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February 2005
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2005 Mazda 3 S 4-Door

The Good:  Great exterior looks. Good interior room and ergonomics. Stable and sporty handling. 

The Bad:  Many interior parts are hard plastic.  Engine start sound is weak.  Cloth seats feel cold and plasticy.

When the Mazda 3 first became available in early 2004, it redefined the standards of the compact car segment. Since then, many other manufacturers have started to build cars with leather wrapped interiors, quiet cabins, and stable handling.  We now take a look at the four-door 3 and see if it still can compete in this ever-changing segment. 

For 2005, changes to the Mazda3 are limited to new 15-inch wheel cover designs, available Sirius satellite radio, and additional color options.  A new special edition is also available with a mocha leather interior and many options not available regularly in the 3.

"The MAZDA3 isn't just fun to drive, it's fun to look at and it's fun to be in," said David Dildy, MAZDA3 vehicle line manager.  "We defied the paradigm of C-segment compact vehicles inside and out by giving the MAZDA3 class-leading engine performance, a spacious interior, efficient functionality and a unique, distinctive style."

The exterior design of the 3 is truly what sets it apart from other offerings in the compact segment.  This car has a sculpted look which is best viewed in person.  We think that this model looks much nicer than the 3 hatchback 5-door.  The many body panels and raised lines flow from the front to the rear quite nicely, unlike the design schemes we have seen in most other cars in this segment.  Mazda took extreme care to ensure small, consistent gaps between body panels.  Wheel gaps are very tight as well.  Door handles are an upscale grab type and not lift up.  Headlights and taillights are both designed with thought and style.  The overall shape is similar to that of a BMW 3 series car only slightly smaller.  The rear trunk lid is very small, making this look like a Mazda 6 hatchback, now there is a idea for increased functionality on this sedan look. 

An optional sport package adds that extra aggressive look to our 3.  Front and rear bumpers, side skirts, 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps and unique taillights are all included.  The 3 looks very good with large diameter wheels and aggressively flared front and rear fenders help convey a sporty character, Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Open the doors and you will find that the front doors open extra wide for easy entry.  The designers created a cabin that is longer, wider and taller than any vehicle in its class.  Shoulder room and knee clearance are both very good.  Standard tilt, telescopic, and audio control features are integrated into the steering wheel to ensure driver comfort, airbags come standard and seating bottoms are deeper for better comfort during long-distance driving. 

Most switches feel good to the touch, not being overly loose.  A thin digital display above the center stack shows stereo channel selection as well as a clock.  No exterior temperature display is available on the 3.  The center console is flowing, without any gaping holes and this adds a particulary high end feeling.  One of the nicest features is the instrument cluster with bright red gauges which have a blue background at night.  This with the stereo system which lights up like KnightRider's car Kitt, is a great modern trendy look.  Where Mazda did forget to add illumination is on the window switches located on the door.  We also found that the rearview mirrors do not dim at night, something we feel should be standard in today's cars. 

Our tester was fitted with black and red cloth seats.  These have a very dry and plastic-like feeling and so we would recommend the upgrade to leather.  The dark color interior also made the interior look small and feel less luxurious.  We also did not like the overuse of hard dark plastic, used on the doors and center console.  Overall this makes for a non-luxurious interior, with something lacking when compared to many new models in the market like the new VW Jetta.  

Height adjustment for the driver's seat is done as in VW vehicles with a pump handle.  A cavernous glovebox easily swallows up laptops or up to 16 CD cases.  Bottle holders are incorporated into the door storage areas, a great feature we often find in Mazda's.  Rear seats fold 60/40 to an almost flat position.  The luggage compartment can be organized efficiently to separate the cargo space into upper and lower sections, and the rear floor section can be raised to create a partition between the front and rear of the luggage compartment.  A sub-trunk area allows valuables to be stored out of sight.  The trunk does not have any way for opening it on the trunk itself so you have to go inside the car or use the key to open the rear trunk. 

            The Mazda3 offers two types of engine choices in the four door sedan model.  A 2.0 liter and a 2.3 liter are available.  The 2.0 liter engine produces 148 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque.  The 2.3 liter found in our tester delivers 160 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque.  The engine also offers good fuel economy of 24 city, and 29 highway with the automatic transmission.  From a standstill power comes on smoothly up to 3500 rpm after which the real punch kicks in.  At highway speeds power is available easily quite smoothly and without effort.  We did find more wind noise than we would like at high cruising speeds however.  Our tests reported zero to sixty times of 6.8 seconds. 

            The automatic transmission fitted on our tester offers a manual shift mode as well.  It was quite smooth at shifting in its fully automatic setting.  Move the lever to the left of the D position and you can shift for yourself, with a lower gear being a push up and a higher gear being a push down.  We think these positions should be the other way around.  A digital readout in the instrument cluster shows which gear is selected.

The Mazda 3 is also a great handling car. The front suspension receives a MacPherson strut design.  Engineers choose struts with large 35mm pistons with built-in rebound springs to enhance the overall handling feel and provide a flat cornering stance without sacrificing ride comfort.  Fluid-filled bushings attach the lower control arms to the sub-frame, which deadens road noise and shock transmission without sacrificing suspension rigidity as a conventional rubber bushing would.  The use of fluid-filled bushings is very unusual for this class of vehicle and allows engineers to tune the bushings to a specific frequency to cancel out noise and vibration without affecting steering feel.

Boasting reduced friction and excellent wheel travel, the Mazda 3 glides over the road well and provides just enough road feel while doing it. The Mazda 3's extremely rigid frame anchors the advanced suspension components. The Mazda 3 offers more than 40 percent greater flexural rigidity and greatly improved torsional rigidity when compared to its predecessors, translating to a suspension system that incorporates softer springs and dampers for a soft and supple ride, yet offers enhanced road holding as well.  Road noise is under control and the large 17-inch wheels and wide rubber keeps you planted on the road.  You do not have a feeling of a flimsy car on rail thin tires.  Road grip is quite good on dry conditions.  On snowy and icy roads, the Mazda 3 lacks traction control for safe driving.  The ABS system does provide for controlled stops even on icy roads. 

Each Mazda 3 features ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes.  Mazda 3 i 4-Door receives 10.9-inch front brakes and 10.4-inch rears.  Mazda 3 S 4- and 5-Door models receive 11.8-inch fronts with 11.0-inch rears. Anti-Lock Brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution is optional on all models.

The Mazda 3 ranked in the top three out of 68 vehicles tested (RX-8 was number one) in a recent rollover study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  It also performs well in both front- and side-impact testing, due in no small part to the three-fork safety structure which directs crash energy from the front of the car to the outer side-members and into the hinge pillar.  The three-fork safety structure also sends energy laterally through a dash cross-member and downward into the side sills to minimize cabin deformation around the occupants' feet.  The class-leading, ultra-rigid safety cage lying beneath the skin of the Mazda 3 highlights the inside-out design approach to the 2005 model and is a perfect example of the amount of effort engineers have made to enhance features most consumers will never even see.

The Mazda 3 has a uniquely designed collapsible steering wheel, engineered to collapse forward rather than in a slightly downward direction, minimizing potential chest injuries.  The Mazda 3 also has a collapsible brake pedal that breaks away in the event of a severe frontal accident to minimize foot injuries - a feature also found in Mazda 6 and RX-8 - but not in most compact cars.  Unique safety-inspired options that further elevate the Mazda 3 above other cars in its segment are the optional side and side-curtain airbags - these side airbags are available on all models.

Like every Mazda model, the Mazda 3 comes with a four-year roadside assistance program.  With a call to a toll-free number, Mazda 3 owners can access roadside assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year throughout the United States and Canada.  For all 2005 Mazda vehicles, the company will provide a free loaner car in the event a warrantable condition requires the use of alternative transportation.

The 2005 Mazda 3 is covered by a comprehensive four-year/50,000-mile warranty that covers every part on the vehicle except those subject to normal wear.  In addition, the Mazda 3 is covered by a five-year/unlimited-mileage corrosion warranty.

            The Mazda 3 S model tested here starts off at a MSRP of $16,615. Options added to our tester are the four speed automatic transmission for $900.  The ABS package is added for $800 adding with it electronic brakeforce distribution.  A moonroof and a 6-disc CD changer is $890.  The sport package with large 17”inch wheels is $490 more, a great price. 

Considering the hit that the 3 has become in its segment, the car is truly a lot for the money.  Add the many high end options available and the Mazda 3 becomes a car that is hard to match.  BMW like handling for about $12,000 less is a great bargain.  Building better cars like this will make all drivers on the road better at driving.  Stiff competition from the newly released Jetta will surely make for a even better segment in the future.  And we can be sure that Mazda will continue to provide fun-to-drive vehicles that keep wowing all of us.



Base Pricing 15,537 16,615
Destination 560 560
Automatic, 4-Speed w/Overdrive
810 900
ABS & Air Bag Pkg Includes Anti-Lock Braking System & Front Side Impact & F&R Curtain Air Bag Restraint System.
688 800
Headlamp & Tire Monitor Pkg  Includes HID Headlamps & Tire Pressure Monitor.
602 700
Interior Trim Pkg  Includes Door Trim, Instrument Panel Trim & Premium Floor Mat Upgrade.
200 250
Moon Roof & 6-CD Pkg  Includes Power Glass Moon Roof & 6-Disc CD Changer in Dash. 765 890
Sport Pkg • s Sedan  Includes Alloy Wheels, (4) P205/50VR17 Tires & Unique Side Sill Extensions.
421 490
Seat Trim, Leather • s 507 590



  2005 Mazda MAZDA3
s 4dr Sedan (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
2005 Chevrolet Cobalt
LS 4dr Sedan (2.2L 4cyl 5M)
2005 Suzuki Forenza
LX 4dr Sedan w/ABS (2.0L 4cyl 4A)
2005 Kia Spectra
EX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 4A)
2005 Dodge Neon
SE 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 4A)
MSRP $16,615 $15,920 $16,649 $14,725 $14,525
Invoice $15,537 $14,885 $15,816 $13,745 $13,586
Basic 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 5 yr. / 60000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi.
Drivetrain 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 5 yr. / 60000 mi. 7 yr. / 100000 mi. 10 yr. / 100000 mi. 7 yr. / 70000 mi.
Base Engine Displacement 2.3 liters 2.2 liters 2.0 liters 2.0 liters 2.0 liters
Valvetrain 16 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
16 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
16 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
16 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
16 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
Horsepower 160 hp @ 6500 rpm 145 hp @ 5600 rpm 126 hp @ 5600 rpm 138 hp @ 6000 rpm 132 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque 150 ft-lbs. @ 4500 rpm 150 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm 131 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm 136 ft-lbs. @ 4500 rpm 130 ft-lbs. @ 4600 rpm
Tires P205/55HR16
all season
all season
all season
all season
all season
One-Touch Power Windows 1 1 1 Being Researched Not Available
Steering Adjustment tilt and telescopic tilt-adjustable tilt-adjustable tilt-adjustable tilt-adjustable
Audio Control on Steering Wheel Standard Optional Standard Not Available Not Available
Air Filtration Not Available Not Available interior air filtration Not Available Not Available
Brakes - Front ventilated disc disc ventilated disc ventilated disc ventilated disc
Brakes - Rear disc drum disc disc drum
Anti - Lock Brakes 4-wheel ABS - Optional 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS - Optional 4-wheel ABS - Optional
Traction Control Not Available Optional Not Available Not Available Not Available
De-powered Air Bags Standard Standard Standard Standard Standard
Head Air Bag front and rear - Optional front and rear - Optional   front and rear Not Available
Side Air Bag dual front - Optional dual front with head protection chambers - Optional dual front dual front dual front with head protection chambers - Optional
Xenon Headlights Optional Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available
Anti-Theft Alarm System Not Available Not Available remote anti-theft alarm system Not Available Not Available
Navigation System DVD navigation system - Optional Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available
City 25 mpg. 25 mpg. 22 mpg. 25 mpg. 25 mpg.
Highway 32 mpg. 34 mpg. 30 mpg. 34 mpg. 32 mpg.
Length 178.7 in. 180.3 in. 177.2 in. 176.4 in. 174.4 in.
Width 69.1 in. 67.9 in. 67.9 in. 68.3 in. 67.4 in.
Height 57.7 in. 57.1 in. 56.9 in. 57.9 in. 56 in.
Weight 2762 lbs. 2895 lbs. 2756 lbs. 2767 lbs. 2581 lbs.
Wheel Base 103.9 in. 103.3 in. 102.4 in. 102.8 in. 105 in.
Interior MAZDA3 Cobalt Forenza Spectra Neon
Front Headroom 39.1 in. 38.5 in. 39.1 in. 40 in. 38.4 in.
Rear Headroom 37.4 in. 37.7 in. 37.8 in. 38.2 in. 36.7 in.
Front Shoulder Room 54.9 in. 53 in. 54.7 in. 55.1 in. 53.4 in.
Rear Shoulder Room 54 in. 51.4 in. 53.7 in. 53.9 in. 52.8 in.
Front Hip Room 54.9 in. 49.6 in. 52.7 in. 52.4 in. 52.4 in.
Rear Hip Room 53.9 in. 46.4 in. 53.9 in. 53.9 in. 52.9 in.
Front Leg Room 41.9 in. 41.8 in. 42 in. 42.8 in. 42.2 in.
Rear Leg Room 36.3 in. 33.7 in. 36.7 in. 35.4 in. 34.8 in.
Maximum Luggage Capacity 11.4 cu.ft. 13.9 cu.ft. 12.4 cu.ft. 12.2 cu.ft. 13.1 cu.ft.


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