By on October 22, 2010

As they say in Hebrew, im ta’am v’rai’ach ain l’hit’vakai’ach, with matters of taste you can’t argue, and in general I agree with Jack Baruth’s principle that folks who know nothing about design shouldn’t say much beyond “like it” or “don’t like it”. Still, it’s impossible to review current Mazdas without at least mentioning their, ahem, cheerful styling. And after spending a week with the Mazda 3 S Grand Touring five door (hereafter, the M3SGT), I’m afraid to say that styling was the major drawback. Of course, that also means that everything else about the MS3GT was pretty darn good.

I’ve never gone to design school nor would I call myself an artist or designer, at least compared to the folks who draw cars for a living, but my day gig is running a small custom embroidery shop so I actually work with design. I hate to be shallow and generally put styling below other factors when evaluating cars, but Mazda’s goofy yet almost sinister grin is just too much for me. I happened to like elements of Mazda’s current Nagare styling language and think that Franz von Holzhausen’s Furai concept was spectacular, but I just can’t countenance, if you will, former Mazda design chief Laurens van den Acker’s grinning front ends. It brings to mind the classic Gahan Wilson cartoon of a doctor recoiling in horror from a patient whose body is covered in smiley faces.

Aesthetics aside though, the styling does provide very good visibility. The M3SGT was a bit of a relief, having just driven the Honda CR-Z that has huge blind spots. Its A pillars are wide, per the current fashion, but that’s the price of air bag safety. The hood falls away fairly sharply but you have a good idea where the corners are, and other than the pillars, forward and side visibility is fine. Rear visibility is good, in part thanks to the unusually shaped C pillars. The front doors also open very wide, almost 90 degrees, and ingress and egress are easily accomplished.

The leather trimmed front seats, eight way power on the driver’s side on this fully loaded tester (MSRP $25,530), are comfortable, though I didn’t feel as cosseted as I did in the Mazda 6 (also in S Grand Touring trim). I was surprised at a lack of a lumbar support adjustment, though my chronically bad back didn’t really notice. There’s plenty of room in the back seat, but then I have short legs so I almost always have plenty of room. With the rear seats folded, the 3′s flat cargo surface and low loading deck win practicality points for the hatchback bodystyle.

The dashboard is laid out nicely, with two round binnacles holding the tachometer and speedometer right in front of the driver, easily visible through the steering wheel. The leather wrapped and cross stitched steering wheel is smallish, with duplicated audio, and nav controls, plus the usual cruise control and info display switches. In between the speedo and tach is a small liquid crystal display with fuel and odometer info. An auxiliary IP sits above the main gauges and towards the center of the dashboard. That second panel includes a liquid crystal info display for the climate control and audio, plus a 3″X4″ color LCD screen for the nav system. The nav screen can be switched to display trip computer data and audio system info. Some may find the nav screen too small but I found it less distracting than a larger center stack screen. I also like how it’s right below the windshield so you don’t have to take your eyes far from the road to check it.

Though the texture and colors of the panels are the same, the door panels use a hard plastic while the dash has a softer touch. Everything you actually touch when operating the car feels nice, and the switchgear gives an especially good impression of quality, with a solid, tactile feel. The clutch is perfect, with a very smooth takeup. The shifter is very good, though I’d prefer shorter throws. The shifter is spring loaded to naturally line up in the 3-4 slot, with heavier pressure needed to get into 5-6 than 1-2. This seems logical and I only had trouble finding first a couple of times.

Overall, the interior ergonomics are fine. I like the big central tuning button on the sound system. Everything was within reach and all the controls that I needed to use were intuitive enough that I didn’t have to RTFM (unless I wanted to).

This M3SGT came with dual zone automatic climate control that worked just fine. While no ACC can get a car as cold enough or as hot enough fast enough for me, once a comfortable temp was reached, the ACC worked almost imperceptibly. If you want fresh air or sunshine, there’s a factory two-way glass sun roof.

In terms of driving dynamics, as expected from Mazda, the M3SGT is a proper driver’s car. The 2.5L 167 HP four cyl engine pulls strongly and begs for revs; if I wasn’t paying attention to the tach, I easily hit the rev limiter in first and sometimes even second gear. You can chirp the tires in first without really trying and there’s more than enough power for any real world driving. Actually, on wet roads I thought the Dynamic Stability Control kicks in a little early but that’s largely due to the ease with which you can break the front tires loose.

