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Old 07-20-2006, 12:21 AM   #1
ZfrkS62
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Just south of Confused
Posts: 7,647
Default Mazda 3S




(i've got a couple engine shots that didn't turn out quite right, so i need a little more time to fiddle with them)


Last week, while in California for a much needed vacation, I was allowed to drive my girlfriend's '05 Mazda 3. And it wasn't around the block. I had the opportunity to drive it around down and the 2 hours to Monterey.


Exterior

For a sub $20K compact, the 3 is styled a bit north of bland. It looks a little to tall for it's length, which gives it a rather bulky look. The lights give both the front and rear slight personality with a slight assist from the grille. The front end isn't as low as the 6, and it kind of shows when sitting in the driver's seat. While the hood isnt' hard to see over, it takes a little getting used to. Overall front end design is unimaginative and gets boring quick.

The high trunk line makes it extremely difficult to judge how close you are to what's behind you, which was painfully obvious when I kissed the front of another car with the rear trying to get out of a parallel parking spot. (no paint was damaged as my girlfriend didn't kill me for it, so off we went). And getting in and out of her narrow driveway was not fun.

Somehow, Mazda managed to make the mirrors too small, making it hard to adjust the blindspots out of the sidemirrors.

Interior

Surprisingly, the interior looks fairly well put together. from the dashboard down, it looks like a solid mid-range car. The center console is a bit cluttered for my taste, but is organized none the less.

The instrument cluster is easy to read, but if you turn on the headlights during the day, the electro-luminescence goes out and the cluster goes dark. Probably fixable by flipping the dimmer switch, but there is no logical reason for why you should have to do this. It should stay on regardless of the headlight's status. However this could be a good excuse as to why you were doing 50 in a 40

The glovebox is probably the deepest I've ever seen, which makes the 2 and a half foot deep dashboard excusable. I'm sorry but the only vehicles that should have deep dashes, are RVs. Not compacts :roll:

Seating is hardly a problem. The height/length ratio works out great for interior space. Neither driver's or passenger's seat require much adjusting in terms of comfort, though if you're close to 6 feet tall, your head is going to be cranked slightly one way or the other in order to fit.
Her car has the manual seats which features more of a pump operation for adjusting the height of the seat, which makes it nice because the ratchet type adjustments can be a pain in the ass to get right.

The trunk is deceptively large. Comprable to a BMW E46, i think it just feels bigger than what it is because the decklid is so small.

Now, above the dash is a different story. The A-pillar trims are plastic, and the headliner feels as if it is just thin felt glued to a molded cardboard shell.

Steering wheel fills your hands nicely and the multifunction buttons aren't a stretch to reach. Horn is pretty girly sounding though. (Sorry, but if someone cuts me off, I want my horn to convey "Fuck You!", not a whiney, valley girlish "hey watch it")

Now one really stupid idea is the process of loading the 6 disc CD changer. Instead of selecting a disc you're tired of and hitting eject, removing the disc and sliding the new disc in; you have to first press 'eject', then select the disc number to eject. remove the disc, press load, and then the disc number you want the new disc loaded into. Sitting in the driveway switching discs: ok, it's not that bad. But on the fly, talk about a fucking hassle.

How does it drive?

Nicely. Having been spoiled by the ride quality of the BMW's, I had to remind myself that this wasn't a luxury car, and the road noise was acceptible, but barely. I think if you put a different set of tires on it, this could solve the issue depending on the tread pattern.

In town driving is pretty comfortable as the shifts from the 4 speed automatic aren't that noticeble unless you are in manual mode. Suspension set up does well with ruts, cracks and expansion joints; letting you know they are there, but not in a jarring way that will leave you with a concussion just by bouncing and jarring.

The steering is firm and at in town speeds, has decent feel. Body roll is minimal and so is understeer, surprisingly. There is just a touch of understeer but undiscernable to the common driver who is not looking for it.

Throttle response also took me by surprise. Just tapping the accelerator from a stop, results in an eager jump forward and an enthusiastic urge to go faster. Though this is somewhat dampened by a lack of exhaust note that seems to be a common problem in Japanese cars as of late, even up to the 6500 RPM redline all you hear is the valve train falling short on it's ability to let the engine breathe.

