By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 3/14/2011
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.You'll Like This Car If...
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's Significant About This Car?
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 It 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.Favorite Features
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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Notable Optional Equipment
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.Under the Hood
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)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2011 Mazda3 lineup starts at just over $16,500 for an i SV sedan, which makes it a relative bargain among its primary competitors. However, that figure rises to $17,500 for an i Sport sedan with a manual transmission and nears $18,500 for one with an automatic. The range-topping s Grand Touring models with the automatic transmission start closer to $24,000 but approach $26,000 once you add the Moonroof and Bose Package and the Technology Package. The five-door wagon starts at just over $20,000 and can reach almost $27,000. To get the best deal, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what consumers in your area are currently paying for the 2011 Mazda3. Also, be sure to click on the Incentives tab to see what deals the manufacturer is offering. Historically, the Mazda3 has maintained slightly above-average residual values. The 2011 Mazda3 is expected to do the same, remaining somewhat better in that area than the Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra and Chevrolet Cruze, but not quite up to Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Matrix or VW Golf levels.