(Continued: Page 2 of 2)Although the manual indicated we could use MP3 CDs in the changer, it wouldn't play our test CDs. We also followed the manual's instructions and plugged an MP3 player into the auxiliary jack, then pushed the Media button on the stereo. But nothing happened. The Media button seemed to be disconnected, which was a shame, because the aux jack is easy to access in the console, and there are convenient indentations in the lid for running a cable out. But we found more to dislike about the stereo in the satellite radio interface. The stereo has three knobs (where most stereos can get away with two): one for channel selection, one for volume, and one for audio settings. Tuned to Sirius, we could change stations by turning the selection knob, as long as the display showed the channel number. We could also push in the knob to change the display to the channel name, track, or artist. But we couldn't change the station in any of these other display modes. The implementation also was generally poor, with a weak antenna that let the station cut out with minimal external interference. The audio quality from this system was passable, with its best performance in the midranges. Highs weren't as clear as we would like, and the bass wasn't particularly rich. With some tracks, we could also overwhelm the speakers, getting an unpleasant hum at high volume. Under the hood
The Mazdaspeed Mazda3 mainly stands out for its driving experience. Anyone getting behind the wheel will feel a happy adrenaline rush as the engine growls and the car shoots forward. Flicking the steering wheel and feeling the control the car offers will engender feelings of driving superiority. And for the most part, the Mazdaspeed Mazda3 keeps its performance promise.
Mazda equips its Mazdaspeed series cars pretty well, so there are few options to choose from. Our Mazdaspeed Mazda3 had the Grand Tourer trim ($23,955) and only one option, Sirius satellite radio ($430). With a $595 destination charge, that makes for a total of $24,980. The only serious tech option we didn't have was navigation, available for $1,750. In the world of hot hatchbacks, the Mazdaspeed Mazda3 exhibits a few important values, but not all. It's got the handling, the body style, and a peppy engine. But it won't deliver the thumping bass that is also part of the hot hatchback culture, and the stereo won't easily be upgraded to satisfy music lovers. The Honda Civic Si can be had for less money with an excellent navigation system and a decent stereo. Or, for better performance, the Volkswagen GTI offers the DSG. What the Mazdaspeed Mazda3 has over both of these competitors is a roomier interior, hence, a note of practicality.