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TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Mazda 3 in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com also researched available road tests on the new Mazda 3 to produce a full review that surveys the most useful comments and observations.
The 2009 Mazda 3 is easily one of the best compact cars for sale in the United States and one of the favorite compact cars of the editors at TheCarConnection.com.
Available as either a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback, the Mazda 3 has a more rakish, aggressive exterior than most small cars; it's paired with an instrument panel that feels like it could be in a more expensive performance coupe.
Both body styles claim to fit five, but that’s a little optimistic. With only four aboard, the interior is roomy enough, but because this is a compact car, don't expect the space of a full-size SUV or the convenience of rear cup holders. However, you can look forward to easy-to-use controls and a high level of fit and finish. The Mazda 3 is a quality piece. Seating and visibility for the driver are both good. As you'd expect, the wagon carries more than the sedan, offering 43.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, 16.5 with the seats up. The sedan's trunk holds 14.6 cubic feet, and this increases when the rear seats are folded.
On the road the front-wheel-drive Mazda 3 is a fine-maneuvering small car with agile moves. It's entertaining to drive. However, its ride is a bit on the stiff side for some drivers. Road noise is also present and gets tiring after a few hours on the road. A 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard in the base-model Mazda 3. Uplevel "s" four-doors and the five-door wagon get the 2.3-liter four-cylinder that generates 156 horsepower. The five-door also dons sporty body add-ons, 17-inch wheels, and fog lamps. Five-speed manual transmissions are standard on these models, and optional gearboxes include a four-speed automatic on the base sedan and a five-speed automatic on the uplevel Mazda 3.
The high-performance Mazdaspeed3 has a turbocharged 2.3-liter that uses a sophisticated fuel delivery system called direct injection. This technology improves both power and fuel economy. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available to handle this engine's 263 horsepower. Hang on, because the Mazdaspeed3 will take you for a great ride. Quarter-mile performance is musclecar strong, and its top speed is more than 150 mph.
The 2009 Mazdaspeed3 comes only in the wagon body style, and this special model includes many unique features, such as wider front fenders, different front and rear fascias, and a spoiler attached to the hatch. Unlike some other factory hot rods, the Mazdaspeed3 doesn't scream "I'm fast, give me a ticket." The look is conservatively aggressive. The Mazdaspeed3 edition is trimmed in leather, has front seats that are more heavily bolstered, and sports bits of aluminum detailing throughout to complement the car's impressive performance.
Mazda significantly improves the safety of the Mazda 3 by making side and curtain airbags standard. Government and IIHS crash tests show this is a good move for consumers. The Mazdaspeed3 also offers electronic stability control as standard equipment, and the feature is optional on other models. Anti-lock brakes are standard on all but the least expensive "s" trim levels.
The top-of-the-line Grand Touring model features a leather interior, a premium sound system, heated leather seats, high-gloss-finish 17-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing front windshield wipers, and high-intensity xenon headlamps. Top options include a moonroof, a navigation system, and Sirius Satellite Radio.