2011 Mazda MAZDA3 Photo
/ 10
On Performance
On Performance
For driving excitement in an economical compact car, the 2011 Mazda3 is tough to top.
8.0 out of 10
Browse Mazda MAZDA3 inventory in your area.


PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10

Expert Quotes:

Although there is a lot to be said for the 2.5-liter I-4...the 2.0 liter provides plenty of grunt.
Winding Road

The steering is more communicative than some sports cars we've sampled

a hoot, the way small cars universally seemed to be back in the day
USA Today

Steering feel is accurate and responsive
Consumer Guide

steering response and feedback rivaling the sports cars from many manufacturers
Edmunds' Inside Line

There isn't much of a difference in performance—or many other vivid distinctions—between the two four-cylinder engines that are offered on the 2011 Mazda3 is offered with one of two different four-cylinder engines, and there isn't that much of a difference between the two, but the hatchback is only offered with the larger of the two.

The 167-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine has a nice, robust torque curve; just off idle, it builds steadily and feels at its most responsive in the 2,500-rpm to 4,500-rpm range—where it's going to be for most driving. Though it's down 19 horsepower from the 167-hp, 2.5-liter four, the smaller four's 148 horses aren't too overworked in keeping up with typical freeway traffic and delivering 24/33 mpg fuel economy. With either of the engines, you get a touchy, aggressively calibrated throttle pedal that comes across as gimmicky, making the Mazda3 initially feel more macho than it is.

In either of its forms, the Mazda3 feels best engaged from about 45 mph to 75 mph, the perfect working powerband for commuter traffic. Of course, the manual gearbox is a more entertaining partner—with a nice, short linkage and straightforward clutch engagement. The automatic shifter's sport-shift mode feels like a manual lever in size and action, and brightens the driving feel a bit. Unlike in other small-car models, the automatic isn't such a penalty box; it's quite responsive and livable.

What the Mazda3 does well is handling. In that respect, it's a shining star. Find a little narrow, rough backroad and the Mazda3 is a riot to drive; the suspension feels way more sophisticated than you might expect in a budget hatch, and it doesn't succumb to plowing and understeer at the slightest provocation. And if you hit some mid-corner bumps, the suspension then smartly soaks it up rather than hopping. It's very well-tuned, firm, but not too hard, and the steering is about perfect—never overboosted and with good feedback in tight corners.


For driving excitement in an economical compact car, the 2011 Mazda3 is tough to top.

« Prev: Interior / Exterior Next: Comfort and Quality »
Other Choices Read More
/ 10
TCC Rating
/ 10
TCC Rating
/ 10
TCC Rating
/ 10
TCC Rating
Used Cars
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area

How does the
TCC Rating work?
The TCC Rating is a clear numeric rating value based on a 10-point scale that reflects the overall opinion of our automotive experts on any vehicle and rolls up ratings we give each vehicle across sub-categories you care about like performance, safety, styling and more.

Our rating also has simple color-coded “Stop” (red), “Caution” (orange),
or “Go” (green) messages along with the numerical score so you can easily understand where we stand at a glance.

Our automotive experts then also collect and show you what other websites say about these different aspects of any vehicle. We do this leg work for you to simplify your research process.

Learn more about how we rate and review cars here.

© 2015 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Read Our Cookie Policy.