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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I drove a base model Mazda3 i sedan with the 148 hp 2.0 liter and then a 5 door hatch Mazda3 2.3 liter 160hp
A little highway time and about 70% twisting back roads.
First impression was amazement at the fit and finish. It seems impossible for the car to be this nice for the price. It scores a 12 on the dashstroker 1-10 scale. The most jaded VW dashstroker in the world would not be able to say any VW in price range is nicer. Period. The seats are great and interior/switchgear are worthy of a much more expensive car. Rear seats have class-leading legroom. Significantly more than a Jetta or Golf, yet the trunk is still Jetta-huge.
The shifter is the best I've experienced on any car I've ever driven. That includes my neighbors 540i. Yes, seriously. Just MHO. Flame away.
There is no looseness, just steady, velvety resistance on the stick. Never felt anything quite like it. It doesn't even wiggle in neutral. Throws are super short. It's nearly telepathic. It just goes directly into the right gear with a flick of the wrist. It's as if you had been driving the car all your life. Positively delicious.
Handling is tight as a drum. There is minimal lean in a hard turn and the steering is progressive and totally predictable. You wind up exactly where you think you will at the end of the turn.
The base engine revs freely and has good low end response. Coming out of a hairpin turn in 3rd gear I was barely going 15 mph yet I was able to accelerate out of the turn smoothly. It didn't rocket out of the turn, but there was no sense of lugging or struggle. Power builds very evenly in a very non-VTEC type of way. Feels like a V6 in that respect.
In a straight line, it moves out neatly. Not fast, but *almost* quick I'd say.
2.0 acceleration: 6.5/10
2.0 flexibility, smoothness and response: 7.5/10
2.3 acceleration: 6.75/10
2.0 flexibility, smoothness and response: 8.5/10
The 2.3 liter 160 hp engine was noticeably smoother and quieter at idle and under load. The 2.0 was very smooth, but the 2.3 was Lexus like at idle. You could not hear or feel it running at all. Performance wise the difference was very subtle. It really doesn't feel much faster at all. What you notice is the smoothness and a bit of a fatter torque wave. There is just a wee bit more thrust when you press the pedal in higher gear. It's a pleasing difference, but very subtle. Still not a "fast" car, but it's "peppy". A GTI 1.8T would definitely kick it ass in a straight line. No question, but I still found the 3 more fun to drive. The shifter alone would make a GTI owner cry.
The base model is such a good deal at $15-16k that it is criminal. The nicer models with the big wheels don't handle THAT much better and they have just a hint more thrust (the smoothness/refinement of the 2.3 is enticing though)
It's a little hard to justify $3-5,000+ more for the S. It isn't faster, just more options. If you like options though, they have some good ones and they are all reasonably priced. For $20-22k you can have a 3 that is loaded to the gills with everything from Xenon headlamps to a navigation system and it is still and incredible bargain.
I like the sedan better. The hatchback is nice, but the space behind the rear seat is just silly, it's less than half the amount the huge trunk of the sedan has and the sedan looks better IMHO. A wagon would be a dream, it's a shame they don't make one.
OVERALL: The fit/finish is better than anything near its price by far, handling is in the top 10 of cars I've ever driven in my life no joke. Shifter is the best I've ever felt period. Power is not amazing, but the flexible engines never feel sluggish and the total package is so much fun to drive that it's silly especially considering the price.
Go and drive one. If you can find a better new sports sedan for $15-17k --- buy it.
I predict the Mazdaspeed version will be superb enough to cross-shop against cars costing $10,000 more.
The only way this car could be any better is if the mid level 2.3 engine made more power, something like 175 hp and if they offered a wagon. With that it would be untouchable.
Can't say enough good things about this car. I cannot comprehend how they can build a machine this nice for that price. http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif
 

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this car WILL be on the 10 Best for 05 I predict.

great review http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif
I posted it over at the TrioSpeed board at FocalJet.


DRRRRRROOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLL



Modified by All_Texan at 11:13 PM 1-11-2004
 

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Re: (All_Texan)

Quote »

^^^^^^^^
Tommy likey
I haven't had the pleasure of driving one but I was able to sit and explore the interior and exterior and I must say I was impressed, bot inside and out. Seems to be very solid.


Modified by cahlheim at 5:54 PM 1-11-2004
 

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Re: (All_Texan)

That is one SWEET car!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Re: (icedmocha)

Yeah, I was really stunned, I have to say.
I had high expectations for the car to begin with before I even saw or drove it, yet it managed to surpass them.
I honestly can't see how anyone could cross shop this car with anything remotely similar in it's price range and not go with the 3. Unless you value horsepower over everything else or you want a diesel or a hybrid, I can't see a single thing that makes any competitor able to stand up to this thing.

I've been hemming and hawing and agonizing about what my next car will be for 6 months now and whittling away my list. Cars come and go out of favor etc. I had it down to about 3 cars.
The experience I had this afternoon made it all clear in a flash. It was like a divine intervention. I think god reached down through the moonroof and smacked me in the back of the head the minute I turned the key and stepped on the gas. I smiled wide and I knew my quest was over before I had even made it to the first traffic light.

