The Mazda 3 has certainly not lost its allure in this, the second generation of the model. Once again, I find myself driving the 3 and thinking that in many ways this is a better car than the Honda Civic. For starters, it has far more character and a much more refined and interesting exterior design. What's more, it's available as a hatchback, which is what we had for a teste vehicle, and although that configuration is more expensive than the 3 sedan, it's worth the extra money in my opinion. (I used the car to haul our household's recycling to the township drop-off bins and, naturally, a hatchback is useful for many more exciting tasks of utility).
While playing around with the rear cargo area, I discovered that the optional Bose subwoofer is mounted in the well of the temporary spare tire; this is a clever use of space and avoids having the subwoofer intrude into the cargo compartment, which we've seen in other vehicles. The stereo itself is very powerful, maybe a bit too heavy on the bass, but overall very good. Love the huge, centrally located dial for tuning the stations. The readout for Sirius satellite radio artist and song was sensible and clear, but I didn't even realize there was a navigation system in our car.
The powertrain is exemplary. Nice gearshifter, good clutch pedal, etc. It all works for me. Ride quality is firm but not harsh, there's good steering feel, brake pedal isn't mushy--it's all good.
Interior quality is impressive. You don't feel like you're slumming it in this vehicle. Of course, our car was fully loaded. I, too, noted the lack of a modern iPod interface, a curious oversight for a brand-new vehicle aimed at twenty-somethings. The A-pillars are a bit thick, too, which can impede vision into turns.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor