First Drive Review: 2010 Mazda3
This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2013.
By Tony Quiroga of Car and Driver
Mazda gave itself a tough act to follow. The original Mazda3 that launched in 2004 was an exceptional small car that delivered good fuel economy without sacrificing driving dynamics. That first-generation 3 didn't skimp on refinement or interior quality, either. Rich plastics, unique design, and a luxurious array of optional equipment made the 3 a luxury sport sedan in a class full of mundane transportation devices. Now with the launch of the next-generation 3, would Mazda keep these attributes for its replacement?
Interior styling has also been modernized, but the curvaceous new dashboard doesn't go so far as to stray into the realm of the Honda Civic's spaceship console. Two large round gauges housing the tachometer and the speedometer remain in front of the driver, with radio and trip computer readouts moving to the top of the dashboard. In models equipped with navigation, a small color screen is nestled into the space formerly occupied by the trip computer. Several Chiclets-size buttons that control vehicle settings, the trip computer, the stereo, and the navigation system are confusingly arrayed on the steering-wheel spokes and take some time to learn.
Under the Skin and Behind the Wheel
Connecting the new sheetmetal to the road is the 3's familiar strut front and multilink rear suspension that has been slightly retuned. Aside from the recalibrated springs and dampers, the chassis is largely unchanged. From behind the wheel, the base 3 i models feel softer and have more body roll than the firmer 3 s model. The steering feel on both remains light, but the light effort gives the 3 a feathery, deft feel. Harshness and road impacts are effectively filtered out by the chassis and structure before reaching the driver. Although suspension noise is distant and unobtrusive, excessive tire and road noise, as in the previous generation, continue to enter the 3's cabin. Aside from the drone of road noise, the 3 rolls down the road with a refinement and solidity that escape most of the cars in the compact class.
Moving up to the sportier 3 s trim level yields a 2.5-liter four-cylinder shared with the larger Mazda 6 that brings 19 more horsepower and 33 additional lb-ft of torque. The larger engine comes with a six-speed manual; a five-speed automatic is optional. Equipped with the six-speed, the 2.5-liter achieves EPA fuel economy numbers of 21 mpg city and 29 highway; automatic versions get 22 mpg in the city and also 29 on the highway. While those aren't stellar numbers for a car in this class, the additional torque of the 2.5-liter is immediately noticeable and the 3 s certainly feels quicker than the base car, although the 2.5-liter is louder and more coarse than the base engine. The 2010 Mazda3 five-door will only be available in the s trim level, like the outgoing model. Those with an addiction to speed would be wise to wait for the Mazdaspeed 3, which should be arriving within a year. Like the outgoing Mazdaspeed 3, the new one will be front-wheel-drive, turbocharged, and available only as a five-door.
Those seeking luxury will have to opt for the 3 s, which offers a number of luxury-car features including active bixenon headlights, keyless ignition, and an eight-way power seat with memory settings.
Both four-door sedan and five-door hatchback version of the 2010 Mazda3 will go on sale in March of 2009. Pricing has not yet been announced, but the new car is expected to continue to occupy the $15,000 to $23,000 price range.