Automatic Review: If there's one word to sum up the new 2010
Mazda3, it's refinement. This new generation of Mazda's compact car is
still sporty, tossable, light feeling, just everything you'd expect from
the Zoom Zoom brand, but there's something more sophisticated about the
latest rendition that's hard to pin down. Is it the slimmer styling,
the softer ride, the upscale cabin? Perhaps it's all of those things.
Mazda started with a
great platform when redesigning the 3, one that was already among the
best of its breed in small, affordable, sporty sedans. While last year's
3 was fun to drive, it was also criticized for having a ride that was
too harsh and noisy.
In response Mazda took
a rasp to the 3's hard edges, resulting in a car that feels smoother all
around. It still has the BMW-like precision, the sublime steering and
the pavement stickiness of its predecessor, but it's also a more
Inside you'll find a
better cabin than you'd expect in a car that starts around $16,000. It's
reminiscent of an Acura in some ways, offering nice materials and
construction but not going over the top in opulence.
Mazda took an
interesting approach with the 3's optional navigation screen too, one
that some buyers will hate. Personally, I love it. Instead of putting a
big LCD screen on the center console close to the driver's knees like in
many cars, the new 3 has a small LCD right below the windshield. Its
small size means it won't be very noticeable as a high-tech status
symbol, but it actually works better up there than most nav systems do
with their bigger screens.
That's for a simple
reason: The driver's eyes don't have to leave the road as long. I've
driven a few vehicles, usually SUVs that have the nav screen mounted so
low that it's dangerous to look down and see the map. You might as well
go digging around on the floorboard. But when a little nav screen is
right up by the windshield, it's always in your peripheral vision. It
just makes sense.
Even better, the nav
controls are mounted right on the steering wheel. You don't have to
reach down to operate it. You just press a button by your thumb, itís as
easy as that.
Styling-wise, the new 3
continues Mazda's happy-face theme. Its huge grille openings look
downright giddy, while wide wheel arches and a sleek roofline make its
sporty intentions obvious.
Speaking of sporty, you
can pick from two different four-cylinder engines: a 2.0-liter version
that makes 148 horsepower, or a 2.5-liter model that pumps out 167. As
neither are particularly exciting, the point of this car is handling
prowess more than straight-line acceleration, but the bigger engine
definitely feels more refined, fitting in with the car's sport/luxury
On the downside, that
bigger engine is only rated for 22 mpg in town. Some compact cars do a
lot better. Overall, though, the new 3 makeís a compelling case for why
smaller cars can be better. It's fun. It's practical. It's stylish. And
it's also refined enough that you never feel like you're driving a cheap
What was tested?
The 2010 Mazda3s Sport Automatic model with a base price of $19,540.
Options on the test car were: a Moon roof for $1,395 and the technology
package for $1,195. The total MSRP price as tested including the $750
destination charge is $22,880.
Why avoid it?
With the bigger engine, it's not as efficient as some of its
competitors, and many people won't like the tiny navigation screen.
Why buy it? It
has excellent driving dynamics with a more refined ride than many cars
that try to be "sporty." It grips the road well, has two good engine
choices and a nicer cabin than most cars in its class.
The Bottom Line:
With a wide, happy-looking grille opening, wide wheel arches and sloping
roofline, the Mazda3's new body reflects its sporty personality. Nice
soft-touch materials and solid construction are better than in most
compact cars, especially those with the Mazda's base price around
By Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San
Review provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Mazda Home Page
Column Name: Sporty
Mazda3 moves upmarket
Topic: The 2010 Mazda3s
Word Count: 752
Photo Caption: The
2010 Mazda3s Sport Automatic
Photo Credits: Mazda3
Sport Internet Media
Series #: 2009 - 60
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