CAR REVIEWS

2004 Mazda3 2.0R

2004 Mazda3 2.0R image

Text: Brent Co / Photos: Brent Co | posted April 10, 2004 00:00

Three Times The Fun

Since the re-entry of Mazda to the local market earlier in the year, the introduction of the Mazda3 has been long awaited. With various rumors going around the of popular automotive website forums, much hype was created for a product ripe enough for the hungry market. And it was also appropriate for a brand which had a lot of catching up to do from where it left off almost a decade ago.

Being based on the same platform as the Volvo S40 and Ford Focus sedan, Mazda carved out a character of its own with the Mazda3, the sporty and lively Mazda Zoom-Zoom character. How much more appropriate can Mazda get when they introduce three model variants for the Mazda3, the 1.6S, 1.6V, 2.0R; each being a unique model to meet the needs of the most demanding car owners.

The exterior styling inherits features from the sleek and sexy RX-8 sports coupe. The sleek, dynamic lines and bold flaring are evidence of its sporty heritage thus making this sport sedan a head turner on four wheels. Smoked headlamps are standard with the 2.0R being equipped with matching smoked rear lamps to give a more sporty character.

Distinct features separate each variant with the 2.0R being equipped with a unique grill and bumper with integrated foglamps, ducktail rear spoiler, and 17-inch alloys. The 1.6V meanwhile rolls on 16-inch alloys and carries its own distinct bumper and five-point honeycomb grill with integrated foglamps. The front end of the base 1.6S carries the same five-point honeycomb grill as the 1.6S and a bumper with honeycomb grill airdams sans foglamps and 15-inch alloys.

Underneath the bonnet of each Mazda3 is a torquey and responsive MZR engine, which features Sequential Valve Timing and Variable Induction System. Drivetrain for all variants is courtesy of Mazda's Active-Matic automatic transmission, which gives the driver flexibility of clutchless shifting. The 2.0R, which is rated to produce 141 ps/6,500 rpm, and torque at 181 Nm, performed quite well within its performance figures.

Gear ratios were properly spaced giving efficient power distribution and gear transition was very smooth. It was fun to drive when on active-matic mode, but when switched to drive, downshift reaction was quite slow. There was good torque for the 2-liter engine, it's a good overall city car but when you're looking for top end high horsepower figures, then the engine might disappoint you a bit.

The suspension setup is composed of a McPherson Strut in front with a distinctive four-point plastic-mounting system to achieve low noise vibration and harshness (NVH). The rear meanwhile features a multi-link arrangement with the springs separate from the dampers. A set-up commonly used in premium cars.

With this setup, the Mazda3 feels very refined, and response to steering wheel input is very good. The car takes corners pretty well as it was matched with 17-inch Bridgestone Potenzas which held quite well even on hard cornering with minimal road noise. This can be attributed to the well balanced suspension and rigid body frame which produces good handling and low NVH.

While no actual brake performance tests were not done during the drive, actual braking on normal driving was tested as the pedal felt good, translating the right amount of pressure as you step on the pedal. The four-wheel disc brakes were performing up to spec, with 11-inch rotors up front and 10.5-inch rotors with integrated 9-inch drums in the rear.

The interior of the Mazda3 is totally unlike other Japanese compacts in the local market. The black and silver treatment takes you to a totally different level -- picture a premium European car inside. The fit and finish on the instrumentation and console trims is impeccable. The audio and climate system controls are well laid out and easy to access, the standard steering wheel audio controls are also a big plus (standard for 2.0R).

Drink holders galore as two cup holders are located in the center console, while bottle holders are included in the sidings of each door which also comes with a pocket. Space is abundant for its class, as it boasts of having the longest wheelbase and overall width in class and has the highest front and rear shoulder room.

The interior of the Mazda3 is totally unlike other Japanese compacts in the local market. The black and silver treatment takes you to a totally different level -- picture a premium European car inside. The fit and finish on the instrumentation and console trims is impeccable. The audio and climate system controls are well laid out and easy to access, the standard steering wheel audio controls are also a big plus (standard for 2.0R).

Drink holders galore as two cup holders are located in the center console, while bottle holders are included in the sidings of each door which also comes with a pocket. Space is abundant for its class, as it boasts of having the longest wheelbase and overall width in class and has the highest front and rear shoulder room.