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

You'll Like The 2011 Mazda Mazda3 If...

To receive a full dose of "zoom-zoom" one would assume you go to the RX-8 or an aftermarket-infused Miata. In doing so you'd be missing a huge opportunity in the 5-door segment. The Mazdaspeed3 takes all of the goodness of its donor 5-door and adds a healthy dose of excitement, along with bike racks, grocery bags and baby seats. If you believe in raising children in the fast lane (rather than a school zone), this is what you'll buy.

You May Not Like The 2011 Mazda Mazda3 If...

Given its bump to 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, the Mazdaspeed3 is not for the faint of heart. Its proclivity for throttle-induced torque steer can be fatiguing, while its buttoned down suspension borders on punishing. If in doubt, take a good look at the more prosaic - albeit still capable and compelling - Mazda3 5-door with 2.5 liter four and 6-speed manual trans.

What's New

Having gained new (and controversial) sheetmetal in 2010, the Mazdaspeed3 receives only a few minor mods, notably in its all-encompassing Technology package.

Interior Features

Happily, the Mazdaspeed3's extreme performance envelope is mated to an extremely functional package. You simply can't beat a 5-door for practicality, and when that configuration is set atop a well-configured mechanical layout the livability is expanded exponentially – especially when compared to a more conventional 4-door sedan. The already-upscale interior appointments of the standard Mazda3 are enhanced with more sport-oriented front buckets, providing better lateral support while not compromising daily ingress; Mazdaspeed3-specific leather/cloth upholstery; and those functional adds (LED turbo boost gauge, aluminum foot pedals) appropriate to a driver's environment. One note, however, regarding access: the MAZDA3 profile is low, and if you're tall (or elderly) the in-and-out motions may be more awkward than that provided by a taller greenhouse. Try before you buy...

Exterior Features

The Mazdaspeed3's basic proportions date to its 2004 introduction. For the 2010 model year, however, the clean, Euro-centric sheetmetal of the original was out, and an origami-inspired renovation (Mazda calls it "Nagare") was in. The reviews have been mixed, especially when one considers the gaping hole that Mazda describes as a "lower air intake." That said, we might simply write off the changes in its skin as generational, and take comfort knowing that the new skin is more palatable in darker metallics. The Mazdaspeed3 is perfectly planted, however, on its 18-inch alloys and 40-series rubber. In back, an aggressive dual exhaust adds aural sizzle, while a larger rear wing provides the shizzle.

Driving Impressions

The Mazdaspeed3 driving dynamic is dominated by one thing and one thing only: 263 turbocharged horsepower connected - via Mazda's superb 6-speed manual - to the front wheels. A limited-slip diff, in combination with Mazda's electronic torque management, may work to ameliorate the tug on your arms and twitch in your sphincter, but 263 horsepower divided by two wheels is what it is - a roller coaster ride for which you will have paid 36, 48 or 60 monthly installments. However, you can forget the peaky performance of turbo installations you may have read about (or experienced) in the bad old days; this is performance injected in a wholly linear fashion. The boost remains a beast, and can best be modulated only by what civilized societies term adulthood. In sum, we like everything about it.

Pricing Notes

In its time on the market there's been little change in the Mazdaspeed3 pricing structure, remaining firmly in the just-under-$25,000 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) spot. As noted, a short option list means you can't distort that MSRP significantly. In its resale it performs superbly, with a projected return firmly in the same ballpark as Volkswagen's GTI and Mini's Cooper S Clubman. Always check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price for an accurate idea of what consumers are paying in your market area.

Notable Equipment

Beyond its 263 horsepower, the entire Mazdaspeed3 package is essentially standard, with the option sheet limited to roughly four entries and a total of $3,000. The boosted power, handling and braking mods appropriate to that power – a limited slip differential, sport seats and six-speaker AM/FM/CD – are all listed under standard equipment. And active safety (the ability to avoid an accident) is enhanced with ABS, Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control, and Electronic Brake Force Distribution. For a window sticker of under $25K, Mazda's approach to marketing is commendable.

Notable Options

The one big-ticket item on the Mazdaspeed3 option sheet is their Technology Package, a $2,515 add that includes a 265-watt Bose Centerpoint 10-speaker audio system, navigation, Sirius Satellite Radio, advanced keyless entry, push button start, perimeter alarm, rain-sensing windshield wipers, auto on/off headlights, bi-xenon headlights, etc. The balance of available options is best described as accessories, and includes a cargo net, floor mats, and Sirius Satellite radio with 6-month subscription. Of course, members of SEMA - the Specialty Equipment Market Association - offer a zillion performance or cosmetic mods, and all are just one click away on the Internet.

