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2010 Mazda 3: Time Tested Excellence

Introduced in 2004, the Mazda 3 has developed a reputation for being a fun to drive, economical, and an outside of the mainstream vehicle. The goal for the 2010 model year is to achieve a vehicle that will bring new consumers to buy a Mazda while maintaining the tried and true value of the current offering. 

Styling-wise, Mazda gave the new 3 the same RX-8-inspired nose job they've applied to other models, though it doesn't work as well for the 3 as it did for the Mazda 6 and CX-7: The big, pouty grille looks like a fat lip, and the strong fender arches don't match up with the rest of the car and it looks like someone took a Mazda 3 and bolted on the fenders from an old Ford Focus.


The bulk of the improvements are found inside of this all new Mazda. All new for 2010, the cabin is fