Overview sourced from AutoBlog:
he Mazda 3 is a roomy, affordable compact with spirit. It has a sporty demeanor and is fun to drive. The Mazda 3, or Mazda3 as company renders it, is available as a neatly styled four-door sedan or as a more adventurous five-door hatchback.
The sedan has a sweet, rounded shape and smooth, cohesive design. The five-door looks more aggressive, and provides a lot of utility with its hatchback design and folding rear seats.
Quick, nimble handling makes these cars fun to drive on twisty country roads. The Mazda 3s features a free-revving 2.3-liter engine that delivers spirited performance. The 2006 Mazda 3i benefits from increased power this year from its 2.0-liter engine.
These are comfortable, friendly cars with terrific seats, big electroluminescent gauges (on 3s), a huge glove box and excellent attention to detail. Premium sound systems and luxury options, such as a sunroof . Side-curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes are standard on some models and available on all, enhancing safety.
The seats are great, with adequate bolstering. The 3s has adjustable lumbar support, and the hip position is elevated, reducing front legroom a touch, but providing excellent forward visibility as well as a tidy relationship with the pedals and especially the short shift lever. There’s no dead pedal. The outside of the driver’s right shin rests comfortably on the edge of the center stack.
Cargo space in the five-door with the seats folded flat in is 31.2 cubic feet. We came out of an Ikea store with an unassembled table in a flat box measuring 48 inches long and 30 inches wide, and it slid neatly into the back. Flipping the seats down is easy. We reached in from behind, pressed down on one small square button on each side, and an easy shove forward dropped each seat flat. A separate compartment is hidden under the floor. Fold the seats back up into their passenger-friendly position, and there’s still 17.1 cubic feet of cargo room, a fair amount for a compact car. The rear floor section can be raised to create a partition, dividing the space into separate upper and lower compartments. The Mazda 3 can’t carry as much cargo as a Toyota Matrix, but it’s a lot more fun to drive.
Handling is quick and nimble, making the Mazda 3 fun to drive. It’s a blast on winding country roads. It’s also sharp, true and steady in emergency lane-change maneuvers. Mazda’s Electro-Hydraulic Power-Assisted Steering (EHAPS) minimizes drag on the engine compared to a conventional belt-driven hydraulic system. Mazda claims it also reduces noise, vibration, and harshness. The Ford group in England designed the Mazda 3 suspension, but the final tuning was done by Mazda at its long, rolling test track in Hiroshima.
For 2006, Mazda has adapted variable valve timing and variable-length intake runners to the smaller, 2.0-liter engine as well. EPA estimates for the smaller engine are 26/34 with the automatic.
The Mazda 3 is sporty, practical and affordable. It’s fun to drive and fun to look at. It’s solidly executed, with no flaws, a strong engine, transmission, handling, brakes, comfort, packaging and looks. We like the versatile five-door. More than a great compact, it is truly a car for our times.
There are affordable cars, and then there are cars that offer thrilling performance. Rarely do the two ever converge, but Japanese automaker Mazda has made it a tradition of coming up with vehicles that combine both of these eminently desirable traits.
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