Enjoy responsibly

David Yochum

Mazda brews smooth ride, acceleration

If “zoom zoom” was a mixed drink, it would be European vodka shaken with tangy juice and Red Bull.

Sip “zoom zoom” – it will describe the Mazda 3.

Flirting standard projector headlights, side-marker turn indicators, color-matched door handles, breakaway mirrors and optional alloy wheels, students said Mazda’s young frame tastes “sexy and sophisticated” – begging to be taken home for a nightcap.

Opening the Mazda 3 doors, sporty design flowed throughout the dashboard, gauges and steering wheel.


+ Dashing design

+ Suspension/steering

+ High class, low budget

– Color-plain interior

– Back seat room

– Alloy wheels above $16K

Rogers and Dinovo found recessed, large numbers on the tachometer easy to read, while Sheth said Mazda’s telescoping steering made the 3 feel like a racecar. Testers also said they loved the standard steering wheel radio controls – rarely seen on cars under $20,000.

Driving 3 on highways and roads, students discovered a smooth-steering sedan with controlled power and easy-to-use brakes.

“Acceleration is good and responsive,” Sheth said. “With the PT Cruiser, brakes were all or nothing, but with the 3, you kind of ease into stops.”

Rogers was more impressed with the Mazda’s superior handling than its braking.


Base price: $15,990

Price as-tested: $17,450

Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16V 4-cylinder

HP @ rpm: 150 @ 6500

Torque @ rpm: 135 @ 4500

Transmission: Sport AT 4-speed auto

Base weight (lbs): 2,729

EPA mpg (city/highway): 26/34

“It has direct steering,” he said. “As you move, it moves with you – it doesn’t feel like it’s rolling (into turns).”

Bob Frey, Mazda business development manager, said 3’s variable assist power steering gives drivers more wheel control at lower speeds and less on highways, helping to avoid overcompensated turns. He added that electronic brake-force distribution evens out pressure on the Mazda’s four-wheel disc brakes – even when pads begin to wear.

Our Mazda 3 also included an optional sport-shift automatic transmission, which essentially controls the Mazda’s automatic transmission like a manual gearbox – albeit without a clutch. Mazda 3’s power train and exterior are covered under a comprehensive 4-year/50,000-mile “bumper-to-bumper” warranty.

And yes, students under 21 are welcome to taste the “zoom zoom.”