By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.7
With some compact cars you get great fuel economy. Others offer superior performance. A select a few are loaded with premium features uncommon to low-priced cars. However one car, the 2011 Mazda3, combines all of these attributes and does so for a starting price less than $17,000. The 2011 Mazda3 is available as a four-door sedan or five-door wagon, and with a choice of a 148-hosepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a potent 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The 2011 Mazda3 provides the performance of a more expensive sports sedan with the interior quality of some mid-level luxury cars. While it easily runs circles around cars like the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra, newer competitors such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra look to give the 2011 Mazda3 a run for its money.
If you're looking for a compact car that offers visual appeal, a feature-rich interior, superb driving dynamics and respectable fuel economy, the 2011 Mazda3 Sedan or Wagon is it.
If you're looking for a car with maximum rear-seat legroom, a turbocharged engine or all-wheel drive, there are better choices, such as the Volkswagen GTI or Subaru WRX.
The revamped Technology Package is the only major change for 2011. New to this package are rain-sensing front wipers and a significant overhaul of the headlights.
Driving Impressions No matter which 2011 Mazda3 you choose, there is a healthy dose of Zoom-zoom in each one. Mazda engineers focused their attention on making the Mazda3's body as stiff as...possible and its suspension both agile and compliant. Models with the 148-horsepower engine offer spirited performance and good fuel economy, reaching 33 miles per gallon in the government's highway test. However, the engine that brings the 2011 Mazda3 to life is the 167-horsepower four-cylinder found in the s trims and the five-door wagons. Mazda's manual transmissions (five-speed in i models and six-speed in s versions) should be the template for all others, delivering tight, precise shifts. While carving up a twisting mountain road we found the driver-selectable stability and traction control granted us plenty of fun before stepping in to save us from ourselves. Our Grand Touring trim's front seats provided plenty of thigh and lateral support and the overall feel inside the cabin is one of sophistication and attention to detail.
Adaptive Front Headlamps
Mazda says this is the first application on a compact vehicle of the swiveling blue-white bi-xenon high- and low-beam headlights (bi-xenon means there are two headlights on each side – one for high beam and the other for low beam). Their inner beams can rotate up to 15 degrees in order to look deeper into dark corners. They are self-leveling to prevent dazzling on-coming divers.
Super-Efficient catalytic converter
All 2011 Mazda3s are fitted with a new, Mazda-patented catalytic converter that requires 70-percent less precious metal, but is even more effective at cleaning up exhaust gases.
Mazda's Human Machine interface philosophy was used to create a three-zone driving environment designed to help the driver remain focused on the road while still enjoying all the benefits the 2011 Mazda3 has to offer. Comfortable bucket seats offer excellent support on long drives and all Mazda3s have a 60/40 split-folding rear bench that can be folded flat to add even more utility. Easy to read analog gauges are housed in a hooded area directly in front of the driver, while the audio and other controls reside just to the driver's right. On s trims, steering wheel mounted controls operate the audio, Bluetooth, Multi-Information Display and cruise control. We found the Mazda navigation screen is too small and not very user friendly. The available Bose audio system, on the other hand, is worth every penny.Exterior
Although it shares the same exterior dimensions as the original Mazda3, this second-generation car is noticeably more stylish. Highlighted by the bold front fender flares found on the RX-8, Mazda designers have created a sedan and wagon that look far more upscale than their entry-level status suggests. The 2011 Mazda3's big, toothless grinning front grille may be polarizing but it certainly doesn't go unnoticed. The same can be said for the racy alloy wheels, curvaceous sheet metal and bold colors. Upper-end models offer such high-end features as LED tail lamps and adaptive front lighting. Even the most basic trim offers color keyed mirrors and 16-inch wheels. All i models of the 2011 Mazda3 come with 205/55HR16 all-season tires on steel or aluminum wheels, while the s models have V-rated 205/50 tires on 17-inch alloy rims.
The four-door 2011 Mazda3 is available in five trim packages, starting with the base i SV, and moving upward with the i Sport, i Touring, s Sport and s Grand Touring. The five-door wagon's two trim levels are Sport and Grand Touring. Even the base 2011 Mazda3 i SV sedan has impressive standard equipment, including electronic stability control, a tilt-telescoping steering column, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio, power windows and mirrors and variable intermittent wipers. The i Touring adds cruise control, alloy wheels, air conditioning, power locks with keyless remote and Bluetooth connectivity. The s levels and both five-doors have the more potent 2.5-liter engine in place of the 2.0-liter powerplant of the i models. The up-level versions also get a Multi-Information Display, trip computer, sport seats and enhanced trim items. Only the Grand Touring versions feature dual-zone automatic climate control, bi-xenon Adaptive Front headlights and heated leather seats.
