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    2021 Jaguar F-Pace P400 Advances with Inline-Six Power

    We were always fans of the sound and performance of Jaguar’s compellingly strange supercharged V-6—the one that basically dropped a pair of three-cylinder heads atop what had originally been an eight-cylinder block—but we were less keen on the extra mass this over-large powerplant had to carry around. The Jaguar F-Pace was the last car using that rowdy V-6, and a substantial facelift for 2022 brings a range-topping straight-six that seems like a much more obvious fit for a Jaguar.
    The entry level 246-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine will continue as before, but there is now a 3.0-liter six-cylinder above it. Employing both an electric supercharger and a twin-scroll turbocharger, the six will be available in 335- and 395-hp outputs, and we drove the more powerful of these—badged P400—in the United Kingdom.

    2021 Jaguar F-Pace SVR Boasts More Torque

    2021 Jaguar F-Pace Has New Powertrain, Tech

    The F-Pace was always a fine-looking ute, and Jaguar tightened up the design without doing anything to radically transform it. (Most of the work was done under the direction of former design boss Ian Callum before he left the company in 2019.) The F-Pace gets a slightly larger and reshaped grille and a tidier new hood, with slimmed-down headlights that incorporate twin curved daytime running lights on both sides. There is a new bumper at the back with trapezoidal exhaust finishers in place of the older car’s conventional tailpipes and also new taillights inspired by those of the Jaguar I-Pace.

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    Jaguar

    Changes in the cabin are more substantial and have had more effect—the F-Pace’s interior was feeling old after nearly five years on the market. Now it gets a redesigned dashboard and center console, shaped to accommodate a substantial 11.4-inch curved glass touchscreen that sits in the center of the car. Other touch points have been upgraded, too, with a new steering wheel that includes haptic touch-sensitive switches and the arrival of classy Range Rover-style rotary heating and ventilation controls in place of the old car’s black plastic buttons. Jaguar also replaced the original pop-up rotary shift knob with a more conventional selector. An eight-speed automatic is now the only transmission choice, not that the United States ever got the rarely ordered manual. Driving modes are now chosen by a smaller rotary knob that cycles between Dynamic, Comfort, Eco, and a low-traction setting dubbed Rain, Ice, Snow.
    The arrival of Jaguar Land Rover’s smart new Pivi Pro infotainment system is the most welcome interior upgrade. Besides looking much more contemporary than the old InControl Pro system, it is also simpler and far more intuitive to use, while supporting over-the-air updates. The cabin’s materials feel noticeably plusher than before, and the uncluttered design makes it feel more spacious; accommodation is roomy in the front and acceptable in the rear. Heated seats and a 14-speaker sound system will be standard, and the cabin’s air-ionization system (able to catch particulates down to just 2.5 microns in size) and active noise-cancellation system further work to isolate the F-Pace interior from the messy world outside. Jaguar claims the noise-reduction system can reduce overall interior sound levels by up to 4 decibels.

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    Jaguar

    On the move, the contribution made by the noise-cancellation system can’t be detected—which is kind of the point—but the F-Pace’s cabin did seem impressively well-insulated over frequently low-quality U.K. asphalt. Only a hint of wind whistle from the mirrors and doors at higher cruising speeds disturbed the tranquility of the cabin. Ride quality is good, and the chassis feels well damped over the roughest roads, despite our test car riding on vast 22-inch wheels. As before, the steering yields linear, accurate reactions, and the chassis generates impressive grip at both ends, although fast progress does come at the expense of noticeable body lean. The F-Pace was originally benchmarked against the Porsche Macan, and it shares something of its German rival’s exceptionally well-rounded, dynamic personality. It might lack the ultimate athleticism of the equivalent Macan S, but the Jaguar combines pliancy and precision as well as anything else in the segment.
    The new engine suits the car well, but the transmission tends to hamper the repowered Jaguar’s reactions. The F-Pace is happy to deliver full-throttle launches without drama, and Jaguar’s claim of a 5.1-second zero-to-60-mph time felt believable. Throttle response is good and there is very little lag, but sudden requests for acceleration while cruising in Drive seemed to confuse the powertrain, with a distinct pause as the transmission worked out its kickdown strategy and then delivered the chosen gear. Choosing Sport mode improved responses but led to the car holding onto lower gears for much longer than necessary. The system’s brain should have more faith in the engine’s peak 406 pound-feet of torque, which is present all the way from 2000 rpm to 5000 rpm. Manual gear selection is always an option, of course—and Jaguar deserves credit for the pleasing size and weighty action of the paddles behind the steering wheel.

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    Jaguar

    Although hugely clever, the new engine lacks some of the character that offset its predecessor’s relative lack of sophistication. The electric supercharger functions invisibly, as does the 48-volt hybrid system that uses a belt-driven generator to charge the small lithium-ion battery beneath the rear seats. The Ingenium six is happy to work hard, going all the way to its 6750-rpm limiter under manual gear selection. It sounds muscular when it does so, but it lacks the top-end snarl that made hard progress so much fun in the old car.
    Understandably, Jaguar hasn’t made radical changes to its bestselling model, but the revisions have collectively brought the F-Pace up to date. The new engine has more power and improved fuel economy, equipment levels are better, and the cabin has metamorphosed from an also-ran to a genuine front-runner. Pricing starts at $51,345 for the four-cylinder P250 and will top out at $66,550 for the R-Dynamic S.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2021 Jaguar F-Pace P400 R-Dynamic S
    VEHICLE TYPE front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
    BASE PRICE $66,550
    ENGINE TYPE supercharged, turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injectionDisplacement 183 in3, 2996 cm3Power 395 hp @ 5500 rpmTorque 406 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
    TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS Wheelbase: 113.1 inLength: 186.9 inWidth: 76.2 inHeight: 65.5 inPassenger volume: 97 ft3Cargo volume: 27 ft3Curb weight (C/D est): 4600 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST) 60 mph: 5.0 sec100 mph: 12.7 sec1/4 mile: 13.5 secTop speed: 155 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY Combined/city/highway: 22/20/26 mpg

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    2021 Porsche Taycan Does Sensible EV Performance

    The future is coming up roses. At least, it is if you choose your new base-model 2021 Porsche Taycan in the same Frozen Berry Metallic paint and Blackberry interior as our test car. Waft like a petal on the breeze, silent and sweet with curving front fenders the color of a bridesmaid’s brunch in front of you and plummy leather all around. This must be what a honeybee feels like in the embrace of a cherry blossom. Imagine how many flowers she could visit with 402 horsepower.
    When Porsche introduced the Taycan in 2020, it created some long-awaited, if expensive, competition for Tesla’s Model S. The dual-motor, all-wheel-drive versions of the Taycan—4S, Turbo, and Turbo S—offer time-bending performance and Porsche driving focus, but with a price that starts above $100,000. For 2021, Porsche is offering a single-motor, rear-wheel-drive variant of the Taycan, to be known simply as the Taycan. The just-a-Taycan gets the same rear motor and 71.0-kWh battery as the Taycan 4S and keeps the electrons flowing efficiently through the use of a two-speed transaxle. It shifts! So fun! With a starting price of $81,250, it’s still no cheap date, but in the electric-car arms race, which seems to be headed toward cars so fast their zero-to-60-mph launches cause wormholes, the new entry-level Taycan with its usable amount of power is a welcome chance to catch your breath and give your brainwaves a rest.

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    Porsche

    Tested: 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S Is for Drivers

    2021 Porsche Taycan’s New RWD Base Model Debuts

    The Taycan greets you with a slight smirk. The front vents surrounding its floating LED-matrix headlights meet in an upside-down V, making the car look like it’s wearing dramatic eyeliner or perhaps a tattooed teardrop. It’s a pretty car with a low, sloped front end, a broad-shouldered stance, and the smooth aerodynamic profile of a river rock. Porsche says that the Taycan has a 0.24 coefficient of drag, the slipperiest Porsche on the dealer’s lot. If, like our test car, you opt for the air suspension, the figure drops to 0.22, making it the most aerodynamically efficient car on the market, at least until the updated Model S and Lucid Air make good on their claims of 0.21.
    Coefficient of drag is a very specific kind of car nerdy, though. In the more commonly discussed category of horses—how many, how quick—the entry-level Taycan makes 402 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque with launch control activated. If you upgrade to the 83.7-kWh Performance Battery Plus, you’ll get 469 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. But even roughly 200 pounds lighter than the dual-motor versions, the Taycan is still flirting with 5000 pounds. It’s a heavy machine, and 469 horses are only good enough for a claimed 60-mph time of 5.1 seconds and a 13.5-second quarter-mile time. Porsche’s acceleration figures are usually conservative, so when we test the Taycan, we expect it’ll dip just below five seconds in the run to 60 mph. It’s fun to engage launch control and let ‘er loose, but the laws of physics feel fully obeyed. This is not a negative; if you want to wreak havoc on the space-time continuum, there are the other Taycan variants. For the sort of driving you do on public roads while running normal life errands—so, almost all of it—the base Taycan allows you to use its accelerator and performance, making it one of the most enjoyable electric cars available.

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    Porsche

    Take a moment to stop and smell the flowers—or rather, appreciate all the details you might have missed had we been accelerating any faster. The Taycan sits low, as befits a sports car, but once inside the seating position offers plenty of legroom, and the slim dash wraps around you like a cocktail bar on a starship. The digital instrument cluster still displays information in rounded gauge-like pods, but infotainment and climate controls are housed in touchscreens that stretch across the dash and down the center console, 10.9 inches and 8.4 inches, respectively. There’s even an optional screen for the passenger, should you decide to do a road rally in the Taycan and require your navigator to have easy access to the maps.
    Like its more powerful kin, the Taycan is a joy to drive. The seating position is low, but it’s easy to see out. It’ll turn around in parking lots like it’s on a lazy Susan. The handling builds confidence, the steering is precise. It takes minute course corrections like it was expecting them and tacks through corners like a racing sailboat. The optional rear-axle steering helps stabilize and sharpen responses. The Taycan is quiet as a sailboat, too, unless you pay extra for the $500 Electric Sport Sound. If thrums and whirs are something you want in your car, save your money and download a sci-fi special-effects album to your phone instead. You don’t need the soundtrack to remember you’re in an electric car. There are plenty of energy-usage displays to remind you, as well as that lovely low center of gravity and the immediate power.

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    Porsche

    The Taycan does behave normally when it comes to braking. While it does make use of regenerative braking to charge the battery when you’re slowing down and has two settings for adjusting the amount of regen, the Taycan doesn’t feel like you’re applying the brakes when you lift off the accelerator. If you’re a fan of the one-pedal style of electric car driving that Tesla and others offer, you’ll be disappointed. But on curvy roads, going to the brake provides a sense of familiarity and predictability. The Taycan’s more traditional brake feel is in keeping with Porsche’s focus on making the Taycan a driver’s car more than a science experiment, and using the brakes for regen is more efficient in the real world, if not in the EPA test. Speaking of the EPA, the estimated range is not yet available for the base Taycan model, but with the larger battery pack, we expect it will match or better the 200 miles of the other variants.
    Like all Porsches, the Taycan offers a long list of pricey options. Don’t like the clunky standard 19-inch wheels? There are plenty of 20- and 21-inch designs to choose from. Vegan buyers can choose an interior that is completely leather-free, and folks with steep driveways and tight garages can opt for power folding mirrors and the air suspension with its GPS-based nose-lift memory. Certainly, it won’t take long with the configurator to spend every penny of the $7500 federal tax credit that the Taycan qualifies for, but for customers who want an electric Porsche in a usable and relatively affordable spec, the base Taycan strikes us as a stylish and sensible daily driver. Don’t be too sensible, though. Get it in pink.

    Specifications

    Specifications
    2021 Porsche Taycan
    VEHICLE TYPE rear-motor, rear-wheel-drive, 4- or 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
    BASE PRICE $81,250
    MOTOR permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 402 or 469 hp, 254 or 263 lb-ft; 71.0- or 83.7-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
    TRANSMISSION 2-speed automatic
    DIMENSIONS Wheelbase: 114.2 inLength: 195.4 inWidth: 77.4 inHeight: 54.9 inPassenger volume: 88 ft3Cargo volume: 17 ft3Curb weight (C/D est): 4700–4900 lb
    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST) 60 mph: 4.8 sec100 mph: 9.5–9.8 sec1/4 mile: 13.3–13.4 secTop speed: 143 mph
    EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST) Combined/city/highway: 84/85–86/82–84 MPGeRange: 210–240 miles

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    Tested: 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring

    Mazda’s top-down toy hits 2009 with subtle changes to its face, engine, and suspension, all of which adds up to make our perennial 10Bester even more appealing. Most notable, however, are sharper angles up front that mimic the RX-8, which shares much of its platform with the MX-5 Miata, and the new, wide-mouth Mazda 3. Rocker-panel cladding carries the theme to the rear, where you’ll also find new taillights.

    Mazda MX-5 Miata History, from 1989 to Today

    2007 Mazda MX-5 Power Hardtop Grand Touring

    2019 MX-5 Miata Now Has the Engine It Deserves

    A Willing Partner
    In an effort to reduce pitching and rolling and sharpen steering responses, Mazda revised the Miata’s shock and spring rates. The stability control system has been reprogrammed to be less meddlesome, and the six-speed manual transmission has upgraded carbon-coated synchronizers for smoother shifting.
    Under the hood, the 167-hp (158 with the six-speed automatic transmission), 2.0-liter MZR four-cylinder has a new oil cooler, a new forged steel crank and connecting rods, new pistons with stronger wrist pins, and stouter valve springs. The revised hardware allows Mazda to raise the 2.0’s redline by 500 rpm, to 7200. Changes to the intake ducting return some of the sexier engine sounds of the original Miata.

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    Always Fun
    The little roadster remains one of the most entertaining cars to drive at any price. Light, agile, and always ready for a frolic, the Miata feels much quicker than it looks on paper with its 6.9-second 0-to-60-mph dashes. The higher redline allows you to hold gears longer between corners, and the gearbox now accepts quicker shifts and the suspension tuning supplies even more directional control and less understeer.
    HIGHS: Droptop fun, sprightly handling, eager engine, competent suspension and brakes.LOWS: Pricey with options, not very practical, seems noisy if your other car is a Lexus.
    Indeed, the chassis changes combined with the optional $500 Sport package (Bilstein shocks, limited-slip differential) diminish understeer and give the MX-5 the lift-throttle rotation it lacked before. The 2009 Miata actually breaks away from the back end now—as is proper for a rear-drive car—and despite its relatively low power, we burned up a set of tires effortlessly drifting the MX-5 around a track. The only noticeable drawback to the package is slightly diminished ride quality on the highway. It’s hard to believe, but Mazda made a near-perfect pleasure machine even better.

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    Poise Trumps Power
    Is it worth trading in your old Miata for the 2009? If you like the new face, definitely. Base prices are up about $1100, to $22,420 for the base SV model. The power-retractable hardtop version remains in the lineup, starting at $26,060. Our well-equipped Grand Touring softtop started at $27,020 and finished at $29,170 with the Sport and $1650 Premium packs. The droptop Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky remain its only real competitors. And although we have found much to like about the much heavier and less practical GM cars—especially the power in the turbocharged Solstice GXP/Sky Red Line—we’ve always preferred the Miata and its more rewarding dynamics.

    Specifications

    SPECIFICATIONS
    2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring
    VEHICLE TYPEfront-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible
    PRICE AS TESTED$29,170 (base price: $22,420)
    ENGINE TYPEDOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port fuel injection Displacement 122 in3, 1999 cm3Power167 bhp @ 7000 rpmTorque140 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
    TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
    DIMENSIONSWheelbase: 91.7 inLength: 157.3 inWidth: 67.7 inHeight: 49.0 inCurb weight: 2540 lb
    C/D TEST RESULTSZero to 60 mph: 6.9 secStanding ¼-mile: 15.3 sec @ 91 mphBraking, 70-0 mph: 166 ftRoadholding, 200-ft-dia skidpad: 0.87 g
    FUEL ECONOMY (MFR’S EST):EPA city/highway driving: 21/28 mpg
    c/d testing explained

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    Tested: 2010 Mazda 3 s Grand Touring

    From the April 2009 issue of Car and Driver.
    Change! It was the hottest thing last year, and anyone selling it did good business in a soft market. Sure, the new Mazda 3 has more emotion, more refinement, and a bit more power, but otherwise it’s basically the same thrifty little corner darter as before. Summon the firing squad.
    Hey, you said you want change. Cheat-grass-fueled flying landaulets—that’s change, brother. And while you’re waiting for the real change, watch as Mazda dares you to love nuanced change, change by inches.
    [editoriallinks id=’4dbe4377-6623-47d9-ac4c-26da04b964c2′ align=’left’][/editoriallinks]
    The 3 is Mazda’s lifeline, representing about 42 percent of the brand’s sales. No other model comes close. A snap, unscientific, non-peer-reviewed poll of known automotive writers finds a healthy number (okay, two) owning the old Mazda 3. Yes, our own greenbacks, earned writing car porn. Expressive lines, deft handling, and a price that required just a little stretch sealed at least a couple of sales among the stupendously jaded.
    Change? We wished the old 3 were quieter and had gauges that were more legible. Otherwise, we had no big objections.
    [image id=’a4b89a24-da7b-42b3-8ac9-e9e9e00bbb18′ mediaId=’c45535a5-90e5-480c-a80f-2172a8423c37′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]
    Both the new sedan and wagon were to be sent to dealers in late March, with some increase to the base and option-pack prices for the standard 148-hp 2.0-liter and the upscale 167-hp 2.5. Entry should be in the mid-15s, with the extra-deluxe Grand Touring with the 2.5 like the one shown here starting at about $23,000. The GT comes with such delights as leather, rain-sensing wipers, 17-inch wheels, and swiveling xenon headlamps.
    HIGHS: Loves to romp, upscale trim, gee-whiz mini nav, manual has six speeds.
    Load it up as we have here with the Moonroof & Bose package and the Technology package of navigation, alarm, satellite radio, and pushbutton start, and you basically have a mini Mazda 6 for about $26,000.
    Oh, where art thou, change? Right up front, with the new wide-mouth-bass look. With its jaunty cheek ducts and teardrop eyes, this is basically the RX-8’s face projected in IMAX. We expect this sort of cartooning from France, where 1950s funnyman Fernandel and his gaping maw inspired the current generation of Peugeots. Indeed, Mazda’s chief designer, Laurens van den Acker, hails from Holland, which is practically indistinguishable from France on old Axis maps.
    [image id=’4e98496f-c88a-474b-889a-6ceac980938c’ mediaId=’41f412fa-3064-4ee0-9d93-a13158277e0b’ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]
    The former 3’s pleasing proportions are retained, down to the curt overhangs, chop-tail trunk, and tight-fitting wheels (designers call the unsightly empty space between tire and fender the “dead-cat zone”). But the slab sides are transformed, the new body churning with expansive front fenders and a steeply raked swage line spearing the door handles, plus a minuscule dead-cat zone. Silver-chrome pupils punctuate the red daggers of the taillights, which evoke Cat Woman more than Fernandel’s Don Camillo.
    LOWS: Cabin noise, stiffer ride, snug back seat, options prick up the price.
    Sculpted, skinned, and trimmed with more bravura, the 3’s new dash envelops the driver more thoroughly, the center console sloped and shaped to bulge its radio and climate-control knobs closer to you. Turn the radio’s volume knob, and the surrounding blue-toned light strips blip in response, jukebox style. Other mood lights tinge the center console and footwells with blue light. Everything looks and feels more expensive than it is.
    The gauges are simple: fuel and odo in the center, with twin tubes housing the tach and speedo. A digital readout, colored red, reports climate settings, radio status, and the outside temperature, and when equipped with navigation, a small, three-by-five-inch color screen peers like a clerestory over the upper dash, just inches below the forward sightlines.
    [image id=’80559459-0f37-495c-8f0e-8781f85487ae’ mediaId=’ff49b3f1-264e-4d01-8351-ed935efb32e5′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]
    The five buttons and single joystick controlling the nav cluster on the 3 o’clock steering-wheel spoke are an inspired piece of design efficiency. Compared with using a touch screen, entering addresses takes a few extra seconds of joystick thumbing as you scroll the alphabet, but the controls become friendly after only minutes and are intuitively operated while driving, if necessary. Plus, the scheme doesn’t require major dash reorganization if a nav system isn’t optioned.
    Cavils are few. The red-and-blue gauges are sufficiently legible in the day, but the illumination lacks enough adjustment and was either blazing or too dark at night. It was a chin dribble in the previous car that somehow didn’t get fixed. Also, the slot for the SD (secure digital) card containing the map software is behind a highly visible door next to the nav screen, a blot on the otherwise seamlessly executed dash.
