Mazda 3

Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 1:01pm

This is the marvelous Mazda 3. I know, it’s not much of a name. But when a car is as sweet as this one is, you only need a number…like 3.

I used to contend that Mazda had the most European lineup of the Japanese carmakers. And with the 3, they still do. Think a hot German or English hatchback with moves like a soccer mid-fielder while being as solid as a Swiss banker’s heart.

And since gasoline isn’t getting any cheaper, you can enjoy all this performance while keeping the cost of petrol to a reasonable level. That is due in part to the smooth, eager twin-cam 4-cylinder engine under the shapely hood. Cranking out only 167 horsepower, in the relatively light Mazda 3, you get a 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds.

Now, I know that won’t thrill any pimply faced teenagers with loud exhausts bolted to their garishly painted Corollas, but it is one of those rare cars that feels faster than it actually is. This will keep you both happy and at arms length from the guys driving black and white Crown Victorias.

The interior is roomy, comfy and stylish. Fit and finish are first rate, and the cabin is generally a pleasant place to while away a trip to Grandma’s with kids in the back. And on that trip, the little Mazda 3 won’t make you feel like King Dork of Dorkmunder Castle in the Duchy of Dweebenstein.

Any family car that can do that, well equipped for under $26,000, falls safely into the category of a sweet ride.

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