- Smooth and fairly powerful engine.
- Sporty suspension setup.
- Classy and functional interior.
- Good amount of headroom and legroom.
- Excellent build quality.
- Thick C-pillars reduce rearward visibility.
- Ride not exactly the cushiest in its class.
- More road noise than the class leaders.
- Heavier than before.
- Not much else to complain about.
Press Coverage :
The new Mazda3 assembles all the best qualities of its predecessors, refined with the insights gained by studying closely those attributes that make the new generation Mazda product line up so successful. It represents a fresh and confident alternative in a segment that has left the customers of other brands wanting more. Dynamic, solid proportions - created by a long wheelbase and cabin, short overhangs and large-diameter wheels, and aggressively flared fenders - give it an assertive presence, even when viewed from a distance.
The Mazda3 is one of the largest vehicles in this class, despite its aggressive, sporty design. It has a spacious, airy cabin with generous shoulder room front and back, while its long wheelbase and the optimal shape of the front seats ensure plenty of rear knee clearance. Together, these deliver a truly roomy interior with ample space for five adults to travel in comfort. Add to this a host of intelligent storage compartments, a large and flexible luggage compartment, all carried out with high levels of craftsmanship, and you have a car that is not only fun to drive, but also fun to be in and use.
The Mazda3 exterior is another example of Mazda's fresh approach to designing and building cars with the very best in Japanese manufacturing quality. The solid build quality of its exterior is instantly apparent by excellent fit and finish that features consistently small gaps between abutting body panels and components. Combined with its dynamic exterior form, this enhances the sense of satisfaction and pride of ownership every time you take the car out onto the road. The look, touch and operating feel of Mazda3's large interior were designed to delight and satisfy, and carried out with high levels of craftsmanship to deliver a vehicle that rivals Europe's top C-Segment models when it comes to quality.
Mazda3's petrol engine line up was developed to deliver that spirited driving experience that epitomizes Zoom-Zoom, and to meet the diverse demands of the European market. A product of Mazda's innovative approach to engineering, they deliver linear, lively power combined with low fuel consumption and emissions. The new Mazda3 also features a redesigned five-speed manual transmission and a smooth and sporty-shifting electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission.
Mounted to a highly rigid body structure with superior torsional and flexural stiffness, Mazda3's chassis systems are carefully tuned to provide a superb balance between handling stability and ride comfort, with steering that is precise and predictable in all situations. It exhibits the same Zoom-Zoom handling and control that characterize all new generation Mazda vehicles by delivering a flat ride, reassuring steering feel and superior braking performance. A MacPherson strut-type front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension based on the Mazda6 are designed and tuned to ensure an excellent balance between handling stability and ride comfort. Mazda3's robust braking system delivers responsive, linear braking and one of the segment's shortest braking distances. The steering system delivers optimal road feedback and precise steering control that have helped make all new generation Mazda vehicles some of the best handling vehicles in their respective classes.
Mazda3 continues Mazda's efforts to deliver a safety package for all its new generation vehicles that exceed expectations. Superb dynamic characteristics, steering and braking ensure safe and predictable driving under normal conditions. Robust front and rear discs yield superior braking effectiveness, consistency, rigidity and response. A 10-inch (255 mm) single vacuum booster enhances brake effectiveness and response by ensuring linear increase in deceleration as pedal travel increases. Mazda3's new five-door body structure is a product of Mazda's Advanced Impact Distribution and Absorption System (MAIDAS) and features Mazda's unique Triple-H design, which delivers a safe and strong passenger cell that resists impact deformation and disperses impact energy in all possible crash scenarios. Inside Mazda3's rigid passenger cell are dual-stage front airbags, seatbelts with pretensioners and load-limiters, standard front side airbags and optional curtain airbags.
