KBB Logo Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.

You'll Like The 2008 Mazda Mazda3 If...

If you’re shopping for an economical small car that can be nicely equipped for around $18,000, check out the 2008 Mazda MAZDA3. Sharp styling and road-hugging handling are standard, as is a long list of uncommon options such as DVD navigation and Bose audio.

You May Not Like The 2008 Mazda Mazda3 If...

If you’re searching for maximum passenger space, the MAZDA3’s rear-seat legroom won’t impress. Though no wimp, the 2.3-liter engine can’t compete with the high-powered turbocharged engines from Subaru, Volkswagen and MINI.

What's New

Mazda makes front side-impact and side-curtain airbags standard on s Sport models.

Interior Features

You can shop this segment until the cows come home and not find as handsome an interior as in the 2008 Mazda MAZDA3. A racy three-pod instrument cluster, red dash lighting and long list of standard and optional features make the MAZDA3 feel like a high-priced sports sedan. Front-seat occupants will find head- and legroom generous, although the passenger’s seat does not offer adjustment for either lumbar support or height. The five-door model allows you to lug around bulky items that would not easily fit in the sedan’s trunk. Two features missing from an otherwise well-planned interior are a rear hatch release switch and a retained power feature, the latter necessary to operate the power windows after the key is removed from the ignition.

Exterior Features

The MAZDA3’s scorching exterior could easily have been penned by BMW or Alfa Romeo. The strong lines denote its performance abilities and look particularly attractive on the sporty five-door hatchback. A new front end features a revised grille and headlamp treatment with a large rectangular air intake and, on s trims, integrated rectangular fog lights. Sadly, heated exterior mirrors are still not available. The s models feature a multi-spoke wheel design that mimics the wheels of the CX-7 crossover SUV.

Driving Impressions

We found the MAZDA3’s handling to be simply superb, with incredibly tight steering that responds instantaneously to input. As we joyfully wound our way over a serpentine road, we were instantly reminded of other great compacts that evoked the same emotional response. Even though the MAZDA3 is a front-wheel-drive car, it exhibits very little torque steer. The secret ingredient for a faster, more thrilling MAZDA3 is the 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine of the s trim level. Though it has only 12 more horsepower than the 2.0-liter, the 2.3’s low-end torque helps the MAZDA3 accelerate effortlessly. The optional automatic transmission features a quick shift from first to second gear for a faster response, making even steep hills no threat to rapid acceleration.

Pricing Notes

The base MAZDA3 i sedan has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $14,500, while the MAZDA3 s starts just over $18,000. The five-door s Touring has an MSRP close to $19,000, and a fully loaded s Grand Touring with an automatic transmission tops out around $25,000. Demand for the MAZDA3 remains high, so you’ll need to be on your toes when negotiating the best price. A look at the Fair Purchase Price page shows the typical transaction price for the MAZDA3, so be sure to check it out before you begin. We can’t help but reiterate what a great bargain the MAZDA3 represents, a fact reinforced when looking at the car’s excellent resale value.

Notable Equipment

The entry-level MAZDA3 i features a 2.0-liter engine, five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, dual remote-control mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, cloth bucket seats, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, tachometer, intermittent wipers and 15-inch wheels. The s four-door sedan and five-door hatchback include a 2.3-liter engine, air conditioning, illuminated remote keyless entry, fog lights, dual power mirrors, power locks, power windows, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels. All versions with the 2.3-liter engine have Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control as standard equipment.

Notable Options

Options include a power moonroof, Bose audio, six-disc MP3/CD changer, 17-inch alloy wheels (Grand Touring), heated leather seats, five-speed automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes (ABS), remote engine start (automatic models only), front-side and front/rear side-curtain airbags (standard on s Sport), auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and a DVD-based navigation system.

Favorite Features

DVD-Based Navigation UnitThe MAZDA3’s optional DVD-based navigation unit is an unheard-of feature in a car in this price range.HatchbackWho says Americans don’t like hatchbacks? The new hot hatches are gaining converts for their looks and versatility.

