But, as several members of our editorial team have mentioned over several different drives of the latest Mazda3, one of its most significant weaknesses is cabin noise. Provided you're cruising you won't hear the engine much, but you'll hear tire noise and road coarseness at all times on the highway unless you have the sound system turned up.
There's plenty of legroom in front, but there's one caution for taller folks: with a sunroof, the Mazda3 has compromised headroom that might get in the way for anyone over six feet or so. In back, the accommodations aren't bad at all for a little hatchback; headroom is just adequate for six-footers, while legroom is a bit tight. Fold the backseats down, and the
Form and function great; execution a little lacking
Inside, the interface is good in form and function, but the execution falls a little short. The nice hooded gauges are great, and with the fat, small-diameter steering wheel give the 3 a little bit of sports-car feel. Readouts for the audio and climate controls are up high, however changing the climate controls still involves looking far downward; furthermore, the readouts, with one trip-computer screen and another climate-control screen—one in a grey-white and the other in an orange-red, with completely different fonts—leaves something to be desired, aesthetically and functionally. And plastics? Well, they could be better all around.
We found the Bose Centerpoint system to sound excellent no matter what—just right and not too bass-heavy.
A strong value—even for top trims
The Mazda3 is a strong value overall, even when you're talking about the top-of-the-line Grand Touring, which includes bi-xenon headlamps, adaptive front lighting, fog lamps, a bright-tipped dual exhaust, rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors, leather seats (heated in front), dual-zone climate control, a Bluetooth hands-free interface, and electronic stability control--all for a 2010 MSRP of $22,800. The total on our test car, which included the moonroof, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the Bose Centerpoint audio system, was $25,425.
The 2011 Mazda3 isn't much different than the 2010 we tested; some of the options in our test Grand Touring (like the adaptive bi-xenon headlights and new rear LED combination taillamps) are now offered in a Tech Package.