Braking, wow. What the engine lacks in noise, the brakes make up for with grabbing power. Firm pedal feel and quick response with a great fade resistance is exactly what you need. Especially if you were stupid enough not to spring a little extra for ABS which only became standard on the 2006 model year. Fortunately my girlfriend was smart enough to get it, and thankfully she did because when we got cut off on the freeway, I was looking for it to kick in so that I didn't have to worry about my foot reflexes if I suddenly hit the dreaded 100% tire slip point. I wasn't worried so much about hitting the car that had cut us off..as much as I was about the wrath of the 5' 2", 90Lb Chinese girl who owned the car and was sitting next to me, that I would undoubtedly inccur. It was the fear of this wrath that kept me on my better behavior (notice i didn't say "best".....). The threshold for the ABS activation was fortunately never reached, and the car stopped with about 6 or 7 feet to spare, from 70 mph. I'm not entirely sure how far we traveled once the brakes were on, but I would bet it was a respectable distance.

Freeway driving is quite pleasurable, minus the aforementioned road noise, but a quick tap of the volume button on the 6 disc changer drowned enough of that out to actually carry on a pleasant conversation (no, I do not tire of my girlfriend's yapping...most of the time..). If you are shifting it manually, you quickly realize that it needs one more gear, which is now availible on the 06 MY. Also be aware that pullin gthe shifter to the left puts it in manual mode, not sport mode. I noticed it would downshift on it's own in manual, but it will not upshift. I got punched in the shoulder for bouncing it off the rev limiter checking that function :roll:

Again, steering is surprisingly neutral with touches of understeer, inherent with frontwheel drives. Along an 8 mile twisty stretch of the road, just before hitting the Pacific Coast Highway, I was really fighting the urge to use the whole road and cross from outside to inside along the sweeping turns. The aforementioned wrath and fast approaching E39 M5 and delivery van (M5 from the back, van from the front) kept me inline. I did find myself nudging the raised reflectors that seperate the two lanes, while preemptivley compensating for the understeer I was overanticipating. All in all I felt pretty confident in it. Though i was much more mindful of the blind spots which make the car feel bigger than what it is.

Acceleration, eh. It's a 4 cylinder, front wheel drive. Acceleration is not going to be what you are buying this car for anyway.

Fuel economy is actually a couple of miles per gallons less than what her 1993 626 was, but i suspect it has something to do with the vehicles weight which if it's not THE worst, it is certainly down there in it's class.


What are the most positive features of the car?

- Interior and storage space
- Steering feel
- Braking ability
- Gauge visibility

What are the most negative features of the car?

- High trunk line
- Poor mirror location
- Weight
- Cheap upper interior

How do you think this car compares to its direct competition?

It wouldn't be my first choice. But then again, I'm not looking at the sub- 20K range. As much as it pains me to say it, I think the Civic would be a better choice, and if you are looking for a hatch, which the 3 is offered in, as the 5 door, i think the Fit would be a better choice, simply because of the weight issue.

I see alot of 6s on the road which leads me to think that the 3 isn't doing so hot in it's class and that people are electing to spend a few thousand more and go for the big brother. Hopefully the 07 facelift will help it out on the asthetics.

Conclusion

6.5/10

It just doesn't appeal to me. there's nothing I can really get genuinely excited about with this car. The high points of it's drive don't overcome the shortfalls of it's asthetics.

Specifications

SPECIFICATIONS 2005 Mazda3 S 4-Door Base Price $ 16,615
Price As Tested $ 18,850 (this is a little more than what she bought hers for, since she got all the options.
Engine Type dual overhead cam 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder
Engine Size 2.3 liters / 137 cu. in.
Horsepower 160 @ 6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 150 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual or 4 speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 103.9 in. / 178.7 in.
Curb Weight 2,762 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 17.3
Fuel Capacity 14.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires P205/55 HR16 Toyo Proxes
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock optional
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink
Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive
PERFORMANCE EPA
Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 25 / 32 / 26
0 to 60 mph 7.5 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES ABS/SAB/SAC Package - includes: antilock brakes, side airbags, side-curtain airbags $ 800
Moonroof & 6-CD Package - includes: Power moonroof, in-dash 6CD changer $ 890 Destination charge
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Old 07-20-2006, 03:45 AM   #2
Zot09
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Nice review Zfrk. I see that you enjoyed the area just north of big sur, awesome area.
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Old 07-20-2006, 08:50 AM   #3
LotusGT1
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Good review (edited the title to fit the format)! When I get home I'll add it to the index.
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