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Cute Mazda3
Makes Rivals Look Dull

Another Winner From Mazda
Why choose to exclude airbag and lose Euro ENCAP 5 star?
Please give the hook to Zoom Zoom

CHANTILLY, Paris. The pretty little Mazda3 small family car looks set to make life difficult for the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and the Opel Astra.

Unlike the dull looking new VW Golf, which looks almost identical to the car it replaces, and the Opel Astra, better looking than the car it supersedes but a bit too much like the Golf, the Mazda3 has some pizzazz to its looks.

All three cars were unveiled at the recent Frankfurt Car Show.

The Mazda3 looks very much like the Mazda6 from the front (with just a hint of Chrysler PT Cruiser) – no bad thing because the Ford Mondeo and Renault Laguna beating Mazda6 has been shattering sales expectations and wowing drivers with its finely sculptured looks and driveability.

The Mazda3’s hatchback rear has overtones of the Alfa Romeo 147, but that’s where any links with Italian products ends for Mazda, which has been forging a reputation for elegance and innovation with its rotary powered RX-8 coupe, while underlining its lead, with its fellow Japanese, as a maker of cars which simply will not let you down.

Nothing Very New
There’s nothing very knew about the technology in the Mazda3, which replaces the 323, but Mazda reckons that it includes most available technology to aid safety, like 4-wheel ABS with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and optional dynamic stability control. The car’s body is said to be exceptionally rigid and strong.

Curiously, with all its talk of dedication to safety – collapsible steering column, collapsible brake pedal, energy absorbing pillars etc - “Mazda3’s passive safety package (is) one of the best in this segment”.

Fails 5 Star Safety Rating
Note the weasel words “one of” and not “the” best. The reason for this is that the Mazda3 doesn’t have curtain air bags as standard – the ones that drop down from the tops of the side windows – and Mazda concedes that this means that only a 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating is possible. Rivals like Renault, with its 5-star Megane, will no doubt be making some hay here. For the price of a curtain-airbag, Mazda is allowing itself to be outbid on the safety front. Very weird.

Matches Germans
Inside the Mazda3 is every bit as good as the best German competition. The dash is elegant and understated. The three binnacles containing speedo, rev counter, and fuel and temperature gauges have red numbers on a black background and look terrific. Very clear and easy to read. There is plenty of leg and headroom in the back. The five-speed manual box is precise and slick. The seats and trim reek of class.

The Mazda3 will initially be launched as a five-door hatchback, with a saloon to follow, which looks even better than the hatches. Two petrol engines will be available initially – a 1.6 litre 104 bhp, and a 2.0 litre 148 bhp. A 1.4 litre petrol will be available from launch, which starts in Europe this autumn, and a 1.6 litre common-rail diesel in May 2004.

Go For The 2.0 Litre
I drove the 1.6 and 2.0 litre cars at the launch, and felt that anyone wanting a lively drive should go for the 2.0 litre. Strangely, the 1.6 has hydraulic power assisted steering while the 2.0 litre has electro-hydraulic power assist. I confess to not being able to tell the difference on the road.

The new Mazda3, which is made in Japan, is also something of a trailblazer. Ford of the U.S. owns more than 33 per cent of Mazda, and the car’s platform – the body shell and suspension and basic components – has been designed to also provide the underpinnings of the next generation Ford Focus and Volvo S40.

Ford also owns all of Volvo cars.

40% Shared with Focus
About 40 per cent of the new Focus will be shared with the Mazda3, except of course the body, which we can expect to look radically different.

Mazda goes from strength to strength. The Mazda6, which also provides the multilink rear suspension for the Mazda3, has performed beyond expectations in the sales charts. The little Mazda2, developed alongside the Ford Fiesta supermini, has been well received by critics. The Mazda RX-8 has won almost hysterical rave reviews.

Please Dump Zoom Zoom
If only Mazda, with all this success, could be prevailed upon to dump their fatuous and irritating TV advertisement jingle, which repeats the words “Zoom zoom” ad nauseam. Let’s face it, Mazda’s success has been in spite of these awful and annoying ads.

Neil Winton, September 25, 2003

2.0 litre, 4 cylinder
148 bhp
5-speed manual
0 to 62 mph 9.0 seconds
Top Speed:
124 mph
Fuel Consumption:
Combined 34.4 mpg (claimed)
196 g/km
4,420 mm
1,755 mm
1,465 mm
Suspension front:
Independent strut type
Suspension rear:
Independent, Multi-link
Insurance Group:
to be announced
to be announced
Peugeot 307, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Almera, Honda Civic, Fiat Stilo, Daewoo Nubira, Skoda Octavia, Seat Leon, Audi A3, Hyundai Accent, Mercedes A clas
Would I buy one?
**** out of 5
Great looks, quality finish inside and out
Why no 5-star safety rating?