2006 Mazda MAZDA3 s Touring 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
The 3 is an excellent blend of performance, economy, space, quality and style. On paper, comparisons to the Civic and Matrix seemed appropriate, but behind the wheel the 3 proved itself to have no peer in this price range. It seems more BMW 3 than Mazda 3, with the thoughtful blend of speed and comfort, the Teutonic feel of its controls and apertures, the wily blend of family-car and naughty-car. No, it's not perfect. Some things, I suspect, may be blamed on the marketing department, e.g. gouging us on the cost of the navigation system and the MP3 player. And a few things might be blamed on the engineers, such as the small sunroof and the lack of a 6th gear. But overall, outstanding!
BALANCE, evidenced by superb, rally-type handling in the snow. DESIGN, proven by SUV-scale trips to the store, wagon-scale handling of our baby seat, and admiring glances. Real AND apparent quality, witnessed by the solid THUNK of doors and 9000 miles of (mostly) carefree driving. Sweet shifter!
(1) With a sixth gear, MPG would be far better. (Blame car mags with their emphasis on top-gear-passing-times. Hello! I don't mind downshifting! That's why I bought a stick). (2) Just me, but the sunroof should be bigger. (3) MP3 costs $500? Mazda, that's ridiculous! (4) $2000 nav? Equally dumb.