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2008 Mazda3 Review - Pricing, Specs, Photos

by Martha Hindes

2008 Mazda3
2008 Mazda3 Interior

Should it seem doubtful there's enough "Zoom Zoom" left for an entry level auto, Mazda will surely set you straight. The company, with a whole lineup of aggressive, agile, sporty vehicles, calls its MAZDA3 compact a "high performance" "advanced technology" small car with "European sophistication." So much for any limited expectations.

In fact, the company last year added a gutsy MAZDASPEED3 version to build on the trademark MAZDASPEED performance prowess. That vehicle remains unchanged for 2008. And following a major update a year ago, the only MAZDA3 change for 2008 is the addition of standard side and side curtain airbags for "s" level sport models.

Mazda calls the MAZDA3 a vehicle of two personalities: One, a four-door sedan with an ambience of stability, and a five-door hatchback that is agile, young and exhuberant. Two engines underscore the vehicle, with a 2.0-liter, 148-horsepower four for "i" trims and a 2.3-liter, 156-HP four in sportier "s" trim models. Both engines are tuned to provide a wide torque range for quick takeoffs and sporty driving. Disk brakes front and rear augment its precision handling technology. And shifters are five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

While athleticism is the MAZDA3 backbone, it's by no means the limit. Styling is trendy, with supple lines and such design elements as high mounted spoiler and aggressive, five-spoke sport wheels. The "i" sedan has beige or black interiors with white gauges and zebra-striped black wood trim. A black interior with blackout type gauges on the 2.3-liter "s" models, lends an aggressive, road rally feel. Leather seating is optional on "s" trims.

The MAZDA3 sedan comes in base (starting at $13,895 with best mileage of XX/XX), or "i" and "s" sport renditions. The five-door is "s" only in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims. A top-line, five-door GT can start above the $20,000 mark. And based on pride of performance, expect Mazda's vehicle names to remain all upper case—sort of like a continuous, attention getting shout.