The combination of a good power to weight ratio, a smooth clutch and a six speed transmission gives the driver a number of shifting options, including 1-3-5 and 2-4-6 shifts. If you want to hypermile, there’s almost always a higher gear available for you, and unlike the CR-Z,  you don’t have to downshift to fourth when you need to pass on the highway. The M3SGT pulls very strongly from 60 in 5th gear and unless it’s an emergency, you shouldn’t even have to downshift from 6th to pass on the interstates. Though the dual exhausts sound sporty around town, out on the highway the M2SGT is quiet and composed, turning a comfortable 3,250 RPM at 80MPH. The Grand Touring tag implies that it’s suitable for long distance drives and at freeway speeds the Mazda3 S GT feels perfectly at home, about as comfortable a ride as you could expect in a car of this size. Gas mileage was 26-27mpg over about 400 miles of mixed urban and suburban driving. With the cruise control set to 70mph on a flat road, instantaneous gas mileage readout showed 37mpg (YMMV).

The handling is, again, as would be expected from Mazda, tuned towards the enthusiast end of the spectrum. There’s the slight understeer you’re going to get with FWD but minimal body roll, and while the steering is not quite as quick as on the Honda CR-Z, it has substantially more feel than the Honda sport hybrid. On the Honda, that lack of feel combined with otherwise good steering was disconcerting. On the Mazda, there is a balance between feel, grip and precision that brings a smile to the face just about every time you drive it. The steering is perfectly weighted, with just the right touch of resistance. I noticed, while taking some photos underhood, that the M3SGT has braces on the front strut towers that bolt to the cowl. I don’t know if they are standard on all Mazda3s or just the sportier ones, but they certainly don’t hurt the car’s handling.

The ride isn’t bad for a compact car tuned to handle. Riding around urban and suburban Detroit with its potholes and frost heaves, the ride was a little bit busy and pitchy, but not uncomfortable. The ride is firm but not stiff. I didn’t hear any rattles, but then this was a relatively low-mile press fleet car. Though the four wheel disc brakes work just fine, I’d prefer a little firmer pedal. Getting a little bit of heat into the pads seemed to firm up the feel a bit and the one emergency stop I made was handled with aplomb.

When I tested the 2010 Mazda 6 S Grand Touring in February, I didn’t like the fact that the headlamp levelers (necessary to cope with load related pitch changes with the sharply aimed HID lamps) were manually adjusted. That feature is now automatic on the 6SGT’s little brother. One feature not available on last year’s 6 that came on the M3SGT I tested is AFS, adaptive front lighting system. The HID lamps can swivel, per input from the steering and speed sensors, to light up the area you are turning into. Directional headlamps are almost as old as the automobile (the Tucker’s center headlamp moved with the steering, and the Citroen SM had directional headlamps has well), but I doubt the concept has worked this well before. I can’t say that the AFS is imperceptible, because you do indeed notice it, but what you notice is how much easier it makes nighttime driving. Also, it’s kind of cool the way the lamps self-test and go through their range of motion when you first turn them on.

Other than a few relatively minor quibbles, and the fact that I personally don’t like the styling, there really was nothing not to like about the Mazda 3 S Grand Touring 5 Door. Unless you really need to seat 5 or more or want the increased comfort of a mid size sedan, I can easily see the M3SGT5D meeting the needs of most young families. It has just about all the features and space that a family car needs while still being the kind of car that brings a smile to your face every time you hop in.

Mazda provided the car, insurance and one tank of gasoline for this review.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

68 Comments on “Review: 2011 Mazda 3 S Grand Touring...”


  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    “I’m afraid to say that styling was the major drawback.”Quote
     
    Forget about the hatchback. The 4-door model is much better looking since the facelift.

    • 0 avatar
      akitadog

      Hah! I think the exact opposite. The first-gen 4-door looked waaay better than this gen’s 4-door. The new face is ugly on either body style, but it looks like it was actually styled for the hatchback’s lines, and then the 4-door was styled around the face. The previous 4-door looked much more cohesive than the current one. I mean, have you seen the rear fascia of the current sedan? It screams, “AFTERTHOUGHT!!!”

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      “Grand Touring”??? Really, Mazda?
      I started from Palo Alto at 2.00 this afternoon, and made a non-stop ~400 mile drive to Newport Beach, reaching just in time for an 8:00 pm dinner appointment.  I arrived fresher than I started – the stress from my work-week actually melted as I drove.  That is what a Grand Touring car does.  Somehow, I don’t think the Mazda would have been able to do that – I am sure it is a fine car, but I doubt it is a GT.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Dang if it handles, has a great engine, and a great interior: I really don’t care what it looks like.  I’ll be spending my time on the inside with a smile on my face.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Ronnie: how does this thing compare to a VW GTI?

    • 0 avatar

      Get me on VW’s press fleet list and I’ll tell you.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I spent several days driving this car back to back with the GTI, and its close.  Whats missing is the turbo punch, there just isnt that torque that the 2.0T delivers.  Handling I would say was on par, slightly softer but definitely still fun to drive.  The interior isnt as nice as the VW, but its not bad, just not quite as good.  Its more stylish, for sure.  Depends on whats more important to you, my wife loved the style of the Mazda, but I wanted to quality feel of the VW.

