By KBB.com Editors
It's now four years into the compact MAZDA3's model run, and demand remains high. The 2008 Mazda MAZDA3 continues to attract buyers, due to its attractive styling, impressive array of standard and optional features, good fuel economy and sporty handling. Few economy cars have enough style to sit beside an Audi A3 and look right at home, yet the MAZDA3 can do just that, and its starting price at slightly over $14,000 places it within the reach of most compact car buyers. The MAZDA3 is available in two body styles, with the four-door sedan offering two four-cylinder engine choices: A 2.0-liter or 2.3-liter. The five-door hatchback is available only with the larger engine. Both models are notably popular with drivers young and old, poking a big hole in the commonly-held belief that Americans won't buy hatchbacks.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're shopping for an economical small car that can be nicely equipped for around $18,000, check out the 2008 Mazda MAZDA3. Sharp styling and road-hugging handling are standard, as is a long list of uncommon options such as DVD navigation and Bose audio.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're searching for maximum passenger space, the MAZDA3's rear-seat legroom won't impress. Though no wimp, the 2.3-liter engine can't compete with the high-powered turbocharged engines from Subaru, Volkswagen and MINI.What's New for 2008
Mazda makes front side-impact and side-curtain airbags standard on s Sport models.Driving It Driving Impressions
We found the MAZDA3's handling to be simply superb, with incredibly tight steering that responds instantaneously to input. As we joyfully wound our way over a serpentine road, we were instantly reminded of other great compacts that evoked the same emotional response. Even though the MAZDA3 is a front-wheel-drive car, it exhibits very little torque steer. The secret ingredient for a faster, more thrilling MAZDA3 is the 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine of the s trim level. Though it has only 12 more horsepower than the 2.0-liter, the 2.3's low-end torque helps the MAZDA3 accelerate effortlessly. The optional automatic transmission features a quick shift from first to second gear for a faster response, making even steep hills no threat to rapid acceleration.Favorite Features
DVD-Based Navigation Unit
The MAZDA3's optional DVD-based navigation unit is an unheard-of feature in a car in this price range.
Who says Americans don't like hatchbacks? The new hot hatches are gaining converts for their looks and versatility.
You can shop this segment until the cows come home and not find as handsome an interior as in the 2008 Mazda MAZDA3. A racy three-pod instrument cluster, red dash lighting and long list of standard and optional features make the MAZDA3 feel like a high-priced sports sedan. Front-seat occupants will find head- and legroom generous, although the passenger's seat does not offer adjustment for either lumbar support or height. The five-door model allows you to lug around bulky items that would not easily fit in the sedan's trunk. Two features missing from an otherwise well-planned interior are a rear hatch release switch and a retained power feature, the latter necessary to operate the power windows after the key is removed from the ignition.Exterior
The MAZDA3's scorching exterior could easily have been penned by BMW or Alfa Romeo. The strong lines denote its performance abilities and look particularly attractive on the sporty five-door hatchback. A new front end features a revised grille and headlamp treatment with a large rectangular air intake and, on s trims, integrated rectangular fog lights. Sadly, heated exterior mirrors are still not available. The s models feature a multi-spoke wheel design that mimics the wheels of the CX-7 crossover SUV.Notable Standard Equipment
The entry-level MAZDA3 i features a 2.0-liter engine, five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, dual remote-control mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, cloth bucket seats, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, tachometer, intermittent wipers and 15-inch wheels. The s four-door sedan and five-door hatchback include a 2.3-liter engine, air conditioning, illuminated remote keyless entry, fog lights, dual power mirrors, power locks, power windows, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels. All versions with the 2.3-liter engine have Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control as standard equipment.Notable Optional Equipment
Options include a power moonroof, Bose audio, six-disc MP3/CD changer, 17-inch alloy wheels (Grand Touring), heated leather seats, five-speed automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes (ABS), remote engine start (automatic models only), front-side and front/rear side-curtain airbags (standard on s Sport), auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and a DVD-based navigation system.Under the Hood
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. A new five-speed automatic with manual shift control is available only with the 2.3-liter engine.
2.0-liter in-line 4
148 horsepower @ 6500 rpm
135 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/32 (manual), 23/31 (automatic)
2.3-liter in-line 4
156 horsepower @ 6500 rpm
150 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 (manual), 22/29 (automatic)
The base MAZDA3 i sedan has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $14,500, while the MAZDA3 s starts just over $18,000. The five-door s Touring has an MSRP close to $19,000, and a fully loaded s Grand Touring with an automatic transmission tops out around $25,000. Demand for the MAZDA3 remains high, so you'll need to be on your toes when negotiating the best price. A look at the Fair Purchase Price page shows the typical transaction price for the MAZDA3, so be sure to check it out before you begin. We can't help but reiterate what a great bargain the MAZDA3 represents, a fact reinforced when looking at the car's excellent resale value.