With the exception of the base i SV, all 2011 Mazda3s offer a five-speed automatic transmission as an option in place of the standard manual transmission. The Moonroof and Bose Package, which includes a 10-speaker Centerpoint Surround Sound system, can be fitted to all Touring-and-above 2011 Mazda3s. The Tech Package (navigation system with 4.1-inch color screen, Sirius Satellite Radio, advanced keyless entry, pushbutton start, rain sensing wipers, bi-xenon Adaptive headlamps with auto leveling, LED tail lights, auto on/off headlamps and perimeter alarm) is limited to s models.
Two engines and three transmissions are part of the 2011 Mazda3 lineup. The four-door i models (SV, Sport and Touring) are equipped with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that can be teamed with a five-speed manual transmission or, except for the base i SV, a five-speed automatic with manual shift control. The more powerful s models (Sport and Grand Touring) have a 168-horsepower 2.5-liter powerplant that's also used in the Mazda6. It can be paired with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. The five-door versions come only with the 168-horsepower engine.
2.0-liter in-line 4
148/144 horsepower (Federal/PZEV) @ 6500 rpm
135/132 lb-ft of torque (Federal/PZEV) @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 (5-sp manual), 24/33 (5-speed automatic)
2.5-liter in-line 4
167/165 horsepower (Federal/PZEV) @ 6000 rpm
168/167 lb-ft of torque (Federal/PZEV)) @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 (6-sp manual), 22/29 (5-speed automatic)
By ladydriver on Wednesday, October 29, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: cut personal expenses
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The positives on this car are numerous. First off the drive-ability and performance were excellent. A nice suspension made for great control on the road. We tended to get around 32 MPG. It was great for long road trips with a nice comfy interior, we could play music or audio books through pandora with the bluetooth, make and recieve phone calls while maintaining focus on the road, and turn on the cruise control for those long stretches of empty highway. There was plenty of space in the trunk, so we could always fit our christmas tree in the back if we put the seats down. We never had any major mechanical issues over the 4 years we owned it, and we never even had to do the brakes. The one and only complaint that we had was that visibility was not great, there are blind spots that can make it tricky to merge or back up without turning around in your seat. But that is merely a side effect of the sporty styling of the body."
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By redhead3 on Saturday, October 18, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Car was not what I thought it was
Pros: "fuel economy, reliability,"
Cons: "seats bend, build quality, interior, under powered"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Ok fuel milage and reliability is all this car has going for it. The build quality is terrible, one of those toy cars are built better. Especially the interior its horrific the seats bend with ease, just feels like a toy car."
5 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By Lulu on Thursday, October 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 51,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handles great, great price."
Cons: "Too much road noise in interior."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Car drives great. Has been very reliable. Interior cab has too much road noise. Would love for it to be quieter! Comfortable interior."
9 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By Metal Man on Monday, September 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,200overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Has been reliable"
Cons: "Very uncomfortable, noisy and expensive to service"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This car drives like a truck. It is very noisy and you can feel every small bump in the road. The radio is the worst I have ever heard. It is virtually impossible to listen to the radio due to its poor quality and the road noise. There are many comparably priced cars that provide significantly more comfort. I urge anyone considering a Mazda 3 to look at the alternatives."
14 people out of 33 found this review helpful
By Mazda i3 on Saturday, August 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Outstanding MPG, good handling reasonable comfort"
Cons: "Seats are a bit flat for me."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Owned this vehicle almost a year. Initially had a rattle in the rear left, dealer helped locate a loose fender liner and resolved the noise. I LOVE this car. No buyers remorse. Maintenance is easy. Drives great in the mountains, handles well in snow. My 21 year old son took it on a 1200 mile road trip and fell in love with it as well."
23 people out of 40 found this review helpful
By Thatguyy on Friday, August 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 38,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"The car handles like a sports car, it is a very smooth vehicle to drive and very comfortable. I enjoy driving in this car. So far very reliable have not had a single issue as i creep up on the 40k mileage mark."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful