I remember the first time I ever saw one of these cars. I was in Israel for the first time, sitting in the back of the bus (we were always travelling by bus, usually a couple hours a day) just starting to pull out of a rest stop in the middle of the desert somewhere. In the back of the parking lot I spotted a brand new VW Passat (the last-generation model), another new sedan I can’t remember and a Mazda3.
I was sure I was looking at a car magazine comparison test in the making, and as someone who was just starting his obsession with cars, I was just absolutely entranced. The cars were so new, new enough to be exciting. They were handsome, too, the Mazda especially.
The newness has completely worn off, but these Mazda3s remain one of the best executed sedan designs of the past decade or two – pretty much since cars started to lose big front bumpers.
This 3 in particular was just gorgeous – flawless red paint over dark black steelies on a bright, grey day. It has a big 2.3 liter four-cylinder and a five-speed manual. They say that these cars are the most entertaining cars in their class.
I would love it more were I not so sure that its position as the best looking, best driving car of its type is just damning with faint praise. I remember very well reading Automobiliac‘s description of the mindset that brought him to buy his Alfa Romeo GTV6 on MotoringConBrio:
I had been living in New York City for close to six years without a car before I finally snapped. At first, the convenience of riding the subway and the trains was a novelty, and I enjoyed not being encumbered by parking and traffic. But as a car fanatic of the first order, I finally realized that I had to have a toy. Renting a Zipcar Mazda3 for the day just wasn’t cutting it.
So I don’t really dream of the Mazda3 as a fantasy car, but I still love it as a car that easily could have been dull and meaningless to drive, but instead chose to be more beautiful and more exciting than necessary. Still, to be extraordinary in a class of cars that all but demands blandness is one of the most noble things an automobile can be, in my book.