When 3 is More than Half of 6
by Joe LaMuraglia
The Mazda3 is a very important car for Mazda globally. So when it came time to design the 2010 Mazda3, the question came to “evolution or revolution?”. Thankfully it was “evolution” that won out at Mazda and the new Mazda3 promises to continue as a sales success for Mazda with an all-new vehicle that builds on the previous car’s popularity. The question is; “Is the Madza3 only half as good as the excellent Mazda6?”
I spent a day driving the 2010 Mazda3 sedan on the roads of Southern California and underway, the car really impresses. Both available engines are smooth and quiet and combined with the athletic suspension, deliver the promise of “zoom, zoom” every time you get behind the wheel. In fact, it may be too quiet for those of you that like auditory feedback. There were times we hit the red line under spirited driving because we couldn’t hear what the engine was doing. If you fall into that group, the upcoming Mazdaspeed3 promises to satisfy those urges.
Available in either a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback, the 2010 Mazda3 features front-wheel drive and a choice of two engines. We drove the 2010 sedan that gave us the first look at the updated exterior and interior styling with a prominent new 5-point grill that is the new “global face” of Mazda. The upcoming 5-door will feature the same styling up front but the entire package hasn’t been revealed yet. Can you say anticipation? Both body styles are available with luxury features never seen before in a compact car.
The Mazda3 is comes in two trim levels; the entry-level “i” and the sportier “s” trim. The base car is equipped with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. The sportier “s” model comes with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 167 horsepower. The larger engine gets a six-speed manual transmission as standard and the same optional five-speed automatic as the base car.
People are thronging to compact cars for the promise of better fuel economy. The 2010 Mazda3 fulfills that promise when equipped with the 2.0-liter engine. It is rated at 25/33 city/hwy with the manual transmission and 24/33 with the automatic. While not class-leading, it is competitive for the segment. The additional 19 horsepower from the larger 2.5-liter engine adds to the fun-to-drive quotient but you pay for it in fuel economy. The 2010 Mazda3 “s” is rated at 21/29 city/hwy with the 6-speed manual and 22/29 with the automatic.
The interior of the 2010 Mazda3 has been redesigned with a focus on the driver. Controls are placed optimally for the pilot to interact with easily and the Multi-Information display and optional navigation are place high on the console to minimize distraction. The optional Satellite radio interface has been vastly improved over the last vehicle but it still isn’t as easy to use as some competitors. The driver-oriented controls are welcomed when you are behind the wheel but their positioning takes some power away from the front passenger. For example, the controls for the optional navigation are on the steering wheel only and scrolling through the iPod interface is much easier using the wheel-mounted controls.
The materials used in the interior are high-quality and even in the pre-production models we drove would be at home in vehicles costing considerably more. Ingress and egress are good and with fold-down rear seats, the trunk capacity in the sedan grows considerably. The lift-over height is high though and the opening to the trunk is a bit narrow. For those of you doing a lot of hauling, the 5-door will be better suited to your needs.
The original Mazda3 changed the compact car segment by offering a great looking, affordable car with features that you couldn’t find in other compact vehicles. The 2010 Mazda3 didn’t fall from the assembly line as it continues the trend with first-in-class bi-xenon adaptive lighting standard on the Grand Touring model. Cars with power seats also add a three-position memory function – another first for the segment, and not offered at any price on any competitors’ compact car.
Other available features include a Bose 10-speaker premium surround sound system, Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones and portable media players, a dock for iPods, and Sirius satellite radio. An advanced keyless entry system includes push-button engine starting. The MAZDA3 options list also includes rain-sensing wipers, sunroof, heated side mirrors, leather upholstery, and heated seats.
Pricing has not been announced for the 2010 Mazda3.
Bottom line: Don’t let the low number fool you, this 3 is much more than half of 6.
Expressive exterior style
Quality of interior
Smooth, quiet engines
Luxury features in an economy car
Some options only available with larger engine
Navigation screen is small with driver-only controls
Only average fuel economy with the bigger engine
Mazda is a gay-friendly company.
Read other Mazda reviews by Gaywheels.com’s writers