2008 Mazda3 New Car Test Drive
The Mazda3 is a true world car. It's space-efficient and exciting to drive like a European car. It's practical and economical like a Japanese car. And like an American car, it's available with a surprising list of comfort and luxury features.
The Mazda 3, or Mazda3, was developed on three continents, by various international subsidiaries of the Ford Motor Company, which owns 33.4 percent of Mazda Motor Corporation. Volvo developed the Mazda3's body. Ford itself contributed the suspension design and sophisticated electronics. And Mazda engineered the four-cylinder engines and then tuned the complete car at its test track in Japan.
The result is a car that could change the way people think about compact cars. This is a premium automobile, exciting to drive, styled adventurously, and fully equipped with luxury features. There's nothing austere, basic or cheap about it. The seats are supportive and comfortable, good for long drives.
Sedan and hatchback versions look quite different. The sedan has the traditional appearance of a four-door, five-passenger car. The five-door hatchback is like the high-fashion station wagons from European manufacturers, offering the practicality of the five-door configuration with an emphasis on a premium driving experience. The Mazda3 is a good choice for drivers who have friends or lots of stuff: The sedan and hatchback excel at back-seat roominess when compared with the Honda Civic and other competition, and the hatchback excels at cargo space.
There's a high-performance version called Mazdaspeed3, motivated by 263 turbocharged horsepower.
Launched as a 2004 model, the Mazda3 was extensively updated and upgraded for 2007, with a revised appearance inside and out. Reinforcements to the body shell improved overall chassis rigidity. Suspension damping was re-tuned to quicken steering response and reduce understeer. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist were made standard for all s-models and optional for the i-model. Traction control and stability control became available. And an auxiliary audio input with 12-volt power outlet made the Mazda3 iPod-friendly. For 2008, Mazda has added side-impact air bags and side air curtains to the premium s-models.
All 2008 Mazdas come with a roadside assistance program, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, throughout the United States and Canada.
The Mazda3 comes in a broad array of body styles, engines, and trim levels. The Mazda3i is powered by a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; the Mazda3s packs a 156-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder. The Mazda3i is available only as a four-door sedan, whereas the Mazda3s comes as a sedan and five-door hatchback. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on all models; a four-speed automatic is optional ($900) on 3i, while 3s offers a five-speed automatic ($950).
The base-level Mazda3i Sport ($13,895) comes with manual windows and door locks. It has a tachometer, variable-intermittent wipers, a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel with remote audio controls, and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with automatic level control and an iPod-friendly input jack. All-season 195/65HR15 tires mount on steel wheels. Air conditioning is optional ($880) and includes an outside temperature display.
Mazda3i Touring ($16,595) adds air conditioning, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, power-adjustable outside mirrors, height-adjustable driver's seat, an upgraded six-speaker audio system, and 205/55HR16 tires on 16-inch alloy wheels.
Mazda3s Sport sedan ($17,435) upgrades to the larger engine and adds a leather-wrapped shift knob, electroluminescent gauges, fog lights, and more stylish bumpers. The 3s Sport hatchback ($17,925) is similarly equipped, but rolls on 205/50VR17 tires on 17-inch alloy rims. All hatchback models come with a rear wiper, rigid rear cargo area cover, and cargo management system.
Mazda3s Touring sedan and hatchback ($18,425) add the 205/50VR17 tires and alloy wheels, plus electronic stability control and traction control. (Sedan and hatchback are priced and equipped the same.)
Mazda3s Grand Touring sedan and hatchback ($20,195) add leather seating, synthetic leather door inners, heated front seats, HID headlights with automatic on/off, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic climate control, a trip computer, clear-lens LED taillights, and a theft-deterrent system.
Options include a power glass sunroof bundled with a 6CD changer ($890) on all but 3i Sport; on Grand Touring models the package also includes a Bose sound system and costs more ($1335). Grand Touring models offer Navigation bundled with Sirius Satellite Radio ($1950). A long list of extras, including the CD changer ($500) and Sirius radio ($430), can also be installed as dealer accessories.
The Mazdaspeed3 Sport hatchback ($22,430) comes with a 263-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-4, six-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential, sport seats, aluminum pedals, unique red-and-black cloth interior trim, and 215/45YR18 tires. Otherwise it is equipped similarly to the Touring models. A Grand Touring version ($24,055) adds leather interior, Bose premium audio with in-dash 6CD changer, rain-sensing wipers, trip computer, high-intensity headlights, and theft deterrence. The only significant factory option is the navigation/Sirius package ($1950), although again, dealer-installed accessories are available.
Safety features that come on all Mazda3 models include front airbags, an energy-absorbing brake pedal, and a tire-pressure monitor. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist are standard on 3s, as are side airbags and head-protection curtain airbags. All of these features are offered as a package ($395) on 3i models with air conditioning. Electronic stability control and traction control are standard on 3s Touring and Grand Touring.