2006 Mazda 3 S Touring 2.3 from North America

Summary:

Good value, but rough around the edges

Faults:

Nothing Major, but many small, annoying things that are hard to pinpoint. All of them just add up to mar the overall appeal of the car. I should mention that all these have been present since new, and aren't a result of abuse or wear.

- Vibrations at ~50mph+ despite having had the wheels balanced.

- Dash creaks when I go around a sharp corner

- Drivers door mirror 'jiggles' so image isn't clear

- clunking sound from the rear under hard braking from low speed

- clunking sound from the front sometimes when shifting.

General Comments:

This car does have very sharp handling, the steering response is incredibly precise, the suspension isn't bad though a little soft, and the brakes are very good.

The engine isn't particularly impressive, and the odd gear ratios cause the car to never feel like it's happy to be driven with enthusiasm. Second gear, for example, is tall and the car feels disappointingly gutless until around 3500rpm, but shortly after that, you feel like you should shift because the engine doesn't sound or feel smooth at higher revs.

I certainly had expected this car to feel quicker considering it's a small sedan with a 2.3 liter engine. I can honestly say it feels very similar in terms of power to some 1.6 liter cars I've driven, with ~30-40 less horsepower. That brings me to another point, 160 horsepower from a 2.3 liter engine isn't particularly impressive, compared to what other Japanese automakers are achieving. The MPG is quite poor too, I've averaged 22mpg combined since getting the car. If it had better performance, this wouldn't be an issue, but since it feels slow and uses a lot of gas (comparatively), it's again disappointing.

The car's exterior looks pretty sharp, the 2006 model's factory alloy wheels are among the nicest looking factory alloys I've seen on any car, and the factory side sills complete the look nicely.

One low point about the exterior is the paint, it's very prone to scratching and chipping, although the same can be said about many new cars which now have to use the new paints for environmental reasons.

The interior is surprisingly good at first glance for a car in this price range, the seats are manually adjustable and comfortable, and most of the controls are well laid out. There's masses of headroom, I expect almost any height driver could get comfortable in this car.

I have only two complaints about the interior, firstly the textured plastic used for much of it can be easily, and permanently scratched with a fingernail, quickly marring it's appearance. Second, the backlit gauges are very hard to read while wearing sunglasses, and the LCD information panel is impossible to read with them on.

The ride isn't particularly great, it's noisy on all, but the smoothest of road surfaces, and the car is affected quite badly by crosswinds. It's comfortable enough however, and I think it could take longer journeys in stride quite happily.

Overall I'm sad to say that I've grown disappointed with this car, it's simply not as good as I'd hoped in the areas which are important to me, while surpassing my needs in areas I don't care so much about. If performance isn't among your top priorities, and a rattle, squeak, or vibration here and there aren't things that will bug you, I'd highly recommend this car. If you're seeking near perfection in terms of build quality (as some might say is justified with a brand new car), I don't feel this car quite has it.

I wasn't expecting outstanding quality, but for a new car it had more minor issues than I would have hoped.

It really all depends on your needs, and your standards/expectations.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 27th March, 2007

29th Mar 2007, 15:14

Your comments about the rattles and noises are very interesting. I've had a 2003 Civic LX sedan for four years now since new. It has also been a bit of let down when it came to rattles and squeaks. The Civic had two in particular that were most annoying. One was from the driver's side seat belt area and other from the centre stack area. As expected, smooth pavement does not produce these sounds, but, even the most minor imperfection in the road surface is bound to create some response in the cabin.

My point is that either consumers are being led by the manufacturers to expect more than they should through lofty advertising promises of "tighter construction, quieter ride" etc. or we are indeed witnessing a decline in the general build quality of these cars. I am only referring to the cabin build quality, not to the vehicles' internal mechanical components.

14th Nov 2007, 14:32

I'm about to tick over 40,000 miles on my '06 3GT and it has yet to disappoint me. I only have one minor rattle in the sunroof shade and it only happens when I hit a bump. Other than that, it's been a great car. I disagree about the gear ratios, too. It seems well geared to me except that 5th is too low. The variable valve timing kicks in around 3500 RPM so maybe that is what you are feeling. The performance seems about right for a 4 cylinder car and is definitely better than other 4 cyl. cars I've owned.

Definitely agree about the interior plastic. The texture will actually rub your skin off and make white streaks. The paint is very soft as well.

Also, the stock Goodyear Eagle RSA's only lasted 35,000 miles, got very noisy and vibrated at the end of their lifespan.

19th May 2008, 14:22

I have an 06 GS sport. The only issue I have with the car is tire wear. The wear on the front is pretty even, but on the back the inner edges are wearing wearing out. The back tires on a front wheel drive car should last forever. When following other Mazda 3's, I notice they have a lot of negative camber on the rear?

