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A Globe&Mail (Canadian) Mz3 Sport review :
http://www.globemegawheels.com/news/20040122/grin.html

Sporting a real grin
Mazda3 Sport provides it all: Comfort, looks and smiles

By Michael Bettencourt
Thursday, January 22, 2004

The dearly departed Mazda Protegé5 was as much fun as a bachelor party at the Playboy mansion, and one of the most engaging hatchbacks on the road. Its replacement, the 2004 Mazda3 Sport, is better looking, more powerful, more comfortable and even more entertaining to drive. It is undoubtedly the one vehicle that's elicited more "I'd buy this car for myself" reactions around the office than any vehicle in recent memory. No wonder it won the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada's (AJAC) award for Best New Sports Coupe/Sedan Under $35,000.

AJAC does car tests a lot better than award tag lines. Not only is the above honour a major mouthful, the Mazda3 Sport is neither a coupe nor a sedan. It belongs in this group, however, as it combines the cool looks usually offered with the former along with the practicality of the latter in its 5-door hatchback body, along with a healthy dose of performance that's untouchable for its just-over $20,000 price. The Sport doesn't whip heads around, but it's handsome enough to elicit smiling inquiries at the gas station.

A lot of serious engineering has gone into the Mazda3 Sport's driving dynamics.

The 2.3-litre, 4-cylinder engine produces 160 hp, but unlike the sportiest versions of some competitors, the engine feels energetic around town thanks to the generous 150 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. It's not the most powerful in its class, but feels like it at anything less than 6,000 revs. Plus, no matter how hard the engine's working, it always sounds smooth, refined and nicely muted while cruising on the highway.

The 5-speed manual transmission has a nice quality shift feel. The gas and brake pedals have obviously been placed close together to help make heel-and-toe manoeuvres easier, but Mazda has been a little too eager to please hot shoes in this respect. One pair of my size nines would clip the brake pedal almost every time I went for the throttle.

I had the chance to drive the Mazda3 Sport back to back with the wickedly quick Dodge SRT-4 at Shannonville racetrack during the AJAC awards this past fall, and the differences were eye opening. The Dodge left the 3 in its dust on the straights, but the Mazda3 Sport felt much more composed in the corners, with very little kickback in the steering wheel, and only a touch more lean from its considerably more comfortable suspension.

Our recent tester was shod with winter rubber and therefore rode a touch harsher than I remembered, but still had a serious appetite for gobbling up corners.

The Mazda3 Sport's interior also sets it apart from the competition. Settle in behind the steering wheel and you'll notice redundant radio controls on the wheel, an item that used to be reserved for luxury cars and is now racing its way down the price scale. The dash's stereo also has a futuristic, Knight Rider-esque light bar that cycles red flashing lights side to side in tandem with stereo adjustments. Not exactly functional, but it gives the 3 a cool look that'll impress your passengers.

There's a pervasive feeling of quality inside the Mazda3 Sport. All interior switches light up at night, including the ones on the steering wheel, which is often not the case on some vehicles costing twice as much. Rain-sensing wipers are standard, as are headlights that come on (and turn themselves off) automatically. Plus there's a handy mute button on the steering wheel, which is great for when your cell phone rings or when you pull up to a drive-through for your morning caffeine hit.

These features are the most surprising, since they come standard on even the base Mazda3 Sport GS that starts at $20,185. A GT model, like our tester, starts at $21,385, which includes upgrades like 17-inch wheels over 16-inchers, steering wheel mounted cruise controls, rear spoiler and two extra speakers. The only options available for the GS are air conditioning and a 4-speed automatic, whereas the GT offers a sunroof and leather seats as well.

Safety equipment includes 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, standard in all Mazda3 Sports, as well as an engine immobilizer and adjustable rear head restraints. Interestingly, no side airbags, traction or stability control systems are available, one area where the 3 Sport is not class-leading.

Unfortunately, despite its long list of positives, we had a number of niggling annoyances with our hatchback. On cold mornings the brakes on our tester squealed like a preteen at a Justin Timberlake concert, although the unsettling noise quickly went away after the first few stops. Also, snow tends to collect on the rear bumper, which means you have to reach through the white stuff to open the bumper-level rear hatch, which is no fun if you're not wearing gloves.

