Mazda has a tradition of building zippy and fun small cars, something that's quite evident in the Mazda 3. Since its debut, the Mazda 3 has been known for its sharp handling and engaging nature. Of course, the Mazda 3 still provides suitable levels of economy and practicality, too. Even the base Mazda 3 comes with a refined engine and a surprisingly sophisticated suspension and interior, while higher trims offer more power and plenty of useful convenience and luxury-oriented features.
The Mazda 3 is available in two body styles: a sedan or a four-door hatchback. The Mazda 3 sedan is offered in five trim levels. There are three "i" trims (i SV, i Sport and i Touring) and two upgraded "s" trims (s Sport and s Grand Touring). The Mazda 3 hatchback comes only in the s trims. No matter which Mazda 3 you buy, expect an impressive level of convenience and safety-related equipment for the money.
While most economy cars have little in the manner of interior aesthetics, the cabin in the Mazda 3 shows impressive attention to detail. The materials used on the Mazda 3 are some of the nicest found in this class -- your passengers are bound to think you paid more than you actually did. Even taller folks will be comfortable up front, and the driver will appreciate the standard tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. As expected, the hatchback offers more cargo capacity than the sedan's trunk. And should you need more, both body styles of the Mazda 3 provide a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
The current Mazda 3's refined road manners will come as a surprise to most economy car shoppers. Thanks to its performance-oriented chassis tuning, the Mazda 3 is blessed with good body control and -- with the s trim's superior tires -- a healthy amount of grip on twisty blacktop. Furthermore, its steering is quick and reasonably communicative. In the real world, this translates into a greater sense of driver confidence.
Standard safety equipment on the Mazda 3 includes stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In testing, the Mazda 3s Grand Touring came to a stop from 60 mph in 119 feet -- a solid performance for this type of car.