By David Colman
For: Efficient engine, Loaded with expensive interior features
Against: Zoom-Zoom free zone
Mazda bills itself as the “Zoom-Zoom” car company, with such tag lines as “Always the soul of a sports car” and “At Mazda, we believe if it’s not worth driving it’s not worth buying.” The company’s biggest selling model, the Mazda3, in the newly available Skyactiv form we tested, leaves plenty more room for zoom. If this hatchback hides the soul of a sports car, its location is a mystery.
Granted, Mazda offers the Mazdaspeed3 for dedicated sporting enthusiasts. This delightful pocket rocket boasts 263hp from its turbocharged 2.3 liter engine. But what about the 155hp engine in our test Mazda3? On paper, the new SKYACTIV-G formula looks good, with super high compression ratio (12:1), 4 into 2 into 1 exhaust, and special anti-knock design measures. But the 2 liter, four cylinder engine simply doesn’t produce enough urge to make this Mazda fun to drive. Is it worth sacrificing performance for stupendous mileage? The SKYACTIV engine returns 28 MPG in city driving, and 39 MPG on the highway, but it does so at the cost of indifferent straight line performance. Step on the throttle in any of the 6 gears provided and the Mazda3 responds with a disconcerting lack of action. If acceleration is important, order your 3 with an available 2.5 liter, 167hp engine, or opt for the Mazdaspeed3.
For those of you unconcerned by such shortfalls in advertising promise, the Mazda3 5 Door GT is an otherwise pleasant excursion into practical motoring. You can carry 5 adults in the airy and spacious cabin. The two up front find themselves lounging in comfort unheard of in this price class. Both front seats have 5 position rheostats for heating, and both are finished in glove leather. The driver’s seat features 8-way power adjustment, and the leather wrapped steering wheel telescopes and pivots through a full range of travel. The Grand Touring package also includes a small Navigation screen, a 265 watt Bose Surroundsound system, and Bluetooth phone connection. For a car costing just $22,800, the amenity li st is surprisingly well padded and complete.