Mazda3 puts its best engine forward
Friends, Torontonians, countrypersons: Do you know what my favourite small car is? My favourite small car is generally walking, but if you factor in our poor excuse for winter weather and a shopping spree at Idomo, I’d rather give my feet a rest and grab the keys to a Mazda3.
For 2008, the best news is no news for the base model GX and mid-grade GS. The pricier GT trim gets a big Ford-sourced 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine, producing 156 horsepower — only eight horses more than the entry-level 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 148 hp.
Making the base engine even more appealing, let me remind you, it’s the same engine found in the MX-5 ( formerly Miata) — and one of the best four-cylinder units in the business.
In addition, the entry-level Mazda3 GX rings in a full $3,200 less than the next model up, the GS. Granted, the GX isn’t nearly as content-laden and is billed more as budget motoring. Standard features are 15-inch steel wheels, disc brakes, dual front airbags, dual side airbags, and dual curtain airbags, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, AM/FM/CD player with auxiliary input and, well … that’s it.
Don’t be turned off just yet. An automatic transmission is optional ($1,000) as is air conditioning ($1,000) and a $1,145 power package. The power package adds two additional speakers, power windows, power locks, power heated mirrors, steering wheel audio controls, and keyless entry.
What more than that do you need? How much do you want to spend?
If you’re so inclined to spend a bit extra and can’t see yourself behind the wheel of the base model, the mid-range GS adds standard air conditioning, keyless entry, alloy wheels, vanity mirror, rain-sensing wipers, steering wheel audio controls, automatic headlights and trip computer. A sport package is also optional on the GS.
The GT model tops out at $22,945 — a reasonable price but a bit of a stretch for typical first-new-car buyers. But with the extra coin comes additional bragging rights: 17-inch alloy wheels, six-speaker stereo, leather-wrapped steering wheel and cruise control are standard. An optional luxury package brings heated leather seats, six-disc CD player, automatic climate control, and Xenon HID headlights.
Driving the Mazda3 is a constant reminder that the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, and Toyota Corolla are shooting for an altogether different clientele. For starters, the Mazda’s sporty ride and sharp handling are closer to a small sports car, hugging the road with confidence and a willing attitude.
In addition, the base model keeps sipping fuel seemingly no matter how hard the car is pushed — either loaded down with friends or all the gear for a ski trip.