Sunday, March 15, 2009

Automobile Review: 2010 Mazda3

This weekend, Alison and I test-drove a 2010 Mazda3 5-door.  Below is my review of the car.


The compact Mazda3 is Mazda's best-selling model (or pair of models).  The 3 has been redeisgned for the 2010 model year, and 2010 cars started arriving at local dealerships this month.  It's available as a 4-door sedan as the Mazda3 i, with a 2.0-l I4 engine (148 BHP and 135 lb-ft) or the Mazda3 s with a 2.5-l I4 (167 BHP and 168 lb-ft).  The 5-door hatchback only comes in s trim, with the bigger engine.  The sedan's MSRP starts at $15,715,* while the hatch's begins at 19,230.*  The car we tested was the lowest trim level, which is Sport in the hatchback.

What I Liked
  • Passenger and luggage space.  The 3 is a compact, about the size of the Toyota Matrix, and a size larger than the Honda Fit.  It's a good size, at least for our planned needs.  There's room in the second row for 3 people, though 2 would be more comfortable.  The rear storage area is quite large, and when the 60/40-split rear seats are folded down the storage space is huge.
  • Handling.  I didn't push the car too hard, but it felt pretty agile for its size.  The 3 is many steps short of the RX-8 and the Miata in terms of handling, but, for a 5-door wagon, it felt reasonably chuckable.  I think the 3's independent rear suspension, which distinguishes it from its competitors, which have torsion-beam rear suspension, might contribute to that feeling.
  • Power.  This car has a little more power and little more weight than my Mazdaspeed Miata, but it moved out pretty smartly, for a car in it's class.
  • Exterior styling.  I'm not fond of the big smiling grill that Mazda's begun putting on all of its vehicles, even the 2009 RX-8 and 2009 Miata.  Other than that, the outside of the car is very attractive.  The rear three-quarter view is the car's best angle.  (Incidentally, the same is true of the 4-door.)
  • Interior styling.  The interior of the 3 is very contemporary.  I find it quite attractive.  The silver accents are particularly attractive.
  • Instrumentation and electronic features.  The 3 only has 2 dedicated, analog gauges:  a speedometer and a tachnometer.  Each gauge is housed in its own little hood, and each is large, easy to read, and attractively colored.  There is an digital fuel gauge below and between the tach and speedo.  It might be somewhat reconfiguragle;  I'm uncertain about that.  There're also a pair of mutlitfunction displays located to the passenger side and forward of the main instrument cluster.  We did not explore the full functionality of the displays in or test drive, so I can't comment on everything they can do, but they did seem quite useful.  The steering wheel is festooned with controls, controls  for the bluetooth link, the radio, the cruise control, and more.  I wouldn't want or need the multifunction displays or the steering-wheel-mounted controls on a sports car, but on a family car, they'd be quite useful.  Oh, there's also a DC outlet and an auxiliary input for the radio in the center console; a perfect place to put your MP3 player.

What I Disliked
  • Exterior styling.  As I said, the huge grin on the front mars and otherwise very attractive vehicle.  I keep expecting the 3 to ask me "Why so serious?" flutter its tongue at me.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I give the 2010 Mazda3 5-door a 8.0 out of 10.  It offers lots of room, power, style, and features for a fairly modest price.

* Plus a $670 destination charge.

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