2012 Mazda Mazda3


Review: 2010 Mazda Mazda3

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2013.
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.4

Bottom Line:

The all-new 2010 Mazda3’s potent handling prowess, sleek silhouette and punchy performance make it the standout player in the competitive compact-car segment.
  • Savvy gazelle-like agility, smooth ride
  • Cost-effective option packages
  • Offered as hatch; competitors aren’t
  • Nav screen too small, too far away
  • Poor rear-seat legroom, ingress and egress
  • Base audio system sounds better on paper

Mazda has always infused its vehicles with a passion for driving. Its “Zoom-Zoom” commercials are more mission statement than marketing slogan. The Mazda3 is the automaker’s best-selling vehicle, tallying 33 percent of the company’s sales worldwide and a whopping 44 percent in North America.

With a true winner already on the road, designers followed an “evolution not revolution” theme when designing the 2010 Mazda3. Messing up the company’s superstar would have been career suicide.

The all-new 2010 Mazda3 is fashionable, frugal and fun to drive. Highlights include revised exterior styling, improved fuel economy and power, a more modern interior design and new luxury-oriented features. The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Chevy Cobalt and Ford Focus all had better look out, because the all-new 2010 Mazda3 is now a standout player in the competitive compact-car segment.

Model Lineup
Although the Mazda3 looks as if its designers were overly inspired by Lightning McQueen, the cheeky red-colored lead from the movie “Cars,” the company assures us that the car is more than just a happy face. (The prominent new five-point grille that’s part of automaker’s new “Global Face” makes the sport coupe appear to be smiling from ear to ear). In fact, the engineers claim every element of the car’s new design has a purpose. For instance, the new grille visually ties in with the rest of Mazda’s vehicle lineup while providing more efficient flow of air into the engine and around the car.”

The Mazda3 is offered in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback configurations, both with front-wheel drive and a choice of two engines.

The entry-level, commuter-oriented “i” is available only as a sedan, and is offered in SV, Sport and Touring trim levels. The SV can be had for a scant $15,045, and comes with a 60/40 split-folding rear seatback, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilting and telescoping steering column, power windows and mirrors, and a 4-speaker stereo with a CD player. The Sport adds air-conditioning and an automatic transmission, and the Touring trim adds remote keyless entry, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio capability and a 6-speaker stereo. Sport and Touring versions top out at $18,350.

The “s” side of the line comes in Sport and Grand Touring trims, which can be ordered in sedan or hatchback form. The 3s Sport builds on the 3i Touring model, but ups the ante with a bigger engine, different front and rear fascias, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, dual exhaust, a rear lip spoiler, more aggressively bolstered front seats, upgraded upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a trip computer and electroluminescent gauges. The 3s Grand Touring adds automatic bi-xenon headlights with auto-leveling and corner swivel illumination, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery and an 8-way power driver seat with driver memory functions.

A 3s Sport sedan starts at $18,740; a hatch version checks in at $19,230. The s model lineup reaches its zenith with the Grand Touring model at $22,300 for either body style.

Mazda offers a number of useful, reasonably priced individual options and two substantive option packages. The 2MC package includes a moonroof and 6-CD, 10-speaker Bose audio system. It goes for $1,395 and is available on i Touring and all s trims. A technology package featuring a color center display, navigation, Sirius radio, keyless entry, push-button start and perimeter alarm costs $1,195. This package requires the 2MC package and can be had only on s trims.

Under the Hood
The more value-conscious i trims are powered by a 2.0-liter version of Mazda’s trusty MZR 4-cylinder powerplant, which is rated to produce 148 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque. The all-aluminum engine features chain-driven cams, variable-valve-timing technology and impressive EPA fuel-efficiency numbers: 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway.

Opting for the larger 2.5-liter MZR, which Mazda borrowed from the Mazda6, bumps power production to 167 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque. Attention to detail in the form of coated lightweight pistons, sintered rods, variable-intake valve timing and a 4-into-1 exhaust manifold ensure long, happy revving up to the engine’s 6200-rpm redline. Mileage checks in at 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway.

Transmission choices vary between the trims. The i versions come with a 5-speed manual, while a 6-speed manual is standard fare in s trims. Either platform can be ordered with a 5-speed automatic.

Inner Space
The Mazda3’s interior is quiet and functional, featuring great seats and convenient controls. The center dash is a standard speedometer and tachometer setup featuring electroluminescent readouts. A Multi-Information Display (MID) is mounted higher up in the dash closer to the windshield. In this “heads-up” location, the MID provides MP3 info, maintenance, fuel economy and other trip info. The 4.1-inch LCD screen also serves as the navigation display in cars outfitted with the technology package. The screen, which is smaller than a portable Garmin display, is placed too far away from the driver position and is subject to glare. Therefore, it is difficult to operate and read. Also, the street name info would be somewhat easier to decipher if it were shown at the top of the unit instead of the bottom. An LED display next to the MID shows audio and ventilation info.

Luckily, the technology package includes a Bose Centerpoint audio system that brilliantly outshines the disappointing lackluster standard offering. The Centerpoint is a 5-channel surround-sound system that includes digital amplifier, noise cancellation technology and 10 premium speakers.

On the Road
You can expect a satisfying driving experience in any of the new Mazda3 versions. But out of all the possible combinations, we found the s Sport to be the best bang for the buck. With no options, the 5-door hatch we flogged had a bottom line of $19,230, which is in line with its competition, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla — competitors that don’t stack up very well with the Mazda3 and its Zoom-Zoom driving dynamics.

Surprising, smart and serendipitous are few good adjectives that come to mind when pushing the Mazda3’s envelope on the open road. The car is impeccably responsive and is able to transition from turn to turn with catlike quickness and sure-footed efficiency. We were impressed how easy the car was set into a corner and how it tracked through the corner. The driving experience is further enhanced by the Mazda3’s butter smooth 6-speed gearbox, which keeps the engine in its sweet spot when desired and in high-mileage cruise mode once the fun stops. It was easy to forget this is an entry-level compact commuter, not an up-level performance coupe.

Like any leading man, the Mazda3 knows how to leave the audience wanting more. In this case, more power. Perhaps a curse of handling so well, the 2.5-liter engine isn’t slow by any means — it simply doesn’t have that kick-in-the-pants acceleration needed to meet the “dare” laid down by the suspension.

Right for You?
The Mazda3 is spirited and comfortable, and with its hatchback body style offers a high level of utility not found elsewhere in the segment. The line runs from budget-minded basic transportation to a luxury-endowed driver’s dream in the s GT. The two option packages ensure that the 2010 Mazda3 is ready and willing to fit the bill of any driver.

Evan Griffey served as an editor of Turbo & High Tech Performance, a pioneering publication about sport-compacttuning. Today Griffey freelances for Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Car Audio and Siphon.


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BB06 - 9/16/2014 11:12:25 AM