My relationship with this car didn't start well. This is because I was test driving all possible future cars with my wife and I first sat in the passenger seat. I didn't like what I was seeing or feeling and I was stranged that my wife loved driving it from the first meters. When we changed seats then I understood why... because it is a real pleasure to drive.
Our car has the 1.6L petrol engine and produces 105HP. The engine revs very easily and feels light. The whole car feels light and the steering wheel is fast and accurate. I have never driven a BMW or Porsche, famous for their driving dynamics, but our Mazda 3 feels extraordinary. I am not a driving God and I haven't pushed it to the limits, but even with more speed than usual and on icy roads, it doesn't surprise you. It just slowly gives you messages and it slides progressively. Sometimes understeers and if the front wheels find grip, it oversteers. All nice and calm.
We got this size of car and not a smaller city car in case we get a kid. The irony is that a couple of months ago we got twins... We thought we would have to change our beautiful and sporty 3 with the 6 Sport Wagon (yes, again Mazda). But after all we managed to fit in the trunk a twin baby stroller (Teutonia S4) and in the rear seat, two isofix baby seats. So, it will be with us some more!
On September 2005 that we bought our 3, Mazda Finland was celebrating its 40 years of presence in Finland and it was offering the 1.6 Elegance with the Touring Pack 1 for free. This one included 16" aluminium wheels with 205/55R16 Bridgestone Turanza tyres, fog lights, automatic climatism, metallic color and trip computer (gift value was 1650€). What we were getting as standard was front, side and curtain airbags, ABS with EBD, front&rear power windows, electric&heated mirrors (a must in this country), heated front seats, CD/radio, leather steering wheel and gear shift, remote locking etc. In this country you rarely get any gifts from the car dealerships and only the new Scoda Octavia and Nissan Primera (on offer) could match a bit Mazda 3's accessory list.
Our car seems to be very reliable. Almost 50.000km and nothing mechanical or electrical has gone wrong. A few times I have started it cold in -27C and started immediately! It warms up quickly and the auto clima doesn't need constant adjustment (too hot or too cold). Even the gearbox warms up fast during winter time and in motorway driving in -31C it kept the engine and us nice and warm. Others have complained about strange sounds and squeaks, but only during winter time (that plastics shrink) you might hear something while driving on bad surfaces. It seems that a big rubbery plastic piece that covers the steering column from above rattles sometimes (located between the steering wheel and the organs).
What I don't like is the dark interior. Everything is black in there. The seats, the doors, the dashboard, the carpets. All dark and gloomy. The dashboard has the piano black inserts and they look good, but they get dust and tiny scratches easily. The dashboard is nice, but I cannot understand why they have used so many different types of plastic instead of one. Even on the radio unit, you have different pieces. On the top of the dashboard there are about 4 or 5, all with different texture. Why? Who thought it would look good?
The second matter is that it is very loud in there. The tyre roar is loud and in motorway driving the music is more noise than pleasure. We had noticed it while test driving it, but we didn't think that it would be bothering us that much during long driving. I think the face lifted model has more sound isolation and I hope it makes life more comfortable.
It seems that during designing, two things weren't thought properly. In the sedan, there isn't a handle to lift the trunk and in our hatchback there is a nice hole that collects dirt, water, snow and ice.
As I already mentioned, the engine is a gem and the gearbox is very slick and accurate. The first gear isn't all that nice because it feels too long and you need a lot or RPM if you need to accelerate fast. For example, if you are facing uphill and need to wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic to turn, the first gear might let you down. Second and third feel perfect for me, while fourth and fifth are perfect for cruising.
The view from inside is good and not claustrophobic. The rear window is large enough to see from and with correct side mirror adjustment, there aren't any rear blind spots. The A-pillars are thick like in all new cars and sometimes you cannot see oncoming traffic while turning.
What I like is that the rear door windows open all the way down and not until the middle like in most cars. I love it as a kid and I still love it.
Already visited the dealership twice for the 20.000 and 40.000km service intervals and the costs were about 120€. Not expensive for an authorised dealership servicing a new car in Finland (high wages-high costs).
Two years have passed and the Winning Blue metallic paint still looks like new. I have never washed the car in a car wash with brushes, but with pressurized water. It has some stone chips on the front, but they never manage to chip all the layers of the paint. Usually, until the base coat. I use an original touch-up paint kit that includes paint and lacquer.
I guess that the conclusion is that two years after and we still love this car like the first day we got it. I don't look at other cars and thinking that I should have bought something else. It has some things that bother me, but they are only the 10% of the whole car-human relationship.
It is exciting, beautiful and reliable... it makes me wonder why people still buy those dull Corollas...