The 2004 Mazda MAZDA3 is an economy car that drives like a more expensive sports car, offers some utility and distinctive styling, and appears to be something other than the entry-level car that it is. Buyers will get better looks and more driving fun than is expected of cars in this class. For budget conscious buyers and new entries into car ownership, it’s hard to go wrong with a MAZDA3.
Body Styles: sedan, hatchback
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 2.3-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed-manual, four-speed Sport automatic
Models: sports MAZDA3 i sedan, sports MAZDA3 s sedan, sports MAZDA3 s hatchback
The MAZDA3 itself is all-new for 2004 and takes the place of the discontinued Protege in the Mazda line-up.
The 2004 Mazda MAZDA3 entry-level economy car comes in two body styles: sedan and hatchback. The sedan is available in two trims: i and s. The hatchback is only offered in the s trim level. The i trim starts off with 15-inch steel wheels and not a lot else exterior-wise. The s trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, power door mirrors, fog lamps, and remote keyless entry. Stand-alone options for both trims include a spoiler and outside temperature display. Options for the s trim only include HID headlights, low tire pressure warning and a rear window wiper.
The MAZDA3 i trim starts off with cabin gear like cloth seats, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, some power accessories, and an audio system with AM/FM, CD player, and steering wheel mounted controls. The s trim adds air-conditioning, cruise control, and leather trim on the steering wheel and shift knob. Most of the s trim features can be added to the i trim through options. Stand-alone options for both trims include a moonroof, auto dimming rear-view mirror, and MP3 capability for the audio system. Other options for only the s trim include a navigation system and leather upholstery.
Performance & Handling
The MAZDA3 i sedan uses a two-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower but only 144 horsepower in Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) form and 135 lb-ft of torque. Both of the MAZDA3 s body styles use a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produces 160 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard and a four-speed Sport automatic transmission is available on all models. Both engines are truly economy deals and lack any real punch. As such, passing other cars can be a bit precarious and more space should be allotted for this and other traffic situations that require acceleration.
The handling is a different story altogether. The MAZDA3 does a great job of representing the Mazda ""zoom zoom"" philosophy of driving fun and sportiness when it comes to handling. Nimble, agile, confident, precise, and controlled are all good ways to describe how the MAZDA3 handles itself. While the braking is solid enough, it's best to add the optional anti-lock brake system. The MAZDA3 even communicates well through the precise and nicely weighted steering. The driver can really feel the road and that’s a rarity in this segment. For driving enthusiasts on a budget, it’s hard to beat the MAZDA3 when it comes to low-cost driving fun.
The ride isn’t nearly as rough or harsh as one would expect for a sporty budget car. The ride isn’t like a luxury sedan, but only the biggest bumps cause a problem and wind noise is not that loud for a budget car.
Being an economy car, the 2004 Mazda MAZDA3 isn’t exactly chock full of safety features. In fact, only child seat anchors and driver and passenger head restraint whiplash protection systems are standard safety gear. Safety-conscious buyers can add all-disc anti-lock brakes, side-impact, and side curtain-type airbags as optional gear. In NHTSA crash safety tests, the MAZDA3 four out of five stars for driver, passenger, and rollover safety. In tests for side-impact front and rear safety, the MNAZDA3 received three out of five stars. In IIHS tests, the MAZDA3 earned the highest rating of ""good"" for frontal offset-impact safety but was given the second lowest rating of ""marginal"" for rear crash protection and head restraint and the lowest rating of ""poor"" for side-impact safety. These are not the most encouraging safety test scores, but it’s respectable for a low-cost, entry-level car devoid of any extra safety features, this isn’t a European luxury wagon, and the two should be judged differently and according to class.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mazda MAZDA3 i: 24/32 mpg city/highway
Mazda MAZDA3 s: 22/29 mpg city/highway
- Fun-to-drive character
- Interior design
- Strong engines
- Optional hatchback utility
You Won't Like
- Ride can be viewed as stiff
- Some ergonomic quirks
- Poor safety
- Rear legroom is cramped
Economy car that doesn’t feel all that cheap.
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