Road Test - Mazda 3

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Dec 24, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    The Protegé pays the price of growing up.

    [​IMG]

    BY TONY SWAN
    PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFFREY G. RUSSELL
    January 2004

    Aside from corporate hot rods such as Ford's SVT Focus, compact transportation appliances don't ordinarily generate much of a blip on the collective EKG trace around here. But the new Mazda 3 may be an exception.

    That's not a huge surprise, since the 3's predecessor, the Protegé, scored top marks in three successive compact free-for-alls ("Little Cars 6.1," June 2000; "Boxes, Size Small," June 2002; "Double-Dip Dreamboats," November 2002). What is surprising, though, is the character change that marks the transition from Protegé to 3. Light on its feet and eager to please, the Protegé prevailed against cars with more power and, arguably, better value because of its high fun-to-drive index.

    The 3 dances to more sophisticated music. Although it responds to driver commands as promptly as its predecessor did—more so, in fact—the puppyesque playfulness of the Protegé has given way to a more serious demeanor that's more purposeful, polished, and substantial. The exuberant teenager is gone, replaced by a hip young adult.

    This is an all-new car on a new platform, 40 percent stiffer than the Protegé's body shell, according to Mazda. After living with our test car for a week, we have no reason to doubt this assertion. Like the Protegé, the 3 is supported by struts up front, but there's a new multilink setup at the rear, similar to the system in use on the mid-size Mazda 6. The electrohydraulic power rack-and-pinion steering system is accurate and quick at 2.8 turns lock-to-lock, and the all-disc brake system has bigger rotors, vented up front, and augmented, in our test car, by anti-lock, which is optional.

    Like the Protegé, the 3 is offered in two body styles, a formal four-door sedan and a five-door hatch such as our test subject here. Both are bigger than their corresponding numbers from the Protegé lineup. The wheelbase, common to both body styles, has been stretched to 103.9 inches, 1.1 inches longer than the Protegé and among the longest in this class, a plus in the ride department. At 176.6 inches, the new five-door is 6.1 inches longer than the Protegé5. Height remains about the same at 57.7 inches, but width has been expanded two inches, from 67.1 to 69.1, and there's a corresponding gain in front and rear track dimensions: 60.2/59.6 inches for the 3 versus 57.7/57.9 for the Protegé5.

    All the foregoing should add up to a roomier interior, and it does—with one significant proviso. Although rear-seat legroom has improved, a cross-car structural beam encroaches on rear footroom, negating, to some degree, the other volumetric increases. Cargo capacity, on the other hand, has improved, and like the Protegé5, the five-door version of the 3 includes hatchback cargo versatility, thanks to its folding rear seatbacks.

    Mazda anticipates that two-thirds of the 3's projected 70,000 annual sales in North America will go to the more conservative sedan, essentially a scaled-down version of the Mazda 6 four-door. However, it's the sassy five-door version that's really the showpiece of the new lineup, and design chief Hideki Suzuki cites the Peugeot 307 and Alfa Romeo 147 as inspiration sources for the car's New Age look.

    There are several engines available in European and Asian editions of this Mazda world car, including a couple of new diesels, but U.S. models offer two engine options. The base powerplant is an aluminum 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve four with Mazda's Sequential Valve Timing (S-VT) system, carrying a respectable 49-state rating of 148 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque, an 18-hp gain versus the hottest engine offered in the Protegé. Borrowed from the 6's powertrain inventory, the new upgrade engine is a 2.3-liter DOHC 16-valve aluminum four-cylinder with S-VT variable valve timing and variable intake runners, rated for 160 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 150 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm.

    Transmission offerings include a five-speed manual (standard) and an optional four-speed automatic with a manumatic function. Mazda calls it Activematic and cites an ultra-quick one-two upshift time, contributing to quicker getaways.

    Let's talk about those getaways. Equipped with the five-speed manual and the 2.3-liter engine, our tester did the 0-to-60 dash in 7.4 seconds, covered the quarter-mile in 16 seconds flat at 87 mph, and attained 100 mph in 22.8 seconds. Those are remarkable numbers for a car in this class. The only comparable performance in the class was posted by a 180-hp Toyota Matrix in our June 2002 hatchback comparison, and that car scaled in 110 pounds lighter than our hefty 2957-pound five-door Mazda test car.

