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.
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