Bought mine in September 2004. Put 50000 miles on it -no problems!! Just changed oil and brake pads. I live in Colorado and go up in the mountains a lot. This car amazed me with its peppy engine and fast down shifting when going uphills. My wife chose the car - I was kinda reluctant first but after driving, I fell in love. Man, I love Mazda! Looking to buy manual 2.3S hatchback model for myself now :).
Responsive transmission, sporty handling, built quality.
I bought this car in 2004 and have not been disappointed at all. I average 30 mpg city/highway and when I am doing only highway driving I easily get 33 mpg at 75 mph. The steering on the car is great and it will take corners faster than most cars. I took a 45 mph curve at 90 mph and didn't spin out. The braking distance and power of the car is amazing. You barely have to hit the brake pedal for the brakes to engage and going on to different cars feels like you have to stand on the brakes in those other cars. Overall this is an excellent car and I would recommend it to anyone.
After having this car for over 2 years and driving it quite a bit (60000km, about 32,000 miles) I have the dirt on this econo-machine: 1) I have had no mechanical problems. 2) The steering and suspension are as tight and as precise as the day I bought it. You almost take it for granted until you drive a different vehicle. Then you realize: Wow this Mazda 3 really handles! 0.87g's on the skidpad. R U kidding? At this price? 3) I have the 2.0 engine, MT, It has more power then anyone really needs. I drive 140kmh (85mph) every day on the 401 highway and no complaints. Fuel economy is average. 520km per tank. I drive it hard which doesn't help the numbers. 4) So far so good!
Handling and suspension - adequate power from base engine. QUICK STORY: I test drove a 2004 Audi S4. Awesome car! When I got back in my Mazda and took a few corners I actually felt like it handled better. Overall the S4 was better, AWD and power to burn. But the Mazda is a blast to drive!
Most people complained about: 1) The air conditioner. They are right. A little weak. It does cool the car after about 5 minutes on 30 degree C days. 2) Stiff ride. I think city driving is a lil rough. On the highway as smooth as the Civic. In its class: Good compromise between sport/commuter.
The Mazda is solid and handles the corners very well. We have had it 1.5 years (42,000 miles) and its reliability is excellent so far. The manual transmission works very well. The mileage is not as good as the competition, but it is a joy to drive and feels like a sports car. We are very satisfied and the kids all like to drive it more than the other fancier, larger car.
Tight ride, acceleration, quality of the interior, no squeaks.
I bought a new 2004 Mazda 3 in 2004. From day one the brakes squeal when reversing (5 new sets have been renewed with no end in site - apparent reason, wet); transmission went at 48,000; Radiator chip dysfunctional and caused engine to overhead (1st time mis-diagnosed) second time (chip replaced). Have been towed 3 times before car reached 50,000 miles. While at servicing (same dealership bought at), car has received 2 door bang marks, engine was not cleaned of antifreeze from overheating, and recently black marks all over headliner when car was receiving new radiator chip.
Look and handling of car.
Well, I have lots of suggestions but mine is a lemon and nothing I would add would be acceptable.