    Other formal test results are equally remarkable. For instance, the car pulled 0.87 g on the skidpad, a distinct improvement on the 0.79 g showing by the Protegé5 back in 2002 and more consistent with sports cars than econoboxes. A 70-to-0-mph braking distance of 169 feet is likewise exceptional.

    [​IMG]

    The 3's interior reinforces the message of those sporty performance numbers: deep-bolstered bucket seats (leather in our test car), with height adjustment for the driver, as well as rake and fore-and-aft; a leather-clad Miata-style three-spoke steering wheel with tilting and telescoping adjustability; high-quality materials and designer textures; classic white-on-black instruments with above-average legibility; a secondary-control center stack that earns high marks for good looks and easy operation; and excellent driver sightlines.

    On the road, the 3 is composed, quiet, and unflappable. It goes exactly where it's pointed, and if there's understeer, the inevitable consequence of front-wheel drive, the threshold is higher than in all but a few cars in this class, and those few are the performance specials such as the SVT Focus, Dodge SRT-4, and Saturn Ion Red Line.

    As the skidpad numbers suggest, grip is abundant. Our test car was wearing 205/50 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires on 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, part of a sport package that's optional on the sedan, standard on the five-door. The crisp action of the five-speed shifter is just this side of something from Honda, the brakes resist wilt better than most, and the 3's every move is distinguished by certainty.

    Still, for all its competence and substance, the 3 somehow fails to be as immediately seductive as its Protegé predecessor. Why is that? We're not entirely sure, but we do have a couple of theories. Although it answers the helm without a hint of reluctance, there's a sensation of heaviness here that goes beyond the 162-pound difference between this Mazda five-door and the one that came home first in our 2002 hatchback derby. In the same vein, although it's almost two seconds quicker to 60 mph than the Protegé5, it doesn't convey that sense of quickness to its pilot, due to the combination of a quieter cabin and the electric-motor operation of the 2.3-liter engine, which is devoid of any peakiness, pulling smoothly and steadily right up to its 7100-rpm redline.

    Another take: Mazda's entry-level offering has lost the lightness of being that made the Protegé so appealing, which is the price of the 3's clear improvement in substance and quality.

    And speaking of price, more car, which is what we have here, inevitably means a bigger sticker. Mazda says four-door models will start at $14,200 and five-door editions at $17,410. Both body styles should top out at about $23,500 loaded. Our test car, which included a mix and match of features, carried an estimated as-tested price of $21,000. That price included such things as leather, ABS and electronic brake-force distribution, xenon headlights, a tire-pressure monitor, and a power sunroof. It did not include Mazda's DVD-based navigation system, a CD player (which will be packaged with the sunroof in U.S. models), side-impact and curtain airbags (ordinarily packaged with ABS), or an automatic transmission.

    Package prices notwithstanding, this adds up to a rather expensive five-door compact—$2260 more than that Protegé5 comparo winner. The Mazda 3 may very well carry on the Protegé's best-in-class tradition. But for all the gain, something's been lost. That's the price of growing up.

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    THE VERDICT

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    Highs: Brisk performance, painstaking assembly, handsome interior, a feeling of refinement and substance.

    Lows: Abbreviated rear-seat footroom, diminished joie de drive.

    The Verdict: Mazda revises its case for best in class.

    -----

    COUNTERPOINT

    BARRY WINFIELD
    The Mazda 3 maintains the positive design impetus the company has demonstrated with its new Mazda 6 and RX-8 models, putting a distinctive—even controversial—contender out there among the small cars. With its sturdy structure, taut handling, and generous engine size for the class, the new 3 is likely to make big friends among the import tuners and hot rodders. The question is, will it befriend as many families looking for an economy runabout? The styling is a little adventurous for these conservative consumers, and the rear-seat space isn't great.

    PETER LYON
    Inheriting Mazda's telltale grille and headlight slant that grace the faces of the company's new generation of vehicles—the 6 and the RX-8—the 3 certainly has the curves to turn heads. It may borrow parts from the Ford Focus bin, but its look, interior feel, and handling are all Mazda. The 160-hp, 2.3-liter engine from the 6 i has more than enough herbs, and the 3 turns in sharper and truer than any other in its class. And that five-speed manual shifter is just superb. The RX-8's six-speeder boasts nice short throws and a precise touch. The 3's does, too, with arguably the best gearbox in the class.

    DANIEL PUND
    The Mazda 3 is more clearly focused on the European market—where vehicle size and opulence do not automatically go hand in hand—than it is on the American. There's a large market for opulently equipped hatchbacks across the Atlantic, and the new Ford-based Mazda fits nicely into that class with the Peugeot 307 and Alfa Romeo 147 and such. It is a far nicer car than the Protegé ever was in terms of interior design, NVH control, and an overall substantive feel. But gone are the perfectly matched, lightweight controls and frisky nature that come with a well-tuned light car. Much has been gained with the new model, but the part I liked best about the old has been lost.

    ----

    C/D TEST RESULTS

    ACCELERATION (Seconds)
    Zero to 30 mph: 2.3
    40 mph: 3.9
    50 mph: 5.5
    60 mph: 7.4
    70 mph: 10.2
    80 mph: 13.1
    90 mph: 17.4
    100 mph: 22.8
    110 mph: 30.1
    Street start, 5-60 mph: 8.6
    Top-gear acceleration, 30-50 mph: 11.7
    50-70 mph: 11.7
    Standing 1/4-mile: 16.0 sec @ 87 mph
    Top speed (governor limited): 118 mph


    BRAKING
    70-0 mph @ impending lockup: 169 ft

    HANDLING
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.87 g
    Understeer: moderate


    FUEL ECONOMY
    EPA city driving: 25 mpg
    EPA highway driving: 32 mpg
    C/D-observed: 21 mpg

    INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL
    Idle: 44 dBA
    Full-throttle acceleration: 77 dBA
    70-mph cruising: 72 dBA

    [​IMG]

    Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon
    Estimated price as tested: $21,000 (base price: $17,410)
    Options on test car: anti-lock brakes, sunroof, leather seats, xenon headlights
    Major standard accessories: power windows and locks, remote locking, A/C, cruise control, tilting and telescoping steering wheel, rear defroster and wiper
    Sound system: Mazda AM/FM radio/CD changer, 6 speakers

    ENGINE
    Type: inline-4, aluminum block and head
    Bore x stroke: 3.44 x 3.70 in, 87.5 x 94.0mm
    Displacement: 138 cu in, 2261cc
    Compression ratio: 9.7:1
    Fuel-delivery system: port injection
    Valve gear: chain-driven double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake-valve timing
    Power (SAE net): 160 bhp @ 6500 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 150 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
    Redline: 7100 rpm


    DRIVETRAIN
    Transmission: 5-speed manual
    Final-drive ratio: 4.11:1
    Gear ... Ratio ... Mph/1000 rpm ... Max. test speed
    I ... 3.31 ... 5.3 ... 38 mph (7100 rpm)
    II ... 1.84 ... 9.5 ... 68 mph (7100 rpm)
    III ... 1.31 ... 13.4 ... 95 mph (7100 rpm)
    IV ... 0.97 ... 18.1 ... 118 mph (6500 rpm)
    V ... 0.76 ... 23.2 ... 118 mph (5100 rpm)

    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 103.9 in
    Track, front/rear: 60.2/59.6 in
    Length/width/height: 176.6/69.1/57.7 in
    Ground clearance: 5.9 in
    Drag area, Cd (0.35) x frontal area (24.6 sq ft, est): 8.61 sq ft
    Curb weight: 2957 lb
    Weight distribution, F/R: 60.3/39.7%

    Curb weight per horsepower: 18.5 lb
    Fuel capacity: 14.5 gal

    CHASSIS/BODY
    Type: unit construction with a rubber-isolated front crossmember
    Body material: welded steel stampings

    INTERIOR
    SAE volume, front seat 51 cu ft
    rear seat 43 cu ft
    cargo, seats up/down 17/31 cu ft
    Front-seat adjustments: fore-and-aft, seatback angle; driver only: seat height, lumbar support
    Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts, driver and passenger front airbags rear manual 3-point belts

