The automaker from Hiroshima dropped a bomb on the automotive market when they came up with the new Mazda3, styled heavily with Nagare inspired lines and bulges this was truly an economy car that you would aspire to own. The exterior of the Mazda3 is interesting to say the least, made up of a multitude of complex curves and detailed lines evidence that the Japanese design team put a good amount of their own blood, sweat and tears into the economy car car’s design. Starting at just under $16,000 for a sedan and closer to $20,000 for the hatchback, the Mazda3 packs a whole lot of car into an affordable package. If you upgrade the sadden to the touring model, not only do you get wave mesh grills, Bi-Xenon headlamps and sporty front and rear bumpers complete with a lip spoiler, but you also get the wonderful 2.5 Liter four cylinder that makes 167 HP and 168 lb-ft of torque to go along with your beautifully sculpted people mover.
The exterior is highlighted by a sense of depth added by the hollow emblem on the front bumper and our car’s Crystal White Pearl Mica paint covered the wide wheel arches that housed a set of stylish 17 inch rims. The Mazda screams style, filled with playful bodylines. When compared to another automobile that we recently tested based on the same platform. We liked the Focus Coupe, and it reminded us of a serious Ford of the past, but the Focus is as plain Jane as sporty can try to be, but the Ford’s exterior was just flat. There was no depth like the Mazda, whereas the Focus is definitely for the person who wants the most car for their buck, while the 3 screams fun for a few dollars more.
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The only thing more attractive than the exterior of the Mazda3 is what’s inside. As stylish as the outside of the Mazda3 is our car’s black interior was as reasonable as any car we had driven in a long time. Not only were the leather wrapped seats, steering wheel and door panels comfortable on the skin, but all the plastic in between was easy to figure out and when the car lit up it did so in a very pleasing manner.
The Mazda3 also came with a host of creature comforts like heated front buckets and an 8 way power adjustable driver’s chair that can be activated by the same key fob that will automatically open the doors. There was Bluetooth for hands free communication, dual zone climate control for the best of both worlds and the most comfortable and function steering wheels in any new car. Not only is the feel of the rim amazing, but the multifunction steering wheel is capable of sending 22 different digital commands to the vehicle’s brain, as well as control the in dash navigation screen that despite its compact size was very easy to read and worked wonderfully. Without taking your hands away from the wheel you can call home, talk to your car, turn on the cruise control, speed up, slow down, change the radio station, switch to the navi, turn down the radio and press enter.
The other feature that we fell in love with was the electroluminescent gauges. Mazda got the lighting accents just right with the Mazda3, when you turn up the volume on the radio the thin strip of translucent trim gently pulsates in front of you. Then, when you turn up the air conditioning all of the red arrows flash creating an enjoyable light show that will entertain you for years.
The Mazda3 is an amazing vehicle, not only does it look interesting both inside and out, but it goes just as well with its 16 valve four cylinder engine and fully independent suspension. The power plant comes complete with a little variable valve timing in order to keep up the Zoom-Zoom factor and is perfectly matched with the 5 speed sport automatic transmission. Possibly the best part about driving the automatic is that Mazda got the shift pattern right, only a race car builder knows that you pull back to shift up and press forward to slow down, once again it’s a Zoom-Zoom thing. The car was quick to run through the gears, it was fun, but if the naturally aspirated version is this good, we can’t wait to get a hold of a MazdaSpeed version.
Without the aid of a turbocharger the 2.5 Liter four banger puts out 167 HP and despite being a slightly larger motor making 168 lb-ft of torque, the Mazda3 gets 22 MPG in the city and as much as 29 MPG on the highway. When cruising in a straight line at high speeds the Mazda feels very stable, the suspension eats up any imperfections in the road surface, which is impressive considering the skinny rubber. When going in to a curve the Mazda3 handles equally as well, helped by those low profile tires.
Overall the Mazda3 is sensational. No matter which body style you choose you can’t go wrong with a Mazda3. The car has phenomenal styling, a wonderful interior and outstanding performance for its class. We recommend spending the extra cash and going with the larger engine, it is a very worth while investment for under $25,000; at least until the MazdaSpeed3 hits the market. When the Mazda3 first appeared at auto shows, the automotive press scoffed at the compact’s fish like face, but after driving the Mazda3 for ourselves and getting to know the car on a personal lever, we can honestly say that sushi is the last thing on our minds.