I wiped my mental list clear and only the 3 is left.

The only thing left to decide is color and whether or not I want to spend some extra cash and get a well-equipped "s" or go for a stripped "i" and have a super low car payment. For me it doesn't make much sense to go in between. Like I said, the difference between the motors isn't huge. Once you start adding options to an "i" before you know it, you're $10 a month away from an "s" with even more stuff on it. Once you're in an "s" you see how cheap the options packages are for what you get and well...

IMO the way to go is to get a super basic "i" with no power windows, make A/C the only option. You'll barely crack $15k and you will have the best $15k car EVAR and feel like a genius for the smart move you made every time you drive past a Civic, Corolla, Jetta GL or pretty much anything.
If you are used to creature comforts and won't give them up then get an "s" but don't half-ass it and just get an entry "s". I would add at least the ABS/Side airbag/side curtain package, the sport package with the 17" wheels and either the Xeon headlamps or leather. Even then, you will only be at around $19k http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif

If you have no problem spending $21k or more then wait for the Mazdaspeed on the way and make us all jealous.
 

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Re: (nest)

Quote, originally posted by nest »
IMO the way to go is to get a super basic "i" with no power windows, make A/C the only option. You'll barely crack $15k and you will have the best $15k car EVAR and feel like a genius for the smart move you made every time you drive past a Civic, Corolla, Jetta GL or pretty much anything

No power windows or A/C?? Helllllllllllllllllllllls no!! No way in HELL would I ditch A/C...especially in North Carolina during the summer. Sweltering heat.
And no power windows? When you grow up having things like A/C and power windows/locks all your life, you just get used to it.
 

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Re: (Mazda 3s)

Quote, originally posted by Mazda 3s »

No power windows or A/C?? Helllllllllllllllllllllls no!! No way in HELL would I ditch A/C...especially in North Carolina during the summer. Sweltering heat.
And no power windows? When you grow up having things like A/C and power windows/locks all your life, you just get used to it.

uhhhhhhhhh did u read his post? he said MAKE A/C the only option, that means equip it in my book, which he then stated would barely crack $15k

btw author: U should consider journalism, ur writing is light years ahead of the average joes and its very nice and pleasant to read. great job http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif


Modified by All_Texan at 1:10 AM 1-12-2004
 

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Re: (All_Texan)

Quote, originally posted by All_Texan »
this car WILL be on the 10 Best for 05 I predict.

You might want to alert C&D. In the 3's review I saw today, they mentioned that the 3 was overlooked for the 10Best in part because it lost some of agility that the Protege had. In fact, the current Focus won a spot.
This brings us back to your prediction.
Even assuming no other new cars are introduced (ya, right), there still isn't a compelling reason to bump any of the other cars out of the 10Best. If anything, the 3's chances are quite a bit less going forward.
Having said that, the 3 definitely is among the top affordable compacts.


Modified by GLS_VR6 at 5:29 PM 1-11-2004
 

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Re: Just drove two Mazda 3's --- REVIEW (nest)

I have to agree on most points. I also test drove the 3s sedan. Truly a nice car for the money, so much so I'm considering it now. Coming from an A4, I like the options in the S line better. The 3 Sedan has more backseat than my A4 thats for sure! I got quoted a fully loaded 3s, leather, sport pkg, HID's, etc for about $500 over invoice. Dealer was telling me they are selling very very well.
To me, this car is a mini sporty passat...or what a Jetta should be.
 

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Re: Just drove two Mazda 3's --- REVIEW (damianp)

One thing I forgot to mention. The lovely 2.3 sports a timing chain! http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif No belt! WAHOO!
Not sure on the 2.0.
 

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Re: Just drove two Mazda 3's --- REVIEW (damianp)

are you sure it has a timing chain? My Mazda 6i has the same engine as the 3s and it has a belt instead of a chain. However the Mazda 6s (220hp V6) has the chain.


Modified by MrHappyMonkey at 2:20 AM 1-12-2004
 

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Re: Just drove two Mazda 3's --- REVIEW (MrHappyMonkey)

Both the 2.0 and 2.3 in the Mazda3 have a timing chain according the manufacturers specs in the PDF I downloaded from mazdausa.com http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif
All_Texan- Thanks for the compliment
I was a journalism major in school and I write a fair amount but only for pleasure, not profit. I found it hard to make a decent living as a writer but it's something I've been meaning to pursue professionally on the side for a while.
 

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Re: Just drove two Mazda 3's --- REVIEW (damianp)

Quote, originally posted by damianp »
I got that info from this review:
http://www.nctd.com/review-drive.cfm?ReviewID=1507

Oh. Well I don't know which is on spot. I am going with Mazda's own info, but that could be wrong too. Brochures have typos sometimes too.
I guess the only way to know for sure would be to look at a technical manual or the engine itself. Not a big deal to me, but I'd definitely be happier with a chain given a choice. Especially if these are interference engines.

The 2.0 has higher compression than the 2.3 so it's more likely to be interference between the two AFAIK.
If anyone has the definitive answer here, chime in. I'm curious about this now.
 
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