These nits are not reserved for winter-only grievances. We had the passenger airbag warning light come on and stay on, in not one, but two Mazda3s we tested in the past month. Then there's the tiny button that must be pushed in before the ignition key can be removed - a royal pain.

In the big picture, however, the Mazda3 Sport does a lot more things extremely well, more than making up for its unexpected quality and ergonomic quirks. If the Mazda3 (Sport or sedan) doesn't win AJAC's overall 2004 Best New Canadian Car of the Year award, it will be a major shock, as this vehicle really is that good.

Immediate competition:
Chrysler PT Cruiser,
Ford Focus ZX5,
Pontiac Vibe,
Toyota Matrix
 

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ya good review! except for this part...

"Then there's the tiny button that must be pushed in before the ignition key can be removed - a royal pain."

Theres no tiny button you have to push to get the key out! you just push the key and lock cylinder in a bit and turn the key back towards yourself and its out. I guess he never pulled the keys out during his test drive! :?
 

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The reviewer mentioned that you have to push a small button first in order to remove the key from the ignition. I've only had a twenty minute test drive, but I don't remember having to push a button to remove the key. Can anyone shed some light on this?
 

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Glad you don't have one but I do....I see it and if I don't press it, the key doesn't return completely to it's place where you can pull it out.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
There is also a star-rating table that is not shown on the website, but in print form only, & the ratings are as follows:

Cabin Comfort: ..... * * * * *
Safety: ................. * * * (I think this is due to a lack of SAB/SAC option on Cdn Mz3)
Performance: ........ * * * *
Ride & handling: ... * * * * *
Overall value: ....... * * * * *

Legend: (this is from memory, but I think it's about right)
* Poor
** Average
*** Above average
**** Good
***** Excellent!

Generally, G&M reviewers aren't terribly generous with their star ratings; I believe this is the first time I've seen a 5 star overall value rating!
 

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M3-GT said:
Glad you don't have one but I do....I see it and if I don't press it, the key doesn't return completely to it's place where you can pull it out.
do we own the same cars? i just went and looked at my car to confirm I wasn't insane... theres no button! do i need to take a picture of the ignition switch?
(i know, i know this is trivial to be arguing, im just confirming my sanity)
 

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I have no button on my auto GS but I saw the button on a manual GT hatch in the showroom
 

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PhilGood said:
I have no button on my auto GS but I saw the button on a manual GT hatch in the showroom
AHHHHHHHHHHH that would explain it!! the MT cars have a button, the AT doesnt... very interesting... guess i would have figured this out once i took an MT for a test drive...
My P5 didn't have a button, but you did have to push the key in as you were turning it back to the lock position... i never did drive an AT P5, wonder how it's set up?

sorry M3-GT wasn't trying to get snarky with ya! :D
 

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Slalom said:
PhilGood said:
I have no button on my auto GS but I saw the button on a manual GT hatch in the showroom
AHHHHHHHHHHH that would explain it!! the MT cars have a button, the AT doesnt... very interesting... guess i would have figured this out once i took an MT for a test drive...
My P5 didn't have a button, but you did have to push the key in as you were turning it back to the lock position... i never did drive an AT P5, wonder how it's set up?

sorry M3-GT wasn't trying to get snarky with ya! :D
No Problem ;) I was as puzzled as you.
 

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My guess would be that one needs to set an AT car in Park (and hit the brakes in the process) before being able to remove the key.

On MT cars, they need to make sure that you don't take the key out accidentally while the car's still moving, I guess.
 

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fleecy said:
My guess would be that one needs to set an AT car in Park (and hit the brakes in the process) before being able to remove the key.

On MT cars, they need to make sure that you don't take the key out accidentally while the car's still moving, I guess.
ya something along those lines... on my AT car i can't get the key out until in PARK (brakes are only needed to get the trans OUT of Park)... so the MT cars have the little button purely to try and prevent the key from being removed while driving... so i'm assuming the key can still be removed in an MT car while driving it would just be more challenging for say a child in the passenger seat.
that right?
 

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Yeah you can't remove the keys from an AT car without the tranny being in park so it would make sense for it to be there. My Mustangs of yore had one too, but it was bigger and right on the bottom middle of the steering column.
 

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That sounds like a good explaination. It also helps the key not fall out if you stalled and you're restarting. Just keeps the key locked in for ease. (ooh please don't do that with my car...please. its my baby... pleast don't stall it)
 
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