Typically ahead of the crowd, Mazda makes good bargains. Take the 2008.5 Mazda3 Sport GX. They downsized it a bit to lower the price – just in time for Johnny Consumer’s recent Fundamental Shift in Attitude.
There’s still some swagger to this sporty 5-door hatch. It’s still popular among the stubble-and-goatee set. In electric blue, its aerodynamic front and curvaceous swoosh at the rear feel more Euro than Asian.
They’ve gone with a smaller engine, moving from a 2.3L four-cylinder to a 2.0L. But the five-speed manual transmission made it possible to soak maximum power from the lightened pony express (148 hp @ 6500 rpm). It shifted smoothly and easily – the carefully placed gear ratios helped get the most from the torque.
They’ve also gone with a smaller tire, a P195/65R15 on 15″ steel wheels. But I didn’t mind pushing it hard in the corners – it held steady.
The engineers thought hard about maximizing each inch. It seems small from the outside, but is surprisingly roomy when you get in (1065 mm of legroom, 1394 mm of shoulder up front; 922 mm and 1371 mm in the rear). There’s a good sensation of speed this close to the road (145 mm ground clearance). In fact, its stature was a blessing in the city. At just 1755 mm wide and 4490 long, it was easy to park. And weighing under 1300 kg with a 4-cylinder engine, it was decent on gas.
Yes, fuel consumption matters a lot these days. It was just $37 to fill up (back in May when gas was cheap) after driving it 295 km in the city, mostly during rush hour, complete with constant start-and-stop jerking, and regular races to the next stop sign. All the things you’re not supposed to do to save gas.
2.0L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine
5-speed manual transmission
Horsepower: 148 @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 135 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Front wheel drive
Front and rear disc brakes with ABS
15″ styled steel wheels with full wheel covers
P195/65R15 all-season tires
Starting at $17,895
4-speed Sport mode Automatic Transmission – $1,000
Air conditioning – $1,000
Comfort Package includes Power windows (switch illumination), Power Locks, Power Adjustable Heated Mirrors, Steering Wheel Audio Controls, Illuminated entry, Keyless Entry System (with hatch release), 15″ Alloy Wheels & Rear Spoiler – $1,295