Favorite Features

5-Door Functionality

Mazda's boost gauge puts the fun in functionality, but for day-in, day-out usefulness, it's tough to beat the Mazdaspeed3's two-box architecture and folding rear seat. From firewood to a futon, the 5-door swallows just about anything your quarterly visit to Ikea can dish out.

6-Speed Manual Trans

Connecting a manual transmission to a front-wheel drive transaxle isn't rocket science, but given the small number of manufacturers capable of doing it well...well, maybe it is rocket science. The Mazda manual is a prototype for any and all carmakers continuing to "stick" with the row-it-yourself option.

Under the Hood

From the company that brought rotary power to the masses, the Mazdaspeed3 brings massive power to your neighborhood. What Mazda identifies as its MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo develops both power and torque in numbers fully appropriate to a small-displacement V6, and does it with an in-line four. And it's far more than just attaching a turbo to an existing four; pistons are coated with a special anti-friction compound, connecting rods are sintered for additional strength, and lighter full-floating wrist pins minimize reciprocating weight. The end result is an incredible lightness of being - at virtually any rpm. And with this "lightning in a booster" you can still achieve 25 miles per gallon on the highway.

2.3-liter in-line 4 turbocharged

263 horsepower @ 5500 rpm

280 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25

Editors' Notes

With its introduction of the Mazda3 5-door in 2004, Mazda finally had the homerun in the compact segment it had been working toward. Eschewing the path taken by Civic and Corolla - whose mainstream models are relatively upright, 4-door sedans, Mazda covered both sides of the market spectrum with an admittedly more conventional 4-door, in combination with the less established direction of a 5-door. The 5-door gamble has paid off in spades, and constituted the perfect platform for Mazda's intro of the Mazdaspeed3 a few model years later. With boosted power - some 100 horses healthier than the box stock version - and an appropriately tuned chassis, the Mazdaspeed3 is viable competition for VW's iconic GTI, Mini's Cooper S Clubman and Subaru's WRX. And in several aspects of the "what to buy" argument, it trumps all three.

Road Test Video Reviews

2011 Mazda Mazda3 Owner Reviews

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My experience with my 2011 Mazda 3.

2011 Mazda Mazda3

I love my car so much! It has been the perfect basic car to have at the beginning of my driving experience. I learned how to drive stick in it and have been driving it for 3 years now! It was really easy to learn on with the clutch not being super challenging. Now I can drive any stick car, so it all works out will. It has only had a few minor issues, like the starter issue. We got the starter replaced and then it did not have any issues after with it. When it is cold sometimes it will sputter, but when its nice out or a little chilly there have been no issues. It also drives well going long distances. I have driven it all of the way up to Washington for school from the California bay area. It was a very comfortable drive and all of my school stuff was able to fit well. It lasted about 13 hours total. We have used to for some short road trips and it has been great. The turning radius has been good also and I have been able to park real well. I would only wish that it would have a little bit more power. I want to have the power to floor it and actually speed up a good amount, but so far it does not go too fast. I plan on buying more with the company for future cars and hope that they continue to have great craftsmanship and keep making better looking cars. When I see the new models I want to buy a new one already!

- Corinna W

Great car for multitasking moms.

2011 Mazda Mazda3

I do not think any of the issues I have had are because of the car itself, or poor ownership before I had ownership of it. The window sticks to the lining every time it rains, and the padding on the dash is coming separate from the dash display in different parts. I think it is a super comfortable sedan. Roomy, but still compact. I can really pack a lot into it, more than you'd think. It has a great sound system (mine is Bose), seat warmers, and a sun roof! The leather seats are super durable and I haven't had any rips or tears. It could look brand new if I vacuumed it and wiped it down. But I am lazy. But seriously, after driving a two year old around in it every day, when I remove his car seat and wipe down the leather, it still looks great! There is a surprising amount of storage as well. The middle console still holds all my CD's. Yes I said it CD's, for which my stereo system holds 5! I really enjoy my Mazda3 and are not looking to purchase anything new until this one dies!

- Melissa B

Detailed review of the performance and features of the Mazda 3.

2011 Mazda Mazda3 i SV

The car is very comfortable and roomy, especially the backseat. I have plenty of space to have my son's car seat and also have two other people fit into the backseat as well, without having other people be uncomfortable or squished. One of the features that I really enjoy is that it automatically connects to my phone's Bluetooth as long as the Bluetooth is on. I didn't have that with my previous car and I had to manually connect it each time which was a huge pain. As far as performance goes, the car rides pretty smoothly. It is also very reliable. I haven't had any major issues since I bought it, and I bought it as a used car. Overall, I love and I am seriously considering staying within the Mazda family when I purchase my new car in the years to come.

- Brooke D

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