Mazda 3 S 4-Door
Great exterior looks. Good interior room and ergonomics. Stable and sporty
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
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
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
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.