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#14

in 2009 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $8,032 - $11,616
Original MSRP: $14,690 - $21,845
MPG: 24 City / 32 Hwy
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2009 Mazda MAZDA3 Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Small-car shoppers looking for a driving thrill will find it with the Mazda3. It has plenty of the "zoom zoom" that Mazda advertises, and its handling is superb according to almost every reviewer. 

  • "The 3's highway ride is smooth enough to please most commuters, although drivers who prefer softly sprung compacts like the Corolla might think the 3 is too firm. All told, the 2009 Mazda 3 has refined road manners that will likely surprise car shoppers expecting the unsubstantial ride quality and uninspiring handling typical of economy cars." -- Edmunds
  • "Ride, acceleration and handling: Triple aces. Surprising agility around curves. Impressive maneuverability in tight traffic." -- The Washington Post
  • "The epitome of a well-tuned sport hatchback." -- Motor Trend
  • "When pitted next to the top sellers in this class, the Honda Civic (non-Si) and Toyota Corolla, it easily offers the sportiest driving of the bunch." -- AutoWeek

Acceleration and Power

The Mazda3's base 2.0-liter engine is adequate, but critics favor the s model's 2.3-liter for a more spirited drive. One minor benefit to the smaller engine, though, is fuel economy. When equipped with an automatic transmission, the 2.0-liter Mazda3 sedan has EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 22/30 mpg city/highway, while 2.3-liter models net 22/28 mpg. 

  • "The s trim level's 2.3-liter engine is smooth and zippy, feeling quicker than its 156 hp would suggest. The I trim's 2.0-liter engine is simply adequate and has the tendency to sound like a circular saw." -- Edmunds
  • "The base 2.0-liter engine works just fine in this car when competing with similarly-sized engines from Ford, Toyota, Honda and Kia. Performance driving is more enjoyable with the larger 2.3-liter engine, which offers more low-end torque but also consumes more fuel." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 2.0-liter engine costs less and is a good choice if you're concerned largely about fuel economy. The engine itself is great, but the Mazda3 itself is a little heavy, so you need all the power you can get. ...  The 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine uses all of Mazda's latest technology to deliver substantial power over a wide range of rpm. Its tractable mid-range power helps deliver good throttle response without the need to shift gears frequently." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "On all, the automatic transmission is smooth and responsive. The manual on non-turbo models has precise shift and clutch action." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The automatic transmission delivers quick, smooth responses." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Nearly all test drivers describe the Mazda3's handling as one of the best in the class, with consistent praise for the vehicle's suspension technology that jar-proofs the ride. 

  • "We found the MAZDA3's handling to be simply superb, with incredibly tight steering that responds instantaneously to input." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Mazda3 is one of the best all-around small sedans made because of its suspension tuning. ...  Run it hard into a corner, and it will exhibit more body roll than a more stiffly-sprung sports sedan, but at the same time it sticks very well, thank you, and is great fun to drive. It's also more comfortable than any small sports sedan I can think of, or any other small car in its class or even a class above." -- The Auto Channel
  • "This Mazda offers a fat steering wheel with leather grips, and it ain't a tease. Effort builds predictably, intuitively. Turn-in is sharp and reflexive, almost Miata-like." -- Car and Driver
  • "Among the best handling compacts. ... All are nimble and balanced, helped by precise, linear steering with good road feel. Excellent directional stability and a solid body structure further enhance the 3's sporty character. Braking on all is stable." -- Consumer Guide

Next Steps: 2009 Mazda MAZDA3

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