[quote author=MZ3Driver link=topic=187988.msg3968384#msg3968384 date=1300634841]
Cool. I did the math and it comes out to 37.317 mpg in U.S. gallons. Getting close to some hybrids out here![/quote]
But at what cost in terms of performance? The 0-60 time for the 1st generation 1.4L model was 14.3 seconds, definitely not 'Zoom Zoom' worthy....hardly worth a single 'Zoom'!
Going back to the OP, there are a lot of Ford branded parts in the Mazda 3 suspension. Mazda and Ford also share the Duratech engine, but Mazda added Variable Valve Timing to it which allows for more torque at high rpms and improves fuel efficiency.
You are correct that Ford used a non-VVT version of the 2.3L in the Focus to save a few bucks. But when they introduced the Fusion/Milan mid-size sedans in 2006, they decided to add VVT and it was rated 160hp, the same as a 2006 Mazda3 s.
As far as concerns about reliability, the Ford Fusion was one of the main vehicles that helped Ford earn it's current reputation for reliability! That wouldn't be the case if they had a bum engine.
The 2004 Mazda3 was built on the Ford C1 platform, along with the 2004.5 Volvo S40/V50 and 2005 (international) Ford Focus. Ford didn't think North American consumers would pay more for a 'premium' compact, so they continued to build the North American Focus on the old C170 platform. As a result, the Mazda3 has a lot more in common with a post-2005 Focus sold in Europe or Asia than with the one sold here.
Like so many other inexpensive (cheap) small cars, the Focus may not deserve a reputation for lack of durability/reliability. The target buyers were young and with limited financial resources- translation: kids who drive the hell out of them but don't bother (or can't afford) to have the oil changed! I don't think it's just a coincidence that every pre-2006 Focus I see for sale looks like it's been to hell and back... =)