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 Bowie on Tuesday, June 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent MPG, nice body shape, rims easy to wash."
Cons: "Poor console, bad factory paint,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"2013 Madza3 was attractive and very effective on MPG. Mine was 36.9 average since I bought it. Sometimes it hit 41 MPG per a tankful. What I am disappointed about my car is the quality of paint and clearcoat job at factory. Too thin coats! I could see the orange peels in paint condition. I understand that the water-based paint (oil-based now outlawed) may be the reason, but I had seen other brands with thicker clearcoats. The seat was too low so I adjusted the position to highest point. So I could climb out of car easier, but the vision became limited as my head reached to the ceiling. Overall, I am learning to love my car more after I missed Toyota Matrix a lot."
12 people out of 25 found this review helpful
By SelizMac on Tuesday, June 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Sporty, peppy, comfy for long rides, economical"
Cons: "Check for cruise! No guts in snow."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I have been happy with my Mazda 3, with two exceptions: 1.) It did not come standard with cruise control, which I missed at the dealership and discovered AFTER signing and driving off the lot, and 2.) I wish the vehicle was holding it's resale value better. It's been a peppy, fun-to-drive and reliable car with sporty good looks, but I hope to trade in on a 4WD vehicle for this winter, as the low clearance, front-wheel-drive did not serve me well over this past winter of deep snow in Minnesota's northland."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By wibz on Friday, May 30, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: bad gas mileage
Pros: "Car looks very sporty, and has good pick up"
Cons: "Absolutely no leg room in the back"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"I owned a 2002 Mazda Protege5 before this car, and the first thing I noticed is that this 2010 Mazda3 was the exact same size length wise but there was considerable less leg room in the back. It also wasn't the same quality. The seats were squeaky for some reason, I took back to the mazda dealership a couple times and they re-adjusted it but it would keep squeaking. The car came with premium bose sound, but when I would bump it, there was rattling coming from inside the dash. The other thing to note is this car came with Nav, well the Nav chip is a SDCARD that sits on the dash. During the summer time, the first year we had it the SDCARD failed. I took into the mazda dealership and told me that was a common problem with this car. Because the SDCARD would go bad from the heat. They replaced it but recommended I go buy and extra one and make a copy of it. The NAV does not come with free updates, you have to purchase a new one every couple years for about $125. Which is pretty funny because that how much a new stand alone nav costs nowadays. From the get go the mileage was rated at 30 per gallon in the city, well it was more like 23 per gallon. I didn't drive the car that hard and was checking to see it would get better but it didn't. I swapped our air filter with a KN performance one to see if would getter better, but it stayed about the same. The factory tires on the car were shot after 20k. At 37k, we decided to trade this in because the tires needed to be replaced again, from the outside the wheels looked new, but the inside there was considerable wear. I was surprised to see this because we had the wheels aligned when we got the new tires. Any ways, this car is perfect if you don't mind getting new tires every 20k or so miles. And if you need this car for just two people, or two people and two small children since there is no leg room in the back. Gas mileage is about 23 per gallon in the city, I'm pretty sure it was rated at 30 so be aware of that."
3 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Ilovetodrivecarsguy on Friday, May 23, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,200overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great driving feel, Great fuel economy, Great tech"
Cons: "Road Noise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car has been a great vehicle to own! I call this the "poor man's BMW" because it is far less to own than a BMW but it offers an amazing driving experience. There are a ton of tech toys (Xenon headlight with AFS, rain-sensing windshield wipers, NAV, Bose soundsystem) that make the overall value of this car amazing. The vehicle gets way better fuel economy than what I was expecting too. On long road trips, I average about 42MPG; in 55MPH zones I have gotten to 52MPG (and that isn't me trusting the computer, that is actual miles divided by total gallons used to fill up). Overall worksmanship and materials exceed other competitors. My only complaint is road noise...unbearable amounts of road noise. I've driven this car across the US twice and the road noise just eats at you like a fly that wont quit buzzing in your face. Overall, I highly recommend this vehicle to anyone needing a daily driver and who doesn't mind the road noise."
5 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Dean O on Monday, May 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 49,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfortable, great gas mileage, good pick up"
Cons: "Bluetoth has trouble connecting on rare occasion"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I've owned my MAZDA3 as my primary car for just about 2 years now, and it has been an awesome car! I commute 100 miles round trip each day, so I need a comfortable car which gets good gas mileage. My MAZDA3 has delivered on both of those points in spades. This sporty hatchback also provides enough trunk space and back seat room to allow me to take road trips with my wife and 2 young children (and occasionally our dog as well), with everyone staying comfortable and with enough room to go around. I have been completely happy with this car since the day I drove it off the lot!"
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Speedy on Sunday, May 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "High performance with the utility of a hatchback"
Cons: "Hard acceleration produces torque steer."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"The 2010 to 2013 Mazdaspeed 3 is the best performance car value today. It is a very civilized car as well, so you can drive it hard or drive it easy depending on the situation. I like the fact that it’s not available as an automatic, unlike many performance-oriented cars. Driving a 6-speed manual these days really separates the men from the boys (sorry ladies). And I get great gas mileage on trips as a result. I don’t miss the sunroof. It adds weight and cost. As a hatchback with the special roof spoiler, it really sets it apart from the ho-hum Mazda3. And the 18” wheels look really great! People seem to notice them right away. Over the last 4 years, I have not had to visit the dealer for any problems, unlike a lot of more expensive brands. So I’m a happy camper. I’m also surprised at how well the trade-in value is today, around $17.5K in very good condition, according to the KBB."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful