So the Mazda3s Grand Touring that we bought back in February has been great. Honestly it's one of the best cars I've ever had. The amount of performance, luxury, and tech Mazda packed into this car for 26 grand is astounding. Our only complaint has been how flaky the software on the infotainment system is. Now, I realize the absurdity of what I just said. What car needs an infotainment system in the first place? We got along for more than a century without them. Do you really need a system that integrates radio, satellite radio, internet-audio, navigation, backup camera, and telephone functions into one system with a touch screen, voice control, and input-wheel/button control? No you don't but it sure is fun to use, convenient, and useful. So, given that we don't need it and would have bought the car even without it, it's extraordinarily frustrating when it doesn't work right! The 3 is my wife Jen's primary transport, and she complains bitterly when her car acts up. It should just work.
The infotainment software on the 3 is a linux-based operating system that runs on an ARM processor. The UI is customized for Mazda by a third-party supplier (Visteon, at the time of this writing). As delivered on our car in February 2014, it had already been updated at the port to version 25.00.400. Even after the update this software was not quite ready for prime time! We experienced random crashes, reboots, blue screens, flickering display, stuttering audio, and all kinds of weird glitches. Don't get me wrong - most of the time it worked ok. It's just infuriating when it randomly craps out. Updating the software would be covered under the warranty, but requires a trip to the dealer (who told me they couldn't do it on a Saturday) and we just haven't had the time to mess with it. So the frustrations continued.
As with most small sporty cars, there is a vibrant online community for the newest Mazda3, and I have been a frequent visitor to Mazda3revolution.com. The guys there have well documented the problems with the infotainment system, and have been working on a way to hack into the software so that customizations are possible. I don't have much interest in that - I just want it to work right, but along the way those guys have worked out how to update the software at home without a trip to the dealer. Bingo! Just what I was waiting for. They even put up a wiki at MazdaCMUhacks.com, and the instructions for doing the update are at that page.
Now, you do need the update files. The latest version as of this writing is 33.00.500. This is the US version of the update. If you're outside the US, find the version for your region.
That should get you a file called "Mazda33UpdateUSA.rar". If you don't have a program to unpack a 'rar' file, download WinRar for free. Unpack the rar file and you should have two files:
New updates are coming out every couple months, but if v33 is pretty stable I probably won't see the need to keep updating. Time will tell.
The 2015 Mazda3 comes with the same Infotainment system, but from the looks of it is coming with at least v31, so there may not be as much of a reason to update those cars.
UPDATE: since installing v33 a couple months ago, the system has been quite stable. There's still some weirdness with bluetooth audio on the iPhone (and we think this is Apple's fault, not Mazda's), but everything else seems pretty solid. The frustration level for my wife has gone way down.
Update 2: The latest version of the software is now v55 (September 2015). Also note that this Infotainment System is also used in the 2016 Miata/MX-5
Update 3: The Mazda3 Hacks site has been revived and is now mazdacmuhacks.com. It has everything you need including links to the installation files. The same software and update procedure also applies to most of the current models in Mazda's lineup including the 2016+ MX-5 Miata, 2016 CX-5, CX-5, Mazda6, and the 2017 CX-9. The latest version as of April 2016 is 55.00.753A
Update 4: The latest version as of April 2017 is v59.