      What killed it was when I drove the Mazdaspeed version.  Its just so much better, once I tried it I just couldnt buy the lesser model.  But, for $19k brand new out the door, I cannot think of any other sporty compacts that are as good as the Mazda3S.  I basically was cross-shopping new Mazda3s with used GTIs, and new MS3 vs. new GTI, because of the price difference. 

      In the end, I got a used GTI, and I dont regret it, it suits me more.  But I still recommend the Mazda3 to almost everyone whos asked, because the GTI isnt going to be as reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Almost Jake

      I test drove both today. The GTI does everything the Mazda does better. It’s quicker, handles sharper, and has a more communicative chassis. The shifter is more precise and throws are slightly shorter. Both vehicles felt light and composed while driving hard, but the GTI is a better car to toss about. Now, if only VW could make it reliable.
       

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      @AlmostJake… amen, brother!  I hope the reliability doesnt bite me on the ass for making the choice I made.  I am being very careful with maintenance, and I just found out my DSG was recalled, I am getting a new mech unit and full service on it under warranty.

      But I agree with what you said… the MS3 was much closer to the GTI (better in some ways too), you would probably have liked that more than the regular 3.  In the end, the GTI was just more fun.  I have had it a year and I still love it, so thats a good sign.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Is this a wagon or 5-door hatch? Discuss.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      IMHO it is a station wagon and I love it for that.  But if my station wagon hating girlfriend asks, please for the love of god, tell her what a practical hatch it is.  (BTW this is the same woman who owns a Pontiac Vibe and loves it, thinks that it is some sort of CUV.)

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      I’m going with hatch. My acid test is looking at the Golf and the Jetta Wagon. Same car, but there are clear differences in length and cargo capacity.
       
      The Mazda3 clearly resembles hatches far more than wagons, especially in the newest iteration (looks more and more like Toyota Matrix now).
       
      I loved the pseudo-Euro styling of the last one, but this one has gotten more generic looking and the smile is a huge WTF for me. Sorry to get all design-speaky on you there :D

    • 0 avatar
      HalfMast

      IMHO, station wagons are elongated, hatches are just squared out.  M3 5-door has the same wheel base as the sedan, and they didn’t have to extend any sheet metal, so it’s a hatch to me.  I drove an ’04 Matrix (i.e. Vibe) for a while, and I’m pretty sure that it was extended off of it’s Corolla base, so I’d call it a SW, but it was very close (in fact, I think the new design may not be extended at all, so maybe it’s a hatch). And no, the Vibe/Matrix is not, nor will ever be a CUV.

    • 0 avatar

      The litmus test for me is the size of the glass behind the C-pillar. If it’s nearly as large (or larger than) the rear door glass, it’s a wagon; if it’s much smaller (as it is here), or non-existent (like on my SVT Focus), it’s a hatchback.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      It is a short wagon. How about that?

      I prefer the hatch myself, having checked out both. For something this size, the hatch is more practical than the sedan – better use of available space. For me, this car is the best looking out of them all except for the grin. Hope that changes soon.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a five door hatch, whereas the previous generation Mazda 6 had a wagon.
      For me the test is the Ford Focus and the VW Golf where you could buy a hatch or a wagon.
      The Mazda3 resembles a hatch IMHO, and that’s okay, in fact it’s good.
      Not too sure on the styling but much nicer looking then the sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      lzaffuto

      I own a 2006, and I would call it a wagon, although I know that is not what Mazda or most people call it. To me, 5 doors = wagon, 3 doors = hatchback or fastback, no matter how long or short it is. Of course, I’m a bit old fashioned, as I also believe if your car has 4 doors it is a sedan and *NOT* a coupe no matter how damn low you make the roof.

    • 0 avatar
      Beelzebubba

      It’s NOT a WAGON!!!  Call it a 5-door or a Hatchback, but not a Wagon!  I’m prematurely gray at 35, can you please spare me the stigma of driving a station wagon??? =)
      I like how Mazda named them in Canada- the Mazda3 4-door and Mazda3 Sport (Sport = 5-door, not a trim level like it is here in the U.S.).  Then there’s three trim levels of each- GX, GS and GT.  They Sport GX is a 2.0L version of the 5-door, which we can’t get here.  It also has 16″ wheels and spoiler on the back, so it looks kinda homely.  But offering a greater range of configurations and options may explain why it’s the best selling car in Canada!
      Remember the 2004-2006 Mazda6 “Sport Wagon”…I might could tolerate calling it a Sport Wagon, but let’s just stick with 5-door for now….

