Quick Ride: Mazda3
Who says there's no such thing as a bargain?
When I test some cars in the sub-$20,000 range, I sometimes have to remind myself to not dwell too much on its budget compromises – especially if I’ve just stepped out of some over-the-top luxury ride. But a week with the redesigned Mazda3 confirmed why this is one of the world’s great small cars: There are relatively no compromises involved.
The vehicle is based on the same terrific chassis that supports both the Ford Focus – the acclaimed European version, not the low-bar Focus we know here – and the pricier Volvo C30. That translates into tighter handling, a more responsive pedal, less interior vibration noise, and an overall more sophisticated ride than you would expect for the money.
On a snaking run through New York’s Hudson River valley, the Mazda displayed the handling and finesse of a much-more-expensive car. It’s loads more fun than a Toyota Corolla, more sophisticated, even, than a Honda Civic. And nothing about this Mazda sedan or hatchback feels cheap, from its shapely looks to a smart interior.
Economy is served with a 25/33 mpg rating and a base price of barely $16K, which nets a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine with 148 horsepower. For $19,435 to start, buyers get a stronger 2.5-liter version with a useful 167 horsepower. And, for speed freaks, the new-gen Mazdaspeed3 will offer 263 turbocharged horses for $23,185 – still reasonable for a hot hatchback that can top 150 mph.
The Mazda3 is a car that too many people overlook when they’re shopping for an affordable sedan or hatchback. Yes, it costs a bit more than the typical bottom-feeding small car, but in this case you get what you pay for and then some.
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