2011 Mazda MAZDA3 s Sport
(2.5L 4-cyl. 5-speed Automatic)
What our ratings include
Date Driven: 6/7/2011
The Mazda's smooth 2.5-liter 4-cylinder has some semblance of pep. But you'll still find yourself flooring it a lot to get honest acceleration. The 5-speed automatic isn't overly shifty, but doesn't blip the throttle on manual downshifts.
This is the sport sedan of economy cars, even without summer tires. Quick (although light) steering and well-snubbed suspension with minimal body roll. The brake pedal is nice and firm, exuding confidence -- just how we like it.
How did Mazda get the 3 to handle so well? Stiffer-than-average suspension. Bump absorption is lacking, especially over large, harsh potholes. Not much in the way of road isolation going on here. Firm front seats don't help much.
The aggressive all-season tires can be a bit boomy over coarse pavement. Wind noise wasn't obtrusive, but we definitely noticed some whistling coming from the B-pillars and the windshield base, the last most likely from the wipers.
Overall, this is a well laid-out interior. All controls are simple to understand and use. Mazda saw fit to not only relocate the stereo tuning knob to the center of the stack, but also made it jumbo-size. Instruments are large and clear.
Although the Mazda 3 doesn't have a back-up camera or parking sonar, outward vision is still above average. The driver-side rear three-quarter view is better than most. The rear window is large and the A- and B-pillars are small.
Seat Access & Space
There's reasonable headroom up front, and the driver's seat is height adjustable. But smallish rear doors and a sloping roofline make ingress/egress difficult. It's hard to exit the rear without knocking your feet against the B-pillar.
Cargo & Storage
Tight door pockets, and although the center bin is deep, it's rearward. Lots of cupholders, but the center ones don't hold bottles in place very well. Trunk is average-size for the class. Rear seats fold down, but pass-through is small.
Some elements of cheapness, for instance the lack of fluidity in the way the temp and fan speed knobs move. No squeaks or rattles, but the dash and center stack didn't line up perfectly flush with each other. Large exterior panel gaps.