Under the Hood

The base 2.0-liter engine works just fine in this car when competing with similarly-sized engines from Ford, Toyota, Honda and Kia. Performance driving is more enjoyable with the larger 2.3-liter engine, which offers more low-end torque but also consumes more fuel. A new five-speed automatic with manual shift control is available only with the 2.3-liter engine.2.0-liter in-line 4148 horsepower @ 6500 rpm135 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/32 (manual), 23/31 (automatic)2.3-liter in-line 4156 horsepower @ 6500 rpm150 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 (manual), 22/29 (automatic)

Editors' Notes

It’s now four years into the compact MAZDA3’s model run, and demand remains high. The 2008 Mazda MAZDA3 continues to attract buyers, due to its attractive styling, impressive array of standard and optional features, good fuel economy and sporty handling. Few economy cars have enough style to sit beside an Audi A3 and look right at home, yet the MAZDA3 can do just that, and its starting price at slightly over $14,000 places it within the reach of most compact car buyers. The MAZDA3 is available in two body styles, with the four-door sedan offering two four-cylinder engine choices: A 2.0-liter or 2.3-liter. The five-door hatchback is available only with the larger engine. Both models are notably popular with drivers young and old, poking a big hole in the commonly-held belief that Americans won’t buy hatchbacks.

Road Test Video Reviews

2008 Mazda Mazda3 Owner Reviews

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2008 Mazda Mazda3 s Grand Touring

I bought this car with very short notice. I was leary due to not investigating important things about the car. However, we needed a car that very day. I have been nothing but happy with my Mazda. We've had it for about or so now and have had 0 problems with the car. Not only is it a cute little car, sort of sporty looking, it is dependable. The only maintenance the car has needed is its regular oil change and regular tune up. Which everything was fantastic. I also have a little one and needed to ensure the vehicle was safe for her as well. It has child lock doors and windows. It has the seat belt clip for the car seat by the rear headrests. I can rest at ease knowing my daughter is safe. We have had smooth driving on the freeway and for those that like to catch up quickly, this is the car for you. For those that like a slower speed, this is also the car for you. Either fast or slow it is a high performance vehicle. It meets the needs of families, couples or single people. It has a/c in back and front for comfort on hot days. It also has heaters on front and back for chilly days and nights. The seats are built for comfort. Whether you're going on a long road trip or a short jaunt to the local grocery store you will be happy to jump into your Mazda. The Mazda features comforts like cruise control, computerized technology to let you know if your low on oil, getting a flat tire and everything else you would need to know to keep your car driving safe and clean. It also features Bluetooth,Mp3 and all the other commodities to make your drive (or ride) the most comfortable, safe and reliable as it can be. I love my Mazda 3!!

- Carrie H

I love my Mazda 3- it's fun to drive and reliable too.

2008 Mazda Mazda3 s Touring

The 2008 Mazda 3 has been a very reliable vehicle. Mine has the standard 5 speed transmission. This little car has some get up and go when needed, but rides smoothly and is good on gas. Overall maintenance has been routine. Mechanical problems have been limited and well beyond expected timeframe and mileage to occur. This is a well-built, fun car. Being an older car, there are still some things I am able to fix myself which is a real money saver. For things that require a mechanic, costs are average, I think because the parts are not specialty and are fairly common... This helps a lot in terms of saving money and convenience of places having needed parts readily available.

- Stacey S

Copper red mica 2008 Mazda 3 s 2. 3 l 5 speed manual.

2008 Mazda Mazda3

My Mazda 3 is a 2. 3l 5 speed manual car with about 150, 000 miles on it. I replaced the clutch last year and it is going strong. It runs and drives everyday and has never let me down. Basic equipment includes power windows and locks, a sunroof and 17" alloy wheels. Overall the performance of the car is excellent especially for what is considered an economy car. It handles very well and has enough power to really get up and go. I have enjoy this car thoroughly for the last couple years I have owned it and would definitely recommend it to somebody looking for an inexpensive, reliable car that is fun to drive.

- Andrew F

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