After a few days of tearing up the asphalt, it is clear the Mazda3 is probably the best handling compact sedan/wagon you can get for the money. It is also the most driver orientated. Every control is nicely weighted, the steering is superlative, and the brakes are sufficiently powerful. Not only that, but it exhibits the same light on its feet moves that make the Ford Focus such a delicious drive.
Mazda has also added plenty of zoom-zoom under the hood, as the induction system seems to be tuned to deliver a
rewarding roar above 3000 rpm. At above that magic 3k mark, the Mazda is transformed from capable, comfortable compact,
into a play thing for drivers on a budget. Ah, the Mazda is like an accomplished dance partner, ready to put on a show.
It feels like a pro, and rewards the driver with an engaging experience behind the helm. At this point, I?m regretting
not buying the first one that we could back in ?03, because it?s the most fun we?ve had in a FWD compact in quite a
There are only two things that we?ve found to fault this surprising automotive athlete. The first is not really a
fault, but more of a warning. If you?re an enthusiast, you will have a problem keeping the Mazda3 under legal limits.
The speedometer?s orientation seems to indicate that it doesn?t register until 60 MPH, and you will quickly and
comfortably pass that mark into the seventies and eighties without much effort. That?s just a warning for those with
The other complaint is the power delivery, and it?s probably because we expect too much. The 2.3-liter four is
awesome. It provides tons of useable power, but it leaves you wishing for more power toward the top end. Perhaps we?ve
been driving too many VTEC Hondas, but we wish for that fast rush as the tachometer needle reaches the red region. The
3 does crank out a considerable amount of power for its weight, and unlike more highly tuned engines, its relatively
large displacement engine does provide tractable power. Despite the complaints about the power at the upper end of the
RPM range, the combination of this engine and the Mazda3 is perfect. It delivers an addicting zoom after about 3k in
just about any gear, and there is a nice soundtrack to go along. It?s hard to fathom what the Mazda3 would be like when
MAZDASPEED stuffs more power under the hood.
This is dynamically the BEST driving value out there now. We hear the automatic transmission model is pretty decent too, but do yourself a favor and get the manual. For a driver, it might be easy to select this unassuming compact over many more expensive sporty rides. It has that back to basics feel that is rewarding and satisfying.