2006 Mazda Mazda3

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Flash Drive: 2009 Mazda Mazda3

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2009.
By Staff of MSN Autos

There are a number of small, inexpensive cars on the market, but the Mazda3 really stands out as one of the most fun to drive. It provides the sports car fan with an affordable alternative that is just as adept at handling curvy roads as it is at taking the family to the grocery store. Plus, it looks good, the interior feels upscale, and it's fuel-efficient. A well-equipped Mazda3 is priced below $20,000, and it's available in a variety of body styles and with a few engine choices. The Mazda3 is ideal for anyone looking for fun-to-fling everyday transportation. – Perry Stern

The Mazda3 is a great alternative to the Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla. The exterior styling is more dynamic than its competitors due to a sharp-looking front end. Inside, the plush leather seats are a joy to sit in, while the dials and instrumentation are easy to understand. The Mazda3 comfortably accommodates a family of four, or can fit two child seats in the back. The trunk can carry enough baggage for a weekend trip, or a load of shopping bags from a weekend Costco excursion. From the sporty exterior styling to the peppy yet fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine, the Mazda3 is a great car that doesn't hurt the wallet. – Joe Chulick

Mazda promises that every car it builds contains "The Soul of a Sports Car," and with the compact Mazda3 it's true. This fun-to-drive four-door features great styling, a balanced chassis and a peppy 156-horsepower 2.3-liter engine, especially when combined with the 5-speed manual transmission. The suspension is not overly harsh or aggressive but is well-controlled, with balanced, predictable handling and excellent steering that is quick and precise. The leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel in our Grand Touring sedan test car provided the level of road feel and responsiveness once reserved only for expensive BMWs. The interior design is clean and sporty, with well-placed controls that are easy to see and use. Blue and orange lighting for the gauges and orange for the center stack add to the sporty feel. One of the best overall values available today, the Mazda3 is a practical, fuel-efficient sedan with a fun-to-drive personality. – Mike Meredith

Unlike the MAZDASPEED3, which has a character dominated by the engine and turbocharger, the regular Mazda3 is aimed at a less single-minded buyer. It's practically my ideal small car. There is room for a family, with an available hatchback if you also need a little hauling capacity. The space-efficient back seat has a relatively flat surface that appears likely to accommodate child seats well. The passenger seat is surprisingly spacious. Yet the entire car is nicely driver-focused: It has accurate and nimble steering, good sightlines, a smooth manual transmission and a peppy engine. Although the MINI is currently my favorite small car, the Mazda3 is almost as good for two people and it's a far better choice if you want a back seat. – Paul Hagger

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BB03 - 9/17/2014 3:12:43 PM