Full 2007 Mazda MAZDA3 Review
What's New for 2007
The 2007 Mazda 3 sees a number of changes. Although these include a minor exterior refresh involving mainly the taillights, most are more functional. Now standard on all Mazda 3s are a tire-pressure monitor, an auxiliary input jack for the stereo, a rear-seat center armrest and an additional power point in the console. A stability control system becomes available on the Touring and Grand Touring trims.
Long known as the purveyor of sporty economy cars, Mazda's latest, the 3, continues the company's tradition of making small cars that are fun to drive. Debuting in 2004 as a replacement for the Protégé compact sedan, the 3 offers a choice of two body styles: a four-door with a trunk or a four-door with a hatchback (labeled the "five-door" by Mazda).
The 2007 Mazda 3's strengths include a pair of peppy, refined engines. The base "i" trim level employs a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, while the sportier "s" models use a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that bumps the output to 156 hp while offering more torque (150 pound-feet versus 135 lb-ft) as well as balance shafts (which enhance smoothness). Both engines are equipped with variable valve timing to improve response and efficiency. The 3 also boasts superior handling and ride dynamics compared to most economy cars. Blessed with some chassis components from Mazda's 6 midsize sedan and spot-on tuning, the 3 handles like a bargain sport sedan. The only minor quibble is that the ride may be too firm for some.
To go along with its impressive hardware, the 3 offers stylish design inside and out, with the taut, chiseled body hinting at its athletic personality. This year, in addition to freshened front and rear fascias for all 3s, new taillights debut: The i trims get a clear-lens treatment while the Grand Touring sedan gets LED units. Inside, the 3 benefits from a number of new upscale features, such as a standard rear-seat center armrest and audio input jack (for MP3 players). Stability control is another new addition this year.
With some exciting new economy sedans debuting this year, such as Honda's Civic Si and Dodge's Caliber SRT-4, the 2007 Mazda 3 finds itself with some serious competition. That challenge has been answered with the Mazdaspeed version of the 3 that also debuts this year, priced in the low-to-mid-$20,000 range. For those on a tighter budget, however, the standard Mazda 3 remains a strong consideration for driving enthusiasts shopping the $15,000¬-$20,000 compact segment.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The compact 2007 Mazda 3 is available as a four-door sedan or hatchback. There are five trim levels available for the sedan: i, i Touring, s, s Touring and s Grand Touring. The hatchback ("five-door") comes in s, s Touring and s Grand Touring trims. All i sedans have a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat with center armrest and a CD stereo with an audio input jack. The i Touring trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, an upgraded stereo, keyless entry, a height-adjustable driver seat and full power accessories. Mazda 3 s models come with all of the above, plus the larger engine, special interior trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The s Touring adds 17-inch alloys and body side sills to the mix, while the top-line s Grand Touring provides heated leather seats, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers and a trip computer. Options include an in-dash CD changer, satellite radio, a moonroof and, for the Grand Touring versions, a navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
All i sedans use a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 148 hp and 135 lb-ft of torque, while s models use a 2.3-liter four-cylinder rated at 156 hp and 150 lb-ft. Both engines come standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission with an automanual mode is optional on i models, while s models upgrade to a five-speed automatic. In our test of a 3 Grand Touring sedan with the 2.3-liter engine and automatic transmission, the Mazda did the 0-60-mph sprint in 8.6 seconds. EPA fuel mileage estimates for that model are 25 mpg city/31 mpg highway.
Standard on all 3s are four-wheel disc brakes, but one must typically go to upper trims or pay extra to get the latest safety features. Antilock brakes are optional on the i trims and standard for everything else. Stability control, front-seat side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are available only on the Touring and Grand Touring. A tire-pressure monitor is standard, but only on the Grand Touring. In NHTSA frontal-impact crash tests, the Mazda 3 scored four stars (out of five) and received three stars in that agency's side-impact test. In IIHS testing, the 3 received a "Good" rating (the highest out of four) in frontal-impact tests but got a "Poor" rating (the lowest) in that agency's side-impact test. It should be noted that both of those side-impact tests involved a 3 without the side airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
Unlike most economy cars, the 2007 Mazda 3 offers a distinctive and upscale interior design. Individual pods surround the large, clear gauges, while precise control actions, high-grade materials and tight build tolerances support the initial sense of impressive quality. Even taller folks will be comfortable up front, and the driver will appreciate the standard tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. For those under 6 feet tall, the rear seat should prove accommodating, thanks to its well-shaped and supportive design. Taller sorts will feel pinched for legroom, however. Sedans offer 11.4 cubic feet of trunk space; the hatchback offers 17 cubes behind its rear seat and 31 when it's folded.
Thanks to its performance-oriented chassis tuning, the Mazda 3 rewards the driving enthusiast with quick and communicative steering, a lack of discernible body roll and lots of grip on twisty blacktop. At the same time, the highway ride is smooth enough to please most commuters; however, those who prefer softly sprung compacts like the Corolla might think it too firm. All told, the Mazda 3 has refined road manners that will likely surprise car shoppers expecting the typically flabby ride and handling of many economy cars.