The car has done 60,000klms. I get around 39mpg on my daily commute, which is mostly highway. Fun to drive, great handling, and enough power for me.

18th Sep 2008, 14:07

Yes, the 3S has negative camber on the rear wheels. I have had 2 sets of tires wear out on the inner tread. They get very loud to boot. My fault for not rotating them enough.

My next set will be rotated religiously every 7,500 miles.

2006 Mazda 3 Mazda3 GT 2.3L gas from North America

Summary:

Automotive joie de vivre

Faults:

Nothing.

General Comments:

The Mazda3 provides the physical embodiment of what the French describe as the joy of living.

The Mazda3 is a sheer pleasure in everyday driving, yielding even greater exhilaration when driven well with bravado.

You would need to pay $20K more to get a car that handled better than the Mazda3, or even as well.

This is almost the most fun that you can have with your clothes on.

Well close anyway.

I have about 12K miles on my Mazda3 GT sedan, and loving every minute.

This car is a superb value, crammed with worthwhile content that you just will not find with competitive entry-level economy cars.

A perennial overachiever in a compact class full of diminished expectations.

I cannot wipe the silly grin off my face when I’m driving this car.

The build quality is impeccable with even body gaps, and seamless paint.

Interior and exterior styling provides the visual equivalent of the driving experience on steroids.

The only gaffs in the interior are the flimsy sunvisors and cheap carpeting that look more at home on an entry-level compact car.

Wait; this is an entry-level compact car, but the point is that these are the only pedestrian pieces of the package.

I honestly felt that these parts should have been upgraded in GT trim.

Amid all of the rich content such the bi-xenon lights, rain-sensing wipers, and tire pressure monitors, Mazda forgot a power trunk release which I felt was a curious omission.

If given the choice I would have passed on the red-orange dash backlighting which is a blatant pander to a silly BMW tradition.

The red illumination is distracting on a BMW and it is no better on the Mazda.

Emulating BMW chassis dynamics on the other hand is all good and this is where the Mazda shines.

Dialed in and direct with great brakes that provide loads of feedback.

The only other parts bin error lay with the choice of OEM rubber.

The Mazda3 is shod with Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires that are simply dreadful.

Short-lived and loud with marginal grip and ‘watch out’ performance on wet surfaces.

The Bose audio system is merely adequate, not exhibiting the same luster of the driving experience.

For the bloated brand premium that Bose seems to think they bring to the party, it is all hype.

One piece of advice that I would offer strongly to any prospective purchaser is to avoid the entry-level ‘i’ in favor of the ‘s’ or ‘GT’ variants where you can get the car optioned out with inflatable curtains for side impact protection.

The side pillars of this and any other compact car are far too close to the occupants to deform sufficiently in a side impact before occupants begin impacting hard surfaces with sad result.

The inflatable curtains offer cheap insurance at the end of the day.

Do not buy this or any compact without them.

Reliability of the car has been outstanding.

I have not been back to the dealership since I bought this car.

The Volvo S80 T6 that I traded in was 2.5 times the price of the Mazda and was never out of the shop for two contiguous months.

Fact is that I spent more in repair orders over four years for the Volvo than the purchase price of the Mazda.

All-in-all, an unreserved recommendation that yields dividends every day you get behind the wheel.

Zoom, zoom.

Here, here.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 13th January, 2007

21st Jan 2007, 04:38

I am in the market for a compact sedan and found your review useful. You are correct when you say that the headliner and carpet appear to be very cheap. I don't think they are up to par with the rest of the car. It almost seems as if Mazda was trying to save wherever possible to keep the price low and compensate for the other expensive options. The car itself was gorgeous to look at and the test drive was equally impressive. Hope you will continue to post your experiences with your car.

8th Apr 2008, 12:31

Great review. I have an 06 GT and am about to tick over 48,000 miles. Still a great ride and a lot of fun to drive. I've been babying it to save gas and it rewards me with 32-34 MPG highway. The wife loves the heated seats. I agree about the cheap interior bits. My drivers floor mat is badly worn by the gas pedal. Every time I vacuum I find a big ball of unwound fiber. I did install a "dead pedal" to keep the carpet wear down.

About the red lighting, it actually makes a lot of sense. Red lighting does not ruin night vision.

16th Mar 2010, 05:19

I don't know if the original poster will see this, but the remote trunk release can be made operational by a plastic switch located at the trunk locking mechanism. I just bought an 09 Mazda3. Too soon to review, but it's definitely fun to drive. I was annoyed that the trunk needed to be opened with the key, but then I delved into the manual and saw that it can be switched on or off.