Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special. - Mazda3 Forums : The #1 Mazda 3 Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-14-2011, 01:45 AM Thread Starter
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Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

First off, I want to announce that I am NOT saying one generation is better than the other. The follow is about how the 1st gen MZ3, according to its owner (me), have changed the way car manufacturers approach small/economy cars, and why it's special to its owner.

Two days ago, I brought my MS3 to my dealership to have some work done, so they gave me a 2010 Mazda 3i. After driving it for 2days, I realized why the MZ3 was so special when it first came out. I'll elaborate on that at the end.

Back in the late 1990's and early 2000's, US spec economy cars were more or less built just to get people around. There wasn't much styling, performance, and unique features thrown into these small cars. They were simply a faster mode of transportation and let's face it, cars back then were built like tanks. One can buy an economy car with negligible knowledge on car maintenance, and it'll drive through a wall for you.

Power
Then came late 2003, and Mazda released the Mazda 3 as a 2004 model. Packed with 140hp or 160hp, standard (GREAT) disc brakes on all wheels, great (for an economy car) handling. I may be wrong, but the 160hp motor must be one of the first in economy cars, and it wasn't a limited special edition model found only in places outside of US (Honda type R cars?). The S model was a car with power, and you can get one without bending over at your local dealership.

Handling/Driving experience
Mazda has always been known for the way their cars handle. All the RX's, all the Miata/MX's, and now the 3! Ok it wasn't anywhere near the RWD RX's/MX's, but for a FWD economy car, it blew away the competition as a standard model (again, SI/Type R will give it a run for its money). Economy cars have always been the dullest thing ever, driving them used to be like driving on cloud. You can drive over a 4inch deep pothole and feel nothing, taking a turn too fast will scare the nuggets out of you. In 2003, the Mazda3 changed all of that. It provided sharp handling while keeping the driver engaged.

Interior
Where do I even begin? A single dinn with a CD player, and you're sitting in a "fully loaded" economy car. Want a well designed entertainment console? Not happening. Want a GORGEOUS looking gauge? Buy an Audi. Want navigation system? Go buy a luxury branded car. When the Mazda3 came out in 2003, it had a interior that could rival cars double its price. Admit it, for those of us with the S model, your eyes opened up the first time you turned on the lights at night, when you see those cool looking blue rings around the speedo pods. Audio/climate control is lined by a lovely shade of red/orange glow, versus the dull looking green and light orange found in other cars. Then, your eyes opened up again the first time you opened up that glove box! I s*** you not, you can fit a laptop in there! Then there are the little things, what about the 6cup holders? For once, automatic shifter actually looks cool in this car. There are dancing lights as you adjust volume up and down. 60/40 for practicality. Finally, the car says HELLO! when you start it!

Exterior
When it first come out, did it even look like an average economy car? Or did it look more like something out of the concept floors? This is the ONLY car that looks better as a 5door/hatch than it does as a sporty sedan. First economy car to feature projector lowbeams, first economy car to even feature HID's for that matter. Again, for those of us with the S model, the tailight was seriously something from a concept floor. Every other economy cars had either an alignment of bars/brick for lights, but the Mazda3 S featured red/amber/white "jewels" over a blacked out background, GORGEOUS! I admit it, all the styling DOES cut into the view. I personally think the Mazda3 has a lot of blindspots. But wow, asides from its small size, and if I knew nothing about cars, I would have thought the Mazda3 as a luxury branded car.

Now why did it take a 2nd gen to make me realize this? Because when I first had the 1st gen 3, all the features in this little economy car made me very proud of owning the car, I say to myself "What a stylish car!". Now I sat in the 2nd gen, still a great interior, perfectly functional and in some ways, an improvement over the 1st gen. But there's no "it/special" factor, because once the 1st gen came out, everyone else played catchup and the 2nd gen has lost that shine. I still think the 2nd gen has a better interior and exterior than its competitors. Power, handling, and practicality is debatable.

But...

The 1st gen MZ3 was HEAD AND SHOULDERS above everyone else. It pushed the envelop as far as what an economy car can have. It made other manufacturers to rethink their products. And THAT, is why I think 1st gen MZ3 was so special.