    [image id=’364a1cc3-c17b-402e-9d28-5d8e0e0c7306′ mediaId=’cf443f29-7a9c-4d1b-8f0b-7085cb263ea6′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]
    Utility definitely rates with buyers in this segment. Dimensionally, the passenger capsule is almost unchanged, putting it midpack, and the trunk, accessed through a lid that pivots up and forward on multi¬link hinges, stays the same at 12 cubic feet. The rear bench is snug and presses knees into the front seatbacks, as before, and the bench splits 70/30 and flops almost flat with a push of the seatback buttons. A center armrest with cup holders eases those long back-seat journeys you’ll never want to take.
    The twin pipes out back are one way to distinguish the 2.5-liter model (the 2.0-liter has a single exhaust). The same port-injected, twin-cam 16-valve cast-aluminum engine as in the base Mazda 6 gains 0.2 liter and produces 167 horsepower, up 11. The old 3 was the scoot boy of its class; the new 3, surprisingly, not as much. We hit 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, 0.4 second slower than in our last Mazda 3 test [December 2006]. Here’s the thing: That car was 149 pounds lighter, and its five-speed manual delivered 60 mph with just a single upshift. Tighter ratio spacing in the new six-speed box means the stick moves twice en route to the all-important 60-mph benchmark. That always costs a few eye blinks.
    [image id=’21b9300d-f6b4-4b49-ba18-75fd0ba9cb89′ mediaId=’5aa781d5-e6ce-475d-82c0-a52d96608fc4′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]
    Still, the 3 is now in a dead heat with the Honda Civic, and both are still on the fleet end of the compact-sedan herd. With plenty of torque in the midrange, the 3 can sprint like a wide receiver through traffic. The extra gearbox ratio helps hold the line on fuel economy, though the city rating drops 1 mpg to 21. We saw 26 mpg overall, also down one from our last test car and its smaller engine.
    We expect steering that draws a bead and an athletic suspension from the Zoom-Zoom crew, especially since only detail changes have been made over the previous car. Sure, the 3 suffers a less yielding ride around town, with a certain resonant hollowness to the ka-blunk! the Yokohamas make over pavement seams. Though Mazda has cut into the cabin noise, the freeway roar is still louder than the 3’s competitors. If you want creamy, buy a Corolla.
    The 3 pays off around on-ramps, when beating a yellow light through a right turn, and wherever else it can be run hard and squeal-free at a corner. The front grabs with 10 fingers, the back end pushes and tucks, pushes and tucks as you gas it. We throttle-steered it around the skidpad for a 0.85-g performance, equal to the previous car’s and above average for the class.
    [image id=’e3a361f8-2916-4b07-b9cf-f1343d8395e3′ mediaId=’dfd9ef29-3eac-4ca2-b44c-09585c3276e4′ align=’center’ size=’medium’ share=’false’ caption=” expand=” crop=’original’][/image]
    Except for a slightly heavy clutch, the controls do their business with a satisfying rightness to their feel. Even the shifter, lanky and loose in the previous 3, gets some tightening, though it occasionally stumbled on the path from fifth to sixth gear. The braking from 70 mph played out over a middling 176 feet, with a pedal that feels firm and trustworthy. Everything about the 3 feels solid and wellmade, especially for its price.
    Folks with a BMW hankering and a Toyota budget are the ideal candidates for this chair. Go easy on the options, and you’re almost stealing it. The 3 still brooms away misgivings about front drive. This is change we can live with.
    THE VERDICT: It definitely has the chops.
    Counterpoint
    The Mazda 3 continues to inch closer to becoming a German car, but the powers that be at Mazda don’t seem to be willing to let go of the Japanese styling. I for one wish they would. The faux futurism that pervades the interior design would make Sulu and Uhura feel right at home behind the wheel. Outside, the smiling-carp face is as off-putting as facing rotten soybeans at breakfast. I love the way the 3 drives, so I gave the looks some time to sink in. All I can say is at least the ugly is only skin deep. —Tony Quiroga
    Mazda really stepped it up here. The 2.5-liter engine mated to a slick-shifting six-speed gives you lively acceleration. Add the 3’s taut handling and precise steering with good feedback, and you have a recipe that’s like lovin’ from the oven. I like the interior, with a fit and finish that’s much improved. A sure thing for those who can’t afford a BMW 3-series. —Morgan Segal
    [vehicle type=’specpanel’ vehicle-body-style=” vehicle-make=” vehicle-model=” vehicle-model-category=” vehicle-submodel=” vehicle-year=”][/vehicle]
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