The 2008 Mazda Mazda3 is a continuation of a critic and buyer favorite. Noted for offering a lot of features, quality, and driving fun for the price and with sharp looks and unique styling thrown in for good measure, this vehicle proves to be a leader in the compact class. Whether in sedan or hatchback form, the 3 is a great car and well worth looking at for buyers in this price range.
Body Styles: sedan, hatchback
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 2.3-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic with an automanual mode, five-speed automatic with automanual mode
Models: Mazda Mazda3 i Sport, Mazda Mazda3 i Touring Value, Mazda Mazda3 i Touring, Mazda Mazda3 s Sport sedan, Mazda Mazda3 s Touring sedan, Mazda Mazda3 s Grand Touring sedan, Mazda Mazda3 s Sport hatchback, Mazda3 s Touring hatchback, Mazda3 s Grand Touring hatchback
For 2008, all s trim levels now have front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags as standard equipment.
The 2008 Mazda 3 compact is available as a sedan or hatchback. There are five trim levels available for the sedan: i Sport, i Touring, s Sport, s Touring, and s Grand Touring. The hatchback/wagon is only available in the s trims. For the exterior, various trims can add things like 16-inch alloy wheels, a larger engine, special exterior trim, foglights, 17-inch alloys automatic xenon headlights, body side sills, rain-sensing wipers, and a moonroof. Like many Mazda vehicles, a lot of effort has gone into the exterior styling, and it shows as the 3 is a sharp looking ride.
In the cabin, all i sedans have a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat with center armrest and a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. The i Touring trim adds air-conditioning, cruise control, an upgraded stereo, keyless entry, a height-adjustable driver seat, and full power accessories. Mazda 3 s models come with all of these features, plus special interior and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The top-of-the-line s Grand Touring boasts leather upholstery, heated seats, automatic climate control, and a trip computer. Options include satellite radio, an in-dash CD changer, and a navigation system for the Grand Touring versions.
The cabin of the 3 is surprisingly upscale and luxurious, given that this is a compact. Nicely styled, it offers decent space, save for a slightly-cramped backseat.
Performance & Handling
All of the i models make use of a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 148 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque, while the s models are all powered by a 2.3-liter four-cylinder rated at 156 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic with an automanual mode is optional on i models, while s models upgrade to a five-speed automatic with automanual mode. Tests performed with a 3 Grand Touring sedan with the 2.3-liter engine and automatic transmission yielded a zero-to-60-mph time of 8.6 seconds.
Safety can be a bit tricky to gauge on the 3. While the scores were mixed in government crash safety tests, all of the testing was done with models that lacked airbags. Ratings ran from top marks to poor marks on the various front- and side-impact tests. This is indicative of a situation worth noting: the best safety gear is optional on the lower level i trims and standard on the upper level s trims. While all 2008 Mazda 3s have four-wheel disc brakes, anti-lock brakes, front-side and full-length curtain airbags are optional on the i trims and standard for everything else. Stability control is available only on the s trim levels.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mazda Mazda3 i models: 24/32 mpg city/highway
Mazda Mazda3 s models: 22/29 mpg city/highway
- Interior quality
- Luxury at a budget price
You Won't Like
- Fuel economy
- Rear legroom
- Stiff ride
- Road noise
Stands out as a favorite in this segment.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Kia Spectrum5
- Mini Clubman
- Honda Civic
- Volvo C30
- Acura TSX
- Pontiac G5