Quick, nimble handling makes the Mazda 3 (or Mazda3 as the company renders it) fun to drive on twisty country roads. The free-revving 2.3-liter engine delivers spirited performance. The five-speed manual transmission shifts beautifully, and there's an interesting automatic available with a manual-shift feature.
The four-door sedan is available with a choice of 2.0-liter or 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. The five-door hatchback comes only with the 2.3-liter engine.
The Mazda3i four-door sedan comes with the 2.0-liter engine ($13,680). Standard equipment includes AM/FM/CD, tilt and telescope steering wheel with audio controls, 15-inch steel wheels, halogen headlights, a stainless steel exhaust system, wind-up windows and manual door locks. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, an automatic transmission ($900) is optional. Air conditioning is optional ($850). Also optional: power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, remote entry, an upgraded driver's seat, upgraded audio with six speakers, and 16-inch alloy wheels, available as a package ($1,400).
Two-stage frontal airbags are standard. We strongly recommend the safety package ($800), which includes side-impact airbags for the front seats, side air curtains for head protection for front and rear-seat passengers, and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). That would make a well-equipped (and commonly equipped) Mazda3i more like $17,275 (with the $545 destination charge), or $18,175 with the automatic.
The Mazda3s is more powerful and better equipped. Available in the four-door ($16,615) and five-door ($17,105) styles, the 3s comes standard with all the power conveniences plus air conditioning, cruise control, an upgraded stereo and foglights. The five-door hatchback gets sporty 205/50 all-season radials on 17-inch steel wheels.
Options for the 3s include the automatic transmission ($900), the safety package with side-impact airbags, curtain airbags, ABS and EBD ($800); leather upholstery ($590); xenon high-intensity discharge headlights with a tire-pressure monitoring system ($700); and a navigation system ($1,750). A Sport Package ($490) combining 17-inch wheels with sill extensions is available for the 3s sedan.
A package combining a moonroof with a six-disc CD changer ($890) is available on all Mazda3 models. Sirius Satellite Radio ($399) can be dealer-installed in any Mazda3, though there's also a labor charge.
The Mazda3i is available at no charge as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) that trades four horsepower (down to 144 horsepower) for significant reductions in emissions.