Please correct me if I've got my information wrong.
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-14-2011, 08:03 PM
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Re: Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

As someone who currently owns and drives a 2004 "S" hatchback, fully loaded with every option available back then (Navigation, 6 Disc in dash, leather, HIDs, and later added the factory aero add-ons and the auto-dim interior mirror with temperature and compass) this car is absolutely a blast to drive. My first Mazda, which was also my first car, was a 2002 Protege5, which I found to be a great handling car and a spacious interior, but it lacked supportive seats and oomph from under the hood. The 2.3L motor in the 3 is a great improvement over the Protege, providing the 160hp as you said in an even better handling package. I love the look of the car and find the interior a great environment for both cruising and spirited driving. Obviously now that I've sat in a Speed 3 I desire the support that the Speed seats have, but I'm not gonna complain about the 3's seating equipment. Everyone that has been given a ride in my car has had nothing but good things to say about the car and the only way I'm selling this car anytime soon would be for a Speed 3 (1st gen). I'm in agreement with everything you said, minus the blind spot comment, and absolutely love my car.

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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-14-2011, 08:09 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

Blind spot... maybe it's the way I tend to sit in my car(s). I'd like to sit as low to the ground as possible. From where my head is, I see numerous blind spots.

There's more to like in a MS3 than just the seats .
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-14-2011, 08:34 PM
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Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

if you're short, don't sit so damn low... or at least adjust your mirrors properly. I don't see any blind spot problems whatsoever (at 6'1). want blind spots? drive any coupe. I refuse to drive my fathers altima coupe because of the blind spots (and that god awful CVT transmission).

as far as how special the car is... I think it's still one of the best designed interiors in the industry. the 2004 model out classes brand new subbies, hondas, hyundais and the like... all of which cost significantly more.



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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-14-2011, 09:33 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

I'm 5'8" so I don't think I'm short short, maybe average? If you have a nasty mouth, don't speak so damn loud.

Yeah I agree with the interior design though, not many cars can rival cars in the next generation.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-14-2011, 09:57 PM
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Re: Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

relax sweetheart, i'm saying that the blind spots are your fault. the car is more perfect than you think it is!



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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-15-2011, 10:23 PM
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Re: Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

[quote author=sdemo45 link=topic=184832.msg3908074#msg3908074 date=1295055246]
as far as how special the car is... I think it's still one of the best designed interiors in the industry. the 2004 model out classes brand new subbies, hondas, hyundais and the like... all of which cost significantly more.
[/quote]

+1. When I was car shopping in 2006, I was AMAZED at how nice of an interior the 3 had compared to all the crappy econoboxes I had test driven earlier in the day. My first test drive in the 3 was what sold me on the car...I walked out of the dealer to get lunch, telling them I'd think about it, but I really had already made up my mind to buy a 3.

I still think the 2nd gen 3's are part of a limited breed...if I wrecked my car today, the only real comparables for me would be the 3 and the Impreza, but the Impreza doesn't have half the features the 3 does.


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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-16-2011, 01:08 AM
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Re: Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

I'm your height and don't have a problem with blindspots. Actually, my MS3 has the best visibility of just about any car I've driven on the street.


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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-16-2011, 12:09 PM
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Re: Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

Thanks Say Chi Sin Lo for the retrospective. When I discovered the 2nd gen MZ3, I thought I was pretty smart and patting myself on the back. As I learned more about the 1st gen MZ3, I realized it was those buyers who were the smart ones! They knew before everyone else how good Mazda was.

The 1st gen MZ3 slipped under my radar because of its conservative styling. I just never gave it a second look. The makeover for the 2nd gen MZ3 got my attention, although I know its fascia can be polarizing. I think it looks sleeker than the 1st gen and I am impressed with its .29 CD. From there, I learned how much substance there was to the car.

As for blind spots -- I'm 5' 5" and adjust my seat height to about the middle -- I only have 1 minor complaint: the high deck lid on the sedan's trunk limits my rear view a bit. Ah, a small price to pay for style. I bet the hatch has better visibility.

Yes, I agree Mazda has redefined the economy car, for the better! Now they are starting to see tons of competition from other manufacturers. Some say the MINI redefined the segment because you can customize it with any luxury features (and color) without being limited to trim level. But the MINI was never an econo box. It's a BMW and has always been a premium car (that needs premium gas!).

I am rooting for Mazda overall, although I am not convinced about their rotary engine. I am hoping to see and read about their sky engine and stop/start technology in the coming months.



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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-16-2011, 01:43 PM
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Re: Why I think 1st gen MZ3 was special.

You're bang on with everything. Only spot they screwed up was the thin, unprotected metal in several areas which leads to premature rusting. Even the chassis - if you look at an similar year civic, they're in great shape, little to no rust on the underside. Lift up my 04 and you have to be careful when you're touching things because it will rain rust flakes. Its scary.


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