a road test before you signed up for one? If the road noise didn't jump off the front page and grab you by the lapels during your test drive, then there's no problem. Trust your own judgement.

Best of luck with it.