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Beelzebubba:

      What’s wrong? Did you spend too much time in the rear-facing seat? That was the best seat in the house, well, at least when one was a kid.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    It must be me.
    I like the face. I have had enough of the in your face nasty stare down cars are giving today.
    They’ve gotten childishly angry.
    I am having tons fun when driving the Mazda and I am glad the car looks like it as well.

    The Mazda3 has what we were talking about a few days ago on TTAC…classic looks.
    I can’t recall the car being discussed, but someone explained how it was remarkable how they set out to build a classic when a classic is almost always proven through time.
    It is not very successfully set out for.

    But the 3!

    Today a construction crew at my house commented on what an awfully cool new car I had up on the hill.
    It was the 05 red/orange Mazda3.
    I looked at it and thought, yes…it still looks as awesome as it did 5 years ago when I got it.

    This 3 series will look the same 5 or 10 or 20 years down the road.
    Fun. Exciting. Practical.
     the perfect car for all reasons.
     

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      +1 on the good looks of the last generation Mazda3.  When I was in the market in late 06, it was my first choice.  I was really lusting after a 5 speed hatch in that coppery red color.  Then, disaster struck.  We decided that my abnormally tall sons would not fit well in the back seat.  The taller one is presently 6-5, and it was a requirement that the whole family be able to ride in the car if we had to.  So, gone was my chance (at least then) for the 3. 

      The last generation 3 has my vote as the best looking car of the 00s.  It was virtually perfect from every angle.  The new one is a minor disappointment to me (not like the new Fit, that is a major disappointment, along with about every other new Honda).  The new 3 is not bad from any angle but the front. All new Mazdas look like Toon cars.

    • 0 avatar
      akitadog

      My wife drives an ’06 Mazda3 hatch, and I agree that it is an instant classic in terms of design. It seems to have everything balanced in terms of how form and function work together.
       
      I have to say that the current generation could only go downhill from there. How do you restyle a car that has it all pretty much perfect? I know, let’s make it “shocking!” or “in your face!” Whoever green-lighted production down the Nagare path needs to commit harakiri.
       
      I feel the same way about the 02-05 MINI Coopers v. the current Coopers. The design was perfect. The designers know it was perfect as the current version looks virtually the same from a distance. But when you study what they did to it (bugeyes!), it is clearly the inferior of the two; change for change’s sake.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      My wife and I both agree, the last gen Mazda3 hatch was a very good looking car.  I also still love my 04 Mazda6, even after 6 years of driving it.  There’s not many cars I could say that about, actually none that I’ve ever owned.

    • 0 avatar
      Beelzebubba

      Lumbergh21- I agree with you about the previous Mazda3 5-door!  I have a Titanium Gray 2006 Mazda3 s Touring 5-door and, even after five years, it’s still a damn good looking car!  The current 5-door is as good or better than the previous model in many ways, but exterior design isn’t one of them!
      The current Mazda6 is another story…what a looker!!!

  • avatar
    carguy

    I like the look of the new hatch – the sedan less so but in either case its hard to argue against this being a great compromise of fun, utility and economy for urbanites.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    It could be the best car in then world, but with looks like that I’ll never buy it. Had it looked even just ordinary I might have one in my garage right now. It’s a cartoon car.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The clutch is perfect, with a very smooth takeup. The shifter is very good, though I’d prefer shorter throws.
     
    It’s possible I just suck at driving, but I had an absolutely terrible time with the Mazda3s’s clutch.  It was a combination of numb, too light, and abrupt- if that makes any sense.  I never really got the hang of it and as a result I couldn’t get much enjoyment out of the car.  It was odd because I got along just fine with the clutch in the Speed3.

  • avatar
    ringomon

     
    I own a 2006 and a 2010 model.  
     
    I bought both cars for the driving feel compared to the competition- but I like the style also of course.
    The 2006 Hatchback is hansome.  It looks good from almost every angle, and looks like a much more expensive car than it is.
    The 2010 is a sedan, because my wife preffered it, and I didn’t need any of the features that come with the higher model grade exclusive hatchback- bigger engine (worse mpg, higher insurance), bigger rims (more expensive tires)- higher sticker price  (higher monthly payment).  I am not turned off by the smily face as many are- but I am still trying to get a hold of the styling of the rest of the car.  It has a lot of small details, interesting planes and intersections of shapes that change the look of the car based on slight shifts in the viewing angle.  Sometimes when I see other one’s driving down the street I don’t recognize them immediately even though I own the same car.  It’s interesting like a modern art sculpture- something to be pondered and looked over more than embraced for it’s (questionable) beauty.  I haven’t decided after 6 months of ownership if I like the design or not. Everyone always comments on the grin, but there’s a lot going on with the rest of the car as well.  They can do a lot with sheet metal now that they couldn’t not too long ago (for better or worse?).
    I like driving it- that’s enough. 
     