    SUSPENSION
    Front: ind, strut located by a control arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar
    Rear: ind; 1 trailing arm, 2 lateral links, and 1 toe-control link per side; coil springs; anti-roll bar

    STEERING
    Type: rack-and-pinion with variable electrohydraulic power assist
    Steering ratio: 14.6:1
    Turns lock-to-lock: 2.8
    Turning circle curb-to-curb: 34.1 ft

    BRAKES
    Type: hydraulic with vacuum power assist and anti-lock control
    Front: 11.8 x 1.0-in vented disc
    Rear: 11.0 x 0.4-in disc

    WHEELS AND TIRES
    Wheel size/type: 6.5 x 17 in/cast aluminum
    Tires: Goodyear Eagle RS-A, P205/50VR-17
    Test inflation pressures, F/R: 32/32 psi
    Spare: high-pressure compact on steel wheel

    [​IMG]
     
  2. mucky

    mucky .

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    Not bad sprint numbers, but mpg is a little low for an econo car.


    :hs:
     
  3. Jeebus

    Jeebus Well-Known Member

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    KNOCK KNOCK! LOL!
    looks like a fucking pontiac vibe.
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I noticed that as well, it's a gas hog for its class. It could weigh less too. :hs:
     
  5. vikingen

    vikingen OT Supporter

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    my next car most likely
     
  6. bokhan

    bokhan i love you

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    frumunda cheese~!
    me likes.
     
  7. mucky

    mucky .

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    HID lights or not, $21,000 is a shitload of money for an econo car too. :sad2:
     
  8. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    And that's without navigation. :eek3:
     
  9. jayrod

    jayrod Lurker extraordinaire...

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    i agree...

    it's a hot car, but for $20k+?
     
  10. Josepi

    Josepi HA HA, I CHANGED MY AV

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    They've been doing 3 spoke leather wrapped steering wheels for longer than the miata... ;)

    Mileage does suck...:wtc:

    :bigthumb:
     
  11. mucky

    mucky .

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    I rather have a midsize car without HID and better fuel economy than an econo car with HID and shitty mpg for near the same price.


    :sad2:
     
  12. Sonic

    Sonic Live every day to the fullest, for yesterday is go

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    IS the Mazda6 available with HIDs or Nav?
     
  13. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Nope.
     
  14. youngdan

    youngdan BWFC

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    New focus will look like that but with different lights etc :) :woohoo: i think its Gorgeous
     
  15. Sonic

    Sonic Live every day to the fullest, for yesterday is go

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    Now that's just stupid on Mazda's part.
     
  16. SenenCito

    SenenCito OT Supporter

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    I want it amazingly it costs here in Puerto Rico 21k where the Vibe GT goes for 25k great price I think
     
  17. CarlsV6

    CarlsV6 Guest

    That's also the hi-po version, price and milage for the lower regular econo car should be a bit better.
     
  18. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    It's the new Volvo S40 too.
     
  19. youngdan

    youngdan BWFC

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    Yup C1 platform.. :big grin:
     
  20. CarlsV6

    CarlsV6 Guest

    Good ole Ford platform sharing, but at least now they're doing a good job of it.
     
  21. anomaly

    anomaly If you weren't around for the original HA.net spli

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    5door, Hids, ABS, Xenon, Sport Package (no 6 disc/moon roof add 850) has MSRP of 18945, who knows if you can get one for that.
     
  22. mzmtg

    mzmtg New Member

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    I test drove one (5-door, 5-speed).

    It is a great car. Seriously.

    I definitely like the idea of a "nice" small car.

    According to edmunds a sedan with all the options and a manual trans would go for about $21,500.

    That includes:
    6-disc changer, in-dash
    sport package
    sunroof
    17" wheels
    Navigation
    HIDs
    Perforated leather seats
    rain sensing wipers
    traction control
    abs
    side airbags


    That's sounds like a pretty good deal to me :)
     
  23. Melvin_91GT

    Melvin_91GT New Member

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    Um, aren't HID's and Xenons the same thing? :confused:
     
  24. anomaly

    anomaly If you weren't around for the original HA.net spli

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    Hahahha, I fucked that one up. I was just going from memory. The car only has 1 set of HID's =p
     

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