Mazda nails it. They know how to package small-car fun, good looks, affordability, and versatility, topped with fuel efficiency. And for a lot of people that’s just what they’re looking for today.
A small car doesn’t have to be dull to drive in order to gain high mpgs. We all want more miles-per-gallon, but please not at the expense of fun-to-drive. The 2011 Mazda3 hatchback I drove recently was zippy to maneuver around the block, through downtown, on the highway, and down the back roads.
The front-wheel-drive Mazda3 feels substantial, too. As a small car it doesn’t suffer a hollowness of being a lightweight. The Mazda3 feels planted to the road, while also isolating road noise from entering the cabin compartment. Mazda says they’ve worked on building superior bending stiffness and flex resistance in the Mazda3 chassis. It’s a stiffer structure — applied from techniques in the Mazda6 — that provides the Mazda3 with improved suspension response to the driver’s steering, braking and cornering commands, while also providing for a quieter ride.
Complementing the underpinning driving dynamics are the subtle aerodynamic shaping attributes that Mazda paid extra effort to in order to diminish wind drag. Mazda says the shape of the Mazda3’s front bumper beam reduces air turbulence traveling through the grille; speed flaps in the radiator-shroud will open at highway speeds to allow air to bypass the cooling fan; and small deflectors near the front tires smooth out air flow around the Mazda3, making it one of the quietest cars in the small vehicle class.
New for 2011 — and Mazda says is a first in the compact market — is the availability of an Adaptive Front-lighting System.
Offered through the optional Technology Package, the adaptive inner beams of the headlights steer up to 15 degrees to expand nighttime illumination for improved safety. Additionally, the Technology Package ($1,835) includes a full color display with navigation, Sirius satellite radio, push-button start, keyless entry, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and automatic on/off bi-xenon headlights.
This kind of equipment in the Technology Package is more normally featured on premium and luxury models, so it’s decidedly impressive to us that Mazda offers a high-end features package on its popular compact vehicle. The 2011 Mazda3 is also standard equipped with six airbags, dynamic stability control, ABS and traction control.
In addition to the hatchback, the Mazda3 is available in a sedan model. Prices for the four-door model start at $15,800 for the 2.0-liter, 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The hatchback starts at $20,045 and is equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 167 horsepower and 168 lb.-ft. of torque that is matched to a standard six-speed manual transmission. This setup returns EPA fuel economy ratings of 22 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway.
Inside, the cockpit is separated into three zones based on human eye interface studies. Located high and close to the driver are the controls and instrument displays; climate and sound are also elevated in a center stack; lower switches on the door and steering column are easy to reach and intuitive to use.
The lower beltline in the front allows for great visibility and the rear hatchback window design mimics the bold Mazda winged-M logo design in the front grille.
The exterior style of the Mazda3 hatchback is energetic and inviting. You’ll want to get in this car just because its cuteness suggests it’s a fun car. — Connie Keane, Motor Matters
Next New On Wheels: 2011 Honda CR-Z
Next Bonus Wheels: 2011 Honda Accord
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger FWD compact hatchback
BASE PRICE___________________ $20,485 (as tested: $23,110)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 16-valve DOHC 4-cylinder
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 167 at 6000 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 168 at 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed manual
WHEELBASE____________________ 103.9 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 177.6 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 35.8 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 15.9 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
2011 BUICK LACROSSE: The Buick LaCrosse luxury sedan rolls into 2011 offering a great design, all-wheel drive, a suite of advanced personal technologies and safety features, and a choice of two fuel-saving powertrains. A fuel-efficient Ecotec 2.4L four-cylinder engine with Direct injection technology helps deliver 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft. of torque. The LaCrosse’s powertrain lineup also includes a 3.6L V-6 with variable valve timing and direct injection; it is rated at 280 horsepower and 259 lb.-ft. of torque. AWD is available on 3.6L-equipped models. (Source: General Motors)
GREEN WHEELS: American car buyers want gas-fueled vehicles that are also more efficient. Volkswagen offers buyers the 2011 Touareg Hybrid with 7,700 pounds of towing capability and 40 percent better fuel economy over the V-6 gas engine model. “We want to offer a car for a customer who wants a gasoline car,” explained Touareg hybrid project manager Bernd Stiebels. “Part of the reason why people are interested in a hybrid is because it is new technology,” noted Martin Bratzler, product manager for Porsche’s version. “They want to see what is going on so we have E-Mode to help them experience that.” (Source: Green Wheeling, Motor Matters)
SMALL RECREATIONAL VEHILCES: Teardrop Recreational Vehicles are very much growing in popularity. Teardrop kits are available and RV manufacturers are churning out teardrops in a variety of sizes and option configurations. Of these manufacturers, Little Guy Worldwide (www.golittleguy.com) is one of the most energetic teardrop builders we know. Its North Canton, Ohio factory produces a range of models from its Lite series, at about 450 pounds, up to the 6-Wide series at about 1,490 pounds. All are aerodynamic and deliver the best of teardrop-style camping. (Source: Rolling Homes, Motor Matters)
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010