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in Used Small Cars $14K and up

Avg. Price Paid: $14,255 - $21,936
Original MSRP: $16,700 - $25,650
MPG: 25 City / 33 Hwy
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2013 Mazda Mazda3 Performance

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

Test drivers are really impressed with the 2013 Mazda3’s performance. They say that even the base engine has good acceleration and handling, and think that the Mazdaspeed3, which is the most powerful model in the line, is exceptionally fun to drive. Reviewers think all Mazda3 models stand out for their engaging handling. Test drivers also say that the Mazda3’s brakes are strong.

  • "In sedan or hatchback form, the Mazda3 is a nimble car that offers decent-to-good acceleration depending on which engine is under the hood." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The … Mazda 3 has refined road manners that will likely surprise most economy car shoppers." -- Edmunds (2012)
  • "The Mazda3 is addictive, arguably as much fun to drive as a more powerful and expensive automobile." -- The Washington Post (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The 2013 Mazda3 offers several four-cylinder engines. The base model has a 2.0-liter, 148-horsepower engine and a standard five-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is optional. The next step up is a 2.0-liter, 155-horsepower, Skyactiv engine that comes with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional. There’s also a 2.5-liter, 167-horsepower engine that comes with a six-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is optional. The Mazdaspeed3 has the most powerful engine in the lineup. Its 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 263 horsepower. Only a six-speed manual transmission is available with this model. With the Skyactiv engine, the Mazda3 averages up to 28/40 mpg city/highway, according to the EPA, which is great for an affordable small car.

Of its numerous engine choices, many reviewers prefer the Mazda3’s 155-horsepower engine because it delivers excellent fuel economy and is still one of the most powerful and refined engines in the class. Test drivers are pleased with the manual and automatic transmissions that are available with the Mazda3. One auto writer says that s models with the manual transmission seem faster than models with the automatic transmission.

See the full 2013 Mazda3 specs »

  • "The base 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in i SV... models is adequate for getting the car up to speed, while the larger, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder in s Grand Touring models makes for a surprisingly quick vehicle. In the middle is the new Skyactiv 4-cylinder, which boasts zippy performance and commendable fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Mazda 3 i models have acceptable power from a stop, with little difference between the manual and automatic transmission. The 2.0-liter engine strains in highway merging and passing. The s versions are stronger overall, with manual-transmission models feeling quicker than their automatic counterparts. Any s model has sufficient passing reserves. On non-turbo versions, the manual transmission has positive shift and clutch action, but to some testers, slightly long throws. The automatic is smooth and responsive." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "The automatic transmission downshifts promptly when the driver calls for more acceleration, while its manual-shift mode is quick and responsive." -- Automobile Magazine (2012) 
  • "As good as this Skyactiv powertrain is, it does feel like it could use more torque. And that's especially true compared with cars with that have displacement engines. If more power and torque is what you're after, you can opt for the Mazda3 with a 167-hp 2.5-liter that makes 168 lb-ft of torque. Problem is, that powertrain delivers only 29 mpg on the highway. We'd be willing to trade a little less torque for 11 more mpg." -- Popular Mechanics (2012)

Handling and Braking

Reviewers praise the Mazda3’s precise steering. They prefer the sharp handling the s trim offers, and think it is more fun to drive than the i model. Test drivers say that neither model has a lot of body lean, but one reviewer says that the i model has a little more than the s model. Reviewers also mention that the Mazda3’s composed ride is one of its best driving qualities. If you’re interested in the Mazdaspeed3, one test driver warns that the ride is stiff, though that’s expected from a performance model. Few auto critics comment on the Mazda3’s brakes, but one reports that they are strong and responsive.

  • "If you choose a 2013 Mazdaspeed3, be prepared to do your own shifting and get ready for a stiff ride." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "As talented as the Mazda3 is in the corners, the freeway ride isn't busy or rough." -- Popular Mechanics (2012)
  • "The 3 continues to be one of the best-driving cars in its segment, with its chassis drawing praise from our ranks. Its well-weighted steering and taut suspension make the 3 fun when driven on winding back roads, yet its ride remains compliant enough for freeway slogs or pothole-ridden commutes." -- Automobile Magazine (2012)
  • "The Mazda 3s we drove remained nicely balanced in the many corners into which we flung them; the 3 is truly one of the leaders in this class for driving glee. Steering feel from the electrohydraulic system (an electric motor powers the hydraulic pump) was direct and relatively tight, another much-appreciated feature." -- AutoWeek (2012)
  • "Any 3 is confident, exhibiting little body lean, though i versions have more than s models. Steering feel is accurate and responsive, and the brakes have excellent pedal feel and control." -- Consumer Guide (2012)

Next Steps: 2013 Mazda Mazda3

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