Mazda 3 Sedan 2.3

 by The Car Family

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An interesting combination of sporty handling, efficient engine, an abundance of standard features, and a practical interior make the Mazda 3 sedan with the 2.3 engine worth considering especially considering that even when heavily optioned it barely dents the $20,000 (US) barrier. Best of all, the Mazda can zip into any sized parking space and gets above average gas mileage.

Unfortunately, that smart handling comes at a cost as the performance tires are noisy and the sturdy suspension sends its numerous complaints through the adjustable steering wheel when driven down damaged roads. In addition, the electrically assisted steering is extremely quick to react to any driver and requires a while to appreciate. Only the race oriented Mitsubishi Evo comes as close when it comes to steering accuracy.

Mom’s view: I couldn’t resist an antique purchase and was able to immediately take it home thanks to the fold down rear seats on the Mazda. This Mazda also comes in a station wagon version if you need more room and I like the privacy of a trunk on my cars. It is a zippy sedan once you get the engine revs up. We got 24 mpg on unleaded, but the government says we could do better listing 26/31 figures. My favorite experience with the Mazda 3 was driving down a local windy highway where numerous SUVs have found the meaning of top heavy while cascading down the canyons and into the bushes. Because some drivers take this stretch at such high speeds I feel intimated and check my rear view mirror frequently for reckless drivers. However, the Mazda 3 carved up this road with ease. It is difficult to believe this is a passenger car the way it melted the bends and straights.

The interior is adequate with good storage and nothing dramatic. I would pass on the manual five-speed transmission, as the clutch is difficult to modulate wearing shoes with even a modest heel. The automatic is also better in traffic with little reduction in fuel economy. Considering its svelt 2800 pound weight it did fairly well in front crash tests and the pedals are designed to move away from a driver’s feet in an accident.The seats are comfortable, the steering wheel has a nice feel, and the car quickly makes you feel at home. Redundant controls on the steering wheel, rear seats that flip down for more storage are handy.The night lighting is adequate, but the gauges are difficult to read and the illumination is not crisp. Overall, a nice vehicle with some excellent attributes.

Young working woman’s view: You get a lot of standard features such as a pollen filter, ABS, intermittent wipers, remote entry, and power windows, locks, and mirrors with the 2.3 model, but you don’t get a car with much oomph when accelerating from stop lights or up on ramps. Although light on its feet, I didn’t care for the edgy ride and wasn’t won over it styling. My friends found it attractive, but would pay more for some flash. Clearly this vehicle can run with the much more expensive Audi 3 and BMW 3 Series on certain courses. It is cute, but needs more grunt to earn my attention. For a college aged woman it would be a good vehicle to consider with the automatic transmission. In the game of life the Mazda is the speedy halfback who can’t talk about anything but football. Interesting, but ultimately tiring.

Dad’s view: The 160 horsepower 2.3-liter engine isn’t really up to the suspension. This car could handle a more potent engine and has to be hard pressed to overcome inertia until past the 4000-rpm marker. Fortunately, the Mazda has a 16-valve head with variable valve timing that makes it run smoothly at all speeds while meeting even California’s difficult Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles standard. This car brakes well, turns instantly and would be a star at any sports car event. If someone would put a turbocharger on this it would be a world-beater.

College going male’s view: I liked the look of the Mazda, but its busy ride, difficult to modulate clutch,and poor stereo weren’t to my liking.The stereo isn’t up to my standards and the radio reception is mediorcre. I found reading the speedometer very difficult with its small fonts and the unusual position of the numbers. The heater was slow to live up to its name and the air conditioning outlets aren’t large enough to move air unless the blower is on high. Despite these annoyances, I quite enjoyed the Mazda 3 and would be delighted to own one. However, with the Mazda 5 offering more room at little additional price it would be a tough choice. My impression of the Mazda 3 is one of fun and frugality. Check out my tunes at

Family conference: An economy car that thinks it’s a race car, this Mazda is a crackjack and a nice match for the young at heart. The Mazda also comes with a smaller engine and as a five door. For a complete list of vehicle websites go to and click on business.