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2005 Mazda3

Blueberries In My Lunchbox

    Like kids on recess we scramble out to the garage to collect our toys. My latest being a little blueberry-hued Mazda. Sliding the shift lever into D, I scoot off for the weekend. Did I win or did I lose; considering the prized H1 Alpha was now in the hands of Exec Dye who was already rolling over all manner of boulders and compacts in his path. It’s the sandbox for me, my little ride possessing neither the clearance nor the desire to hop more than the Meijer parking lot curb.
     We loved our first Mazda3, another cute little blueberry in the form of a 5-door hatchback. And I don’t think we loved this one any less, but to be completely honest with you, it didn’t really stand out like it did on our first go round. Our respect for the little guy continues, but it didn’t grow in the leaps and bounds that our first sampling gave us. I’ll break down the details for ya, and then see if you agree.
     The car you see pictured to the right is what Exec Dye so loving described as the traditional sedan in his review of the 5-door hatch model we drove in Spring of 2004. Personally, I think this thing is anything but a traditional sedan. Traditional sedans do not come in Winning Blue paint. Well, maybe one could, but either way, when looking at the 3, traditional does not come to mind. Unique perhaps, in that while being a 4-door it retains the same tall roofline as that of the hatch, minus the rearmost quarter. Which throws things slightly out of proportion, or seems too. The crisp cut lines and jeweled lamps remain consistent with that of the 5-door. The only other visual change between our two 3’s being that this one featured 16” rolling stock rather than the 17” alternatives that possess more style and grip.
     The high roofline is, however, most welcome by those inside—especially rear seat occupants. The interior is still one of the best in terms of quality among compact cars. Though monotone all-black interiors are starting to loose their appeal. Functionally, the 3 is tops on our chart, but our eyes are fixed on the Chevy Cobalt, where its blend of colors, textures, and brightwork is just a bit more visually pleasing and fresh. The seats are by far a huge win for the 3, being supportive and quite grippy above and beyond what is expected for this class.
     Driving the 3 is as it was a year and a half ago—a complete joy. Ok, so in all fairness it wasn’t quite as fun as the first time because in that case, our 5-door hatch definitely had the 5-speed manual transmission. This 3 came with the still functional, but less thrilling, 4-speed automatic. The sole engine is still the willing 160hp 2.3-liter inline-four cylinder. The gearing was well matched and the sport shift feature actually held gears up to the redline. This fact alone called for a slight grin to appear at the corners of my mouth. Manual shifting automatics have never been my thing, because the computer always has the better idea, or so it thinks. So to whoever programmed this tranny and the one in the Mazda6, kudos to you. Now if we could just get the engineers to throw in another gear we would be all set. One could even hope that a 6-speed is in the works. Personally, I say stick with the 5-speed manual, save your self $900, and have loads more fun.
     Plain and simple, Mazda builds great cars. Though others are trying to catch up. The Chevy Cobalt being on the forefront of that movement. Four complaints stand out: the sunvisors were a garage sale special, the 4-door looks awkward, the automatic needs another gear, and the A/C was a bit weak. The first one is just our being nitpicky, the next two are easily remedied by option selection and the last appears to be a trait among all Mazdas. Solution: buy the 5-door with the manual, wear sunglasses and leave the windows and moonroof open. Hey, that sounds just like the first Mazda3 we fell in love with a year and a half ago. Either way you look at it, throwing down $19,750 for a vehicle as good as this is quite a bargain. There are blueberries and there are blueberries, this one is ripe for the picking.

The Good:
Drives like a more expensive car, upbeat color, fantastic fit and finish.
The Bad:
4-door a bit awkward to look at, needs another gear in tranny, sunvisors need help.
The Verdict:
In our second go round with the 3 we say this; in a world of fruit, this one is sweet!
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