Standard "s" trim features include halogen headlights, clear-lens taillights, keyless entry and body-colored grille, with sporty bumpers and side sill extensions. Hatchbacks come with standard 17-inch alloy wheels, while sedans come with standard 16-inch alloys with 17-inch wheels available as an option. Leather upholstery, moonroof, ABS with Electronic Brake-Force Distribution, 6-CD changer and xenon headlights are optional.
The more powerful 2.3-liter engine scratches to the redline more eagerly while retaining a smooth and quiet delivery that doesn't discourage winding out each gear. There's more pop than the base engine, but only those with a dedicated yearning for performance are likely to find it necessary to have the larger engine. The five-speed transmission is the same unit used in the midsize Mazda 6 although a few modifications give it a more substantial, refined feel. The four-speed automatic features manual-shift capability and electronic slope control for less juggling of the gears when negotiating hills.
With the Protegé's well-established track record for superior ride and handling, the 3 has big shoes to fill, but with the help of a few hand-me-down parts from Mazda's midsize sedan, it's well up to the task. Liquid-filled suspension bushings, an electrohydraulic steering system and an all-new multilink rear suspension design are just a few of the 3's upgrades that deliver refined road manners that will surprise those expecting the typically flabby ride and handling of most economy cars. Tightly controlled but rarely harsh, the 3's suspension leans toward the sporty end of the spectrum without beating up your insides along the way. Feedback through the wheel is still better than average, and the brakes are firm and powerful. The only downside is that road noise is up, too, so there's still some room for improvement.
Much the same could be said about the 3's interior, as it's better in nearly every way yet still not without its flaws. Unlike most cars in this class that offer nothing more than purely functional setups, the 3's cabin has a more cohesive layout that manages to inject a little style into the equation. From the individually recessed gauges to the symmetry of the center stack controls, the attention to detail is evident. Satellite steering wheel controls are a nice touch for a car in this price range, but we could do without the cheesy LEDs that light up in correspondence with volume or station changes. And as good as they look, the controls don't have the high-quality feel that you get with the Honda Civic. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is always a nice feature to find, but we can't say the same about the rotary seat recline mechanism. Trunk space is up on sedan models, but the hatchback is still short on cargo space until you fold the rear seats.
Interior nitpicks aside, the Mazda 3 addresses many of the shortcomings that kept the previous model stuck behind the competition. There's no longer a lack of power or refinement in the engine department, as the available four-cylinder provides ample thrust and low noise levels. The suspension setup is better than ever, and the interior still has a unique, upscale look that no other economy sedan can touch. Combine all these improvements with the stylish exterior and the new Mazda 3 looks as though it could finally shrug off its second-tier billing and start giving the Civic a run for its money.
The Mazda3 is the first progeny of an all-new global architecture that will also serve as the base for the next generation European Ford Focus and the Volvo V40. Mazda sent more than 100 engineers to Cologne to participate in the development of the new car. The benefit of this platform sharing is that each of the players brings something to the party: Ford of Europe - expertise in driving dynamics, Volvo - safety technology and Mazda’s - quality and reliability.
One of the longest, widest and tallest vehicles in the class, the Mazda3 offers terrific space and comfort. There is enough room in the back seat to accommodate a six-footer behind another of similar size. The driver’s seat adjusts for height and the steering wheel for both reach and rake, making it easy to get comfortable and a safe distance from the steering wheel, even for the height-challenged! The H or hip-point is 30 mm higher than the Protegé for easier entry/exit, better visibility from the driver’ seat and a more comfortable seating position.
Mazda quality and craftsmanship are evident throughout. Fit, finish and extremely narrow panel gaps are worthy of cars costing many times more. The tall greenhouse and narrow tumblehome angle (more upright side glass) result in a delightfully light and airy cabin and added elbow room.
2001-2003 Mazda Protege5
1,998 cc / 130 hp / 127 lb-ft / 2716-2749 lbs / 0-60 mph 9.2 sec.
1999-2003 Mazda Protege ES
1,998 cc / 130 hp / 127 lb-ft / 2634-2687 lbs / 0-60 mph 9.0 sec.