2004 Mazda3 New Car Test Drive
The all-new 2004 Mazda 3, or Mazda3, as Mazda calls its new line of compacts, replaces the tried-and-true Protege. The Mazda3, available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, is bigger, more powerful, more fuel efficient, safer and better-looking than the Protege. There isn't much more that could be asked of a car beginning a new generation, especially a compact car. Oh yes, it's cheaper, too, when you compare content along with price.
The four-door and five-door models each offer their own styling. The sedan has a sweet, rounded shape and smooth, cohesive design. The five-door looks more aggressive and is available with a more powerful engine and bigger brakes. Its hatchback design and folding rear seats makes it suitable for a trip to Home Depot.
On twisty country roads the Mazda3 is a blast. Handling is quick and nimble and the available 2.3-liter engine delivers spirited performance. The five-speed manual shifts beautifully and there's an interesting automatic that has a manual-shift feature.
The Mazda3 four-door sedan is available with either 2.0-liter or 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, while the five-door hatchback comes only with the 2.3-liter engine.
Mazda3i is the designation for the 2.0-liter, and it only comes in a four-door ($13,680), which doesn't include air conditioning, power windows, mirrors or door locks, cruise control, automatic transmission or ABS. Some good things it does include are a stainless steel exhaust system, halogen headlights, a great five-speed transmission, AM/FM/CD sound system, and two-stage front airbags, adjusted for appropriate deployment power by sensors.
The package you need for that base stripper ($1,190) includes the power controls, cruise control and remote entry, more adjustment for the driver's seat, and 16-inch alloy wheels. That still leaves out the optional air conditioning ($850) and automatic transmission ($900). Even more important is the safety package ($800), a deal you can't afford to pass up, which includes ABS with EBD (brake distribution electronically balanced front-rear), side-impact airbags for the front seats, and side air curtains for front and rear passengers. That would make a well-equipped Mazda3i more like $17,420 plus $520 destination.
The Mazda3s is available as a four-door ($16,405) or five-door ($16,895). Standard equipment includes all the power conveniences and air conditioning and foglights. Options include the automatic transmission and the safety package with ABS/side airbags/curtains; plus leather interior ($590), Sport Package with 17-inch wheels ($490), Moonroof and 6-CD package ($890), HID headlights and tire-pressure monitoring system ($700) and navigation system ($1750).