    All that being said, I personally don’t know any other car in the same price range I would consider-  maybe the Subaru which has much plainer styling.  I’ve been burned by VW and the Golf’s styling is too conservative for me anyways.   Civic is too ubiquitious where I live.  Corolla is too boring.
     
    Maybe the new Focus or the new Elentra- but I couldn’t wait.  

  • avatar

    >>>goofy yet almost sinister grin
    That nails it.
    But the styling on most Japanese cars is so bad that I’m not sure how much this thing suffers in comparison. I mean, look at the Fit. There is one plug-ugly chariot.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Here’s how you get the Mazda3 hatch design.

      Take the smiley face grill from the Pegeout 207 or 308 and slap it on a sleeker rendition of the Pontiac Vibe’s greenhouse/D-pillar design.

      Btw, does this mean that the comments about “goofy Asian styling” should instead be “goofy European styling” (or at least “goofy French styling”)?

  • avatar
    7th Frog

    I have owned a 2010 3i touring with a 5 spd for 6 months now and I have to say it is easily the best driving and handling vehicle I have ever owned. it has the smaller 2.0 but it certainly doesn’t feel underpowered. The stick is also the smoothest I have ever driven. All my vehicles have been manuals except one.
    I like the styling, especially since it is black and the grin isn’t nearly as noticeable.
    I do think the sedan looks better than the hatch in the new design. My only quibble is that there is a creaking noise coming from the windshield/dash area when i drive over rough pavement.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    The styling keeps growing on me.  The grille still bothers me if I stare at it too much, but other than that, I like it.  Hopefully they can tone down the grille with the mid-model cycle refresh.  By then it will have a Sky-G engine as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      If it gets a Sky-D engine then I’ll buy one. Diesel hatch stick FTW!

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I still can’t comprehend the TTAC diesel obsession. For the love of all that’s holy, why would -anyone- want a compact hatch to sound like a freakin’ Peterbilt?! Here’s how I feel: if someone hears me coming but doesn’t see me, I don’t want them to think I’m driving a school bus.

      Add that to most car diesels being woefully underpowered (torque or not) and the difficulty of findinf gas stations that offer it, and diesel’s expense largely offsetting mileage gains, and I can’t fathom any rationale for them aside from obstinate elitism…

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Modern, not “built for towing” diesels have good range. That’s about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @Perisoft: TORQUE RULES! http://media.photobucket.com/image/Torque%20rules!/spina74/demotivational_poster_torque-1.jpg

       
      I realize that’s not a picture of a car with a diesel engine but diesel is the fastest road to torque.  Plus diesels give some of us that low revving non stressed feel that the old small block V8s used to give us.  (BTW I realized from one of your posts the other day that I’m only two years older than you, talk about wildly different viewpoints.  :P)
       

  • avatar
    mrhappypants

    There’s hope on the horizon for shoppers in this segment:  The upcoming Kia Forte 5-door.  They’re clearly gunning for the Mazda in terms of price and features and it’s Euro-handsome, not Asian-goofy.  Hopefully it will drive competently.
     

  • avatar
    vvk

    I must be the only one who does not like this thing. I test drove it when I was shopping 2-3 years ago. I thought it was less than mediocre. Noisy, unrefined, uncomfortable. Great handling? Not that I could feel. In fact, Mazda5 I drove the next day handled much better. Very poor brakes, poor steering feel, etc., etc. Compared to other cars I tried (Impreza, Rabbit, Matrix) it just wasn’t a car I would ever consider buying. It was bad in every respect, including handling, brakes and steering — areas most Mazda3 reviewers rave about. I just don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar
      italianstallion

      Ditto.
       
      Thrashy, loud and cheap-feeling inside.  Driven back to back, I thought the previous generation was a little more refined though.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      We drove a 3 and a 5 back-to-back, and coming from someone with a 3-series BMW with sports package, I thought the Mazda 3 had a harsh ride, almost too harsh.  We ultimately went with the 5, both because it rode better but also because it had more room (and those great sliding doors).  Strangely enough, I think the 5 also rides worse than my BMW 3, but then again, the BWM cost quite a bit more.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. Gray

      Huh, that’s weird. One possible explaination is that some people have a different idea of what good handling is than others. For instance, the tradeoff for sharper cornering is almost always a harsher ride. If you like a car to have a smooth ride, you would think a stiffer suspension means that its handling sucks. It’s a matter of prefference.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Here’s how you get the Mazda3 hatch exterior design.

    Take the smiley face grill from the Pegeout 207 or 308 and slap it on a sleeker rendition of the Pontiac Vibe’s greenhouse/D-pillar design.

    Btw, does this mean that the comments about “goofy Asian styling” should instead be “goofy European styling” (or at least “goofy French styling”)?

