Entertaining yet sophisticated in demeanor, the 2008 Mazda 3 doesn't look, feel or drive like an economy car. If you're shopping for a small, inexpensive sedan or hatchback, this car should be at the top of your list.
Now in its fifth year in production, the Mazda 3 continues to show that you don't have to pay a lot to own a
There are two engines available with the 3, a 140-horsepower four-cylinder in i trim levels and a more powerful 156-hp version in s trim levels. The hatchback, or five-door, is available only with the larger power plant. Both of these engines are smooth and punchy and provide the 3 with plenty of giddy-up -- particularly with the larger 2.3-liter. Neither returns particularly good fuel economy, though, with the Honda Civic besting the Mazda in this regard by about 10 mpg both in the city and on the highway. Mileage is, however, on par with other sporty compact cars like the Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Lancer.
The 2008 Mazda 3 is also distinguished by taut, chiseled styling and a handsome interior that hint at the car's athletic personality. A sign of a great design is typically one that doesn't require a sizable midlife refresh, and true enough, only minuscule changes have been made to the 3 over the years. This year, the only updates are the addition of front-seat side and full-length curtain airbags to all s trim levels. This lack of some standard safety features had been a problem in the past, and with items like antilock brakes remaining an option on the i trim level, it still is.
Otherwise, the 2008 Mazda 3 comes very well-equipped, particularly on the s models, as the s Touring and s Grand Touring trim levels come standard or can be equipped with features like 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, heated leather seats, automatic climate control, moonroof, satellite radio, Bose stereo with in-dash CD changer and a navigation system. Any one of these features would be considered noteworthy in this class of sedan, let alone all of them together.
Plenty of compact sedans and hatchbacks have been introduced since the 3 dawned in 2004, but the little Mazda continues to be a top choice in this segment. In fact, it had been an Edmunds.com Editor's Most Wanted for three straight years until 2007 -- and even then, it still received honorable mention status. The car that supplanted it, the Honda Civic, is its main competition, offering sporty handling, avant-garde styling