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WHO’S ZOOMIN’ WHO?

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jul 2, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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2011 Mazda3 Grand Touring 5-door

By John-Fredrik Wright Approaching the Mazda3 (really any Mazda but especially the Mazda3), the front of the car smiles at you, welcoming you to enter and zoom—make that Zoom Zoom in MazdaSpeak. The grill curves upward and outwards, and the eyes work well as lights. The black bumper is like a silicone-injected lower lip and the Mazda badge could be the nose, but let’s not make a face from a car. The front of the Mazda3 does remind a whole lot of the logo itself though, probably more in line with what the designers were thinking, rather than a beauty-operation gone wrong. Don’t get us wrong though, we like the style. The Mazda3 stands out from the crowd, and it does it in its own, good-looking, way. Think of it as a car design with soul. Give it some respect—just a little bit, at least. Some might comment that this is quite a small car but really it’s not. It’s a great drive for those who want to be able to park in spaces not imaginable in a large sedan, yet not sacrifice the speediness of a full-size engine. The Mazda3 is peppy, and the 4-cylinder engine squeezes a lot of power from premium juice. The gas mileage is just okay for its class (our average was 24 miles per gallon). Since it does beg for the premium variant of gasoline, the gas mileage should be a little better. Evidently, fun comes at a bit of price here.

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In keeping with the car, the 6-speed manual transmission is lots of fun. A while back, we reported on another stick shifted car, and posed the question: “who would want a stick in LA traffic?” As with that car, a few others, and definitely the Mazda3, there are reasons to have a stick—even in LA. First off, it gives the driver more control in what the car is doing and when. Second, it’s a little special, not everybody can drive one (making you a little special). Lastly, there is actually an economical benefit: It is often possible to get better gas mileage with a stick. Not only is the average MPG usually lower on a stick, but one can accelerate more carefully under normal circumstances by having full control of the gears. Speaking of zoom. If Zoom Zoom means a reasonably tight suspension, responsive steering, and a little bit of go-cart mixed into it, then we’re all for it. Add a couple of sporty yet comfortable seats and a splash of Bose Speakers and we’re sold. The suspension is tight enough to make you feel secure, just in case (for instance) you hit an off-ramp a bit too fast. On the other hand, it’s compliant enough to spare you a visit to the dentist. A short wheelbase will usually provide more sport, and the shorter you go, the more go-cart you get. Couple that with the reactive steering and you’ve got yourself a really fun ride—i.e., the Mazda3.

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Now, if you aren’t the zoomy type, all of this might not tickle your fancy. How about a small but roomy car that is easy to park with convenient features? Someone at Mazda had the great idea of adding a little button to the right taillight, enabling a key-holder to keylessly unlock the doors while still loading stuff into the trunk. Pretty smart. And yes, the compact car that is the Mazda3 has a keyless system not only for the doors but also for starting the car. One must remember that the Mazda3 is a compact car. The 5-door version doubles as a station wagon without the extra length, but other than that, this should be viewed as a compact. However, the Mazda3 feels rather large for the compact segment. Sure this is no luxury cruiser, but the two front seats are comfortably sized and there is plenty of legroom as well as head and shoulder room. The back seat, however, starts to feel a little cramped if you stick three adults back there. If you only bring two friends along, you should be safe for shorter drives. And if your only hauling kids in the back, they will be fine even for longer trips.

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One bummer, especially for a car geared towards a younger, hipper crowd, is the lack of a USB connection. The AUX-in is okay, but it’ll drain your iPod’s battery as well as take you eyes off the road when changing songs. So, to Zoom with a Zune, for instance, you’ll need to re-charge your player at home. One interesting feature that makes the Mazda3 stand out is a miniature screen that first looks like your standard info-screen. It took me a while to realize that the puny little screen top center on the dashboard actually doubles as the GPS (the smallest screen we’ve seen so far). Since the screen is small and a little far from the driver to be a touch-screen, it’s only operated from the steering wheel. This takes some getting used to, but as soon as you’re up to speed you’ll keep both hand on the steering wheel, which of course is a good thing. Nonetheless, the GPS did its job well, as did the entire car. And as the saying goes; it ain’t always about the size.

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When all is said and done, we wonder if Zoom is the quite the right word to describe the entire line of Mazda products. The Mazda3 that is the subject of this review is not the fastest car around. On the other hand, it’s fun to drive, engaging, and has plenty of character. In the end, this is a car with soul—a quality that few of its competitors in the compact class can claim. SUMMARY JUDGMENT It’s the Queen of Soul in the compact car field. For more information about Mazda products, go to www.mazdausa.com

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SPECIFICATIONS: Name of vehicle: 2011 Mazda3 s Grand Touring 5-door Price: $22,895 (base) $25,730 (and as tested with Technology Package) EPA fuel economy rating: 20 (city) 28 (highway) Engine size and type: 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with VVT Horsepower: 167 hp @ 6000 rpm (PZEV = 165 hp @ 6000 rpm) Torque: 168 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm (PZEV = 167 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm) Transmission type: 6-speed overdrive manual Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive (FWD) Steering (type): Power rack-and-pinion with variable assist Suspension (front and rear): Front MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar Rear Multilink with stabilizer bar Brakes and tires: 4-wheel disc, front 11.8-inch vented disc, rear 11.0-inch solid disc, 4-wheel, 4-channel with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist P205/50R17 all-season radial tires Dimensions: Length: 177.4in Width: 69.1in Height: 57.9in Curb weight: 3064lbs (3065lbs PZEV)

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