  • avatar
    EChid

    I own an earlier one of these, and my major issues with it are tire noise and its highway-going attitude. It revs way too high IMO. At around 120km/h its well over 3000rpm, around 3200 to 3300. When I tested the 6spd 2010s it was the same thing. Given the extra gear, I so NO reason why it should rev a lot lower. My 3 gets worse gas mileage then our 03 Accord on long highway trips because it revs way way way to high.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

     
    Why do so many give Mazda hell for the 3 face yet allow Audi to get away with its Alice Cooper trashy Hollywierd eyeliner!?

    Now come on, this is the cheapest addition to what was a quality design I have ever seen.
    It so embarrassing I cannot drive one.
    And it’s light years better than the open mouthed bass Mitsubishi look.

    Get over the smile, folks.

    • 0 avatar
      Beelzebubba

      Why do so many give Mazda hell for the 3 face yet allow Audi to get away with its Alice Coopertrashy Hollywierd eyeliner!?
       
      And the ugliest Audi looks gorgeous parked next to a new Acura TL (or any Acura, honestly)…

    • 0 avatar

      Big bold grille openings, Audi, Bentley, Chrysler 300, Mitsubishi, are just another example of how faddish car designers can be. Ford’s Fiesta has a big gaping maw too. I don’t quite get it because I assume a lot of the seemingly open grille has to be blocked off for aero reasons.
       
      Audi wants their cars to be distinctive at night, I think that’s what’s up with the LED eyeliners. I don’t find them that offensive. Still, it’s good to hear some criticism for everyone’s fair-haired boy, Audi.
       
      When I was about 15 I think I could identify just about every car sold in the US at night just by the way it’s lights were arranged, so maybe Audi has a point.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      When I was about 15 I think I could identify just about every car sold in the US at night just by the way it’s lights were arranged, so maybe Audi has a point.
       
      When I was 16 I could identify every car sold in the US as a cop car by nighttime headlights, but that’s another story.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      There are very few cars in the history of automobile manufacturing that don’t look better than the current crop of Acura’s.  Unfortunatley the current Mazda3 seems to have a little Acura in its rear end design.  Bad, bad idea there Mazda.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    As the owner of a 2006 Mazda3 s 5-door, I definitely prefer the styling of the first generation (2004-2009).  Hopefully the 2012 model will be a mid-cycle ‘refresh’ and deal with the smiley face up front.  Other than that, I love the rest of the car, 4-door and 5-door (the latter being my favorite).
    I’ve test driven the 2010 model twice now and I’m almost certain that the 2011 or 2012 Mazda3 s 5-door Sport will be my next car!  One thing I’ve noticed is that the front-end isn’t nearly as unattractive if the car is Black or Graphite.  But it stands out like a sore thumb on Crystal White Pearl, Silver and Celestial Blue (the color of the test car above).
    For 2011, you can add both the Moonroof/Bose Package and Tech Package to the s Sport 4-door or 5-door.  The Grand Touring has Moonroof/Bose standard and the same Tech Package is optional  If you add both packages to S Sport, the only GT features missing are the Heated leather seats w/ 8-way power driver seat, Dual-zone Climate Control and Illuminated visor vanity mirrors.  For buyers like me, who HATE leather (especially Black), it’s awesome that we can get the Bi-Xenon HID headlights, LED clear-lens taillights, rain-sensing wipers, navigation and SIRIUS satellite radio on the cloth-seated s Sport models! =)
    The loaded s Sport 5-door is priced $1570 than the Grand Touring.  The only things the extra $1570 adds are leather interior and automatic climate control.  I think I can figure out how to use the manual climate controls to save $1570.
    The only thing that irritates me is that the Tech Package is only available on s Sport models with AUTOMATIC transmission….but you can get on the GT with either transmission.  I

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I’m with you on cloth seats. I love the fabric on my ’95 Mystique and ’0E Forester. But all the new cloth interiors I’ve seen at auto shows are this horrible plasticy woven stuff that looks like it’d have all the slipperiness and coldness of leather but with the feel of burlap.

      I actually tried to find a Saab 9-5 with cloth seats, but the only one I found was a low-spec ’01 – exactly the problem you describe. I’ve gotten used to the leather on the ’05 I ended up with, and the potential for swapping in vented and better-bolstered Aero seats tempers my distaste for leather. And it really does smell nice…

      On the other hand, it pisses me off that only the seats themselves are real leather, with the rest vinyl. I don’t care how good the fakery is, I just don’t want fakery. My car actually has real wood; why can’t manufacturers just be honest and not try to pretend materials are something they’re not? I’d sure as hell rather have a well-done obvious synthetic than some faux crap whose appearance is smack in the middle of the upholstery uncanny valley…

    • 0 avatar
      Beelzebubba

      PeriSoft- The cloth is my 2006 s 5-door is far from plush (it’s more like neoprene meets synthetic fiber) but it actually looks very good.  The ’04-’06 ‘s’ models had Black seats with red or blue checked pattern (depending on exterior color).  My Titanium Gray has the Black/Red (a big plus since I’m a UGA fan) and it’s very comfortable.  After almost five years and 80k miles they still look brand new, so the fabric holds up very well.
      Part of the reason I hate leather is because of temperature extremes here in Georgia.  In the summer, leather will fry you and in the winter your butt will freeze…especially before seat heaters were common!  Long-term maintenance and durability are my other main reasons for avoiding it.  My cars are always outdoors (never garaged), so daily exposure to the sun can really take a toll on leather.
      I’m willing to bet that most cars with leather seats only use REAL leather on the seating sufaces and the rest of the seat is vinyl, pleather or (my favorite) leatherette! =)  Fake leather is used for most door panel trim also.
      I’ve always wondered if there is a plastic forest somewhere that’s nearing extinction after so many years of harvesting so much fake, shiny, plastic wood?  I avoid light colored interiors for that very reason- they usually have some pieces of godawful plastic wood-patterned trim.  Just give me a dark interior with silver or fake-carbon-fiber trim instead.

  • avatar

    I’m driving a 2006 3S 5 doors since new and was really glad to hear the good reviews about the 2010 3, so, I went to my dealer for a test drive, the same car like the one in the pictures here but black.
    I had the car for myself for about 30 min (that’s how they do test drives at this dealership), no pressure from a sales man sitting next to me.
    What can I tell you, big disappointment, same road noise as my car, not big difference in engine power a little nicer interior.
    But the thing that strike me the most is that face!
    The number 1 reason I got my Mazda was the design, I just loved it and after 5 min test drive I bought it, with the new model, I’m not even sure I would look at it to begin with if I did not drive one already.
     

  • avatar
    James2

    Jack Nicholson called, he wants his Joker face back.
    Paging Ikuo Maeda, Mazda’s new chief designer, paging Maeda-san… design a new face, please.

  • avatar
    stuki

    If nothing else, the new 3 certainly looks a lot more distinctive than the last one. At least in MS3 guise, I prefer the latest one. And speaking of MS3, unless one’s age and / or driving record makes that one uninsurable, it doesn’t really cost much more than the GT to buy, while being a much “nicer” drive. For those who prefer a manual anyway, that’s the one to get.

    • 0 avatar
      Beelzebubba

      The 2010 MAZDASPEED3 was a let-down for some potential buyers because it lacked several features found on the Grand Touring.  You couldn’t get the Bi-Xenon HID headlamps, Auto On/Off Headlight control, Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), Clear-lens LED taillights or Rain-sensing wipers.  Those are all added to the Tech Pkg for the 2011 MS3.
      The MS3 still doesn’t offer full leather seats, a cloth/leather combo is standard.  The seats aren’t heated and the driver’s seat isn’t power either.  A Power Moonroof isn’t available either.
      So there’s a definite performance vs. features trade-off even for the 2011 model, but especially for 2010.  Personally, I say screw the leather and give me the power instead!!! =)

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The problem with the styling (i.e., Joker-grin) is simple – the corners are pointed. If they had just rounded them off (this is the way clowns actually paint their faces), it wouldn’t be half as bad. As proof, remember how the original Dodge Neon looked with it’s ‘Hi’ ads/commercials? No one complained about that car’s grinning appearance. That was a friendly, distinctive look that worked.

    But Mazda, apparently, wanted some kind of weird, friendly, yet sinister, appearance. Anecdotal evidence would seem to suggest that Mazda’s Joker-grin styling is far more disliked than liked, and I suspect there will be plenty of lost Mazda sales because of it. And that’s a shame because the car otherwise seems pretty damn good.

    Out-of-the-box, dare-to-be-different styling is a dangerous, high-stakes gamble that can pay off handsomely, or it can take down a car company. The best, most recent, all-time example (besides the Chrysler Airflow and Edsel) was the vehicle that many think single-handedly brought down Pontiac: the Aztek.

    OTOH, I hated (and still dislike) the Bangle-styled BMWs, and they’re setting sales records. Likewise, the styling of the Kia Soul, Nissan Cube and Juke all seem to be acceptable for their markets. Even the smart fortwo did okay at first, until consumers realized that the vehicle itself was far too compromised to be a viable choice.

  • avatar
    tuckerdawg

    I was just wondering do the seats fold completely flat on this car a la honda fit or just down on top of the cushions?

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    As a Mazda owner and enthusiast, I have to give props to Mazda for building yet another solid, fun to drive, yet practacal car. I drove a 2010 Mazda3, and compared with other similarly priced cars, its handling and steering are delightful.

    • 0 avatar
      view2share

      Steering is EPS. Don’t like or trust electric power steering.  The computer programed steering just doesn’t sound right to me, and the fact that a failure comes on all-the-sudden and complete, I find not to my liking.  Seems two years of these Mazda3 are already on recall for EPS.  I think the Hyundai Genesis Coupe is still using hydraulic power steering.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      As I found with my 68 Mustang, hydraulic power steering can happen all of a sudden as well, for instance if a hydraulic line springs a leak.  You also can have the added bonus of the smoke from the fluid spraying on your exhaust headers, great if you like attention.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I have a 2008 VW GTI and recently we bought our daughter a 2010 Mazda 3 – GT with everything but nav. It’s cool having both in the garage and after spending time driving/riding and detailing ( my second job) I have the following to say:
    GTI – fun, fast, good handling and I like the styling, I hate doing oil changes ( typical over engineered, needless complicated) and parts are pricey. I just had the mechatronics unit replaced due to the recall and the DSG does shift better now. I can’t say I’d buy another VW, but this one has been mostly without issue.

    Mazda 3 – she wanted the sedan instead of the 5 door, I’m happy with that, at least the back glass doesn’t get nasty after a rain. She has nice interior, leather ( I like it better than my plaid cloth) although both are heated. Styling – it’s subjective, I like the front of my car better but the smile is not bad. I just did the first oil change, hey – Mazda has a cut out so you can get to the filter without removing a dozen #25 torx screws, what a concept! and the filter is a good old canister you screw on instead of F..king with plate/cartridge thing. It’s not as powerful but it runs on regular gas and gets around 29 mph, where I have to run premium and get about the same. Would I switch with her – oh yeah, no problem. Maybe if I was younger, but at 51 – I’m more about value and low cost stuff maintenance than I am about spending a boat load of cash on my car to play Dale Ernhardt. Besides – any of ya’ll add a teenager to your auto insurance lately? I’m still using Prep H!

  • avatar

    Ok so unlike most of you the styling was a huge selling point for me, b/c i love it. The interior is amazing only if you opt out for gt, and this car hamdles well. big draw back is the mpg i get about 22 mix city and highway. I also dont think mazda has a superb quality record as honda and toyota does

  • avatar
    o17range

    I’m considering the 2011 3sGT model as a replacement for my current vehicle, a 2000 Honda Civic EX 2 Door.  I’m not a picky driver–most of my driving is done for work so I want something with relatively good gas mileage–and reliability/dependability is a MUST (normal maintenance is not a problem).  My job does on occasion require “hauling” smaller sized equipment, and my husband and I are cycling enthusiasts so I want something with decent cargo space (a pleasant surprise with my Civic is that we’re able to transport both bikes (albeit mostly disassembled) together.  Was thinking the Subaru Outback but current models are just a hair too expensive and frankly, too big for my taste–I DON’T want any sort of SUV/CUV.  We don’t have children….yet, and we would like for this next vehicle to also become my “mom-mobile” eventually.  I was thinking a wagon, but there aren’t many wagons out there and fewer that fit my price range.  Do you think this vehicle would best suit what I’ve described and/or would any of you recommend something else?  Thanks for your help!

  • avatar

    Just bought 2011 Mazda3 5-door GT. Coming from a ’08 Corolla, it’s a blast!

  • avatar
    Elusivellama

    My take on the current gen Mazda 3: for the price and segment, it offers great handling and enough power for most commuters in either 2.0L or 2.5L form, and comes in a hatchback body for even greater practicality. The interior also blows away most other competitors, and the prices/finance rates are also excellent.

    The 2.0L SkyActiv engine is due to be released soon, which will replace the current aging 2.0L engine and deliver improved fuel economy and torque that WILL close the gap between Mazda and Honda/Toyota that much more. You will essentially get 95% of the fuel economy of the most miserly Civic/Corolla at worst, and equal or better fuel economy at best – but with much better interior, styling, body shape, price, etc etc.

    The 2.5L engine doesn’t seem to have a SkyActiv variant just yet.

    Personally speaking, screw fuel economy to a reasonable degree – I’m only living once, and I don’t want to feel like I’m slowly dying everytime I start my car up and drive. I’d only consider the 2.5L engine, or the 2.3L direct-injection turbo (in my 2010 MS3). More power, more fun, more thrills.

    People buy $5 macchiatos without blinking, but whine about paying for higher fuel consumption and/or premium gas. Real world figures – my 2.3L DISI MS3 returns equal or better fuel economy compared to a 2.3L first gen Mazda 3, or 2.5L second gen Mazda 3. Essentially, the only difference is I’m paying an extra 15 cents per litre – on average, $5 – $7 more per fillup of 33 – 46L per week.

    I’ll pass on that macchiato/frappuchino/whatthefvkpoochino and get my rush elsewhere.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States