Completely and flamboyantly redesigned for 2010, the 2011 Mazda Mazda3 is the driver’s choice among compact cars. You can decide whether you like the “smiley-face” front styling that’s now universal across the Mazda lineup, but the lines of the Mazda3 are sporty and dashing, whether you order the five-door hatchback or the four-door sedan.
The Mazda3’s firm, athletic suspension makes flinging it around corners a pleasure, and even the standard 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine lets drivers toss the car into curves. Buyers can choose between a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. That engine can be noisy, however, producing booming and whirring that combines with road noise to produce a remarkably boisterous experience at speed.
Upgrade to the sportier S model with its 167-hp, 2.5-liter four, and the manual transmission gains a gear (the automatic stays the same) for extra pickup and a more refined driving experience.
With either engine, the roadholding is excellent while the ride has been improved over the stiffness of previous generations. It’s still a noisy car, though, against the new levels of quietness found in the Chevrolet Cruze sedan—though admittedly few buyers are likely to cross-shop Chevy’s mainstream compact against the sporty “zoom-zoom” of Mazda’s compact hatch.
The Mazda3 is hardly the most economical of compacts, not even approaching the 40-mpg highway gas mileage of entrants like the Hyundai Elantra or Chevrolet Cruze Eco six-speed manual. Its EPA ratings range from a high of 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and a combined 28 mpg (for the 2.0-liter and five-speed manual combination) to the S model’s 20, 28, and 23 mpg with the larger engine and six-speed manual.
Seats are comfortable and supportive, and with the rear seat folded flat, the hatchback will swallow a remarkable amount of stuff due to its low, flat load floor. Some of the interior materials aren’t up to the best in class, but the configuration is well laid out and controls are fairly intuitive.
The 2011 Mazda3 offers models with features rarely seen on competing compacts. The Grand Touring trim level, the top of the line, can be ordered with power seats with three-position memory, rain-sensing wipers, bi-xenon adaptive lighting, and a 10-speaker Bose sound system with Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and an iPod dock.
For more details, see the full review of the 2011 Mazda Mazda3 on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
|Style||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|