Mazda's larger, more powerful replacements for the departed Proteg� sedan and Proteg�5 hatchback went on sale in the 2004 model year. Built on the same platform as the Volvo S40 and the European version of the Ford Focus, the compact, front-wheel-drive Mazda3 has entirely different styling. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder goes into the Mazda3 i sedan, while the Mazda3 s sedan and hatchback use a more powerful 2.3-liter four-cylinder.
For 2005, Sirius Satellite Radio is available and new 15-inch wheel covers are installed. At the 2005 Los Angeles Auto Show, a Special Edition Mazda3 debuted. It featured a leather interior, premium audio, high-gloss 17-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers and Carbon Gray Mica paint.
Comparatively upright in profile, the Mazda3 is built with a wide track and a relatively long (103.9-inch) wheelbase for its size. A Sports Package that includes sport bumpers, side skirts, 17-inch wheels and fog lamps is available on s models.
Steel wheels hold 15-inch tires on the Mazda3 i sedan; the Mazda3 s sedan gets 16-inch alloy wheels, while the Mazda3 s hatchback rolls on 17-inch rubber. The wagonlike hatchback has small triangular rear quarter windows. Sedans get a short but high rear deck.
Up to five people can fit inside the Mazda3. The steering column tilts and telescopes. Instruments sit in a trio of round recessed nacelles. A ratchet-type mechanism permits seat adjustment allowing the cushion and seatback to move up and down together. Placing the rear-suspension coil springs beneath the floor increases the hatchback's rear storage space.
Under the Hood
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the Mazda3 i develops 148 horsepower (144 hp in Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle form). The Mazda3 s uses a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that pumps out 160 hp. A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard, and a four-speed-automatic transmission with a manual-shift provision is optional.
All-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags are included in an option package.
The easy-to-drive Mazda3 handles more adeptly than most rivals. Performance with the larger engine falls short of some sporty compacts, but it will satisfy most drivers. The automatic transmission delivers quick, smooth responses. The engine is generally quiet, but it emits a fair amount of blare when pushed. With an easy-shifting manual gearbox and well-behaved clutch, even the Mazda3 i with the smaller engine feels more spirited than an upper-level model with the automatic.
The front seats are nicely shaped, but the seatbacks are on the hard side. Rear legroom is limited, but foot space is good. Headroom is average in the rear but meager in the center position. Visibility is good. The instruments are difficult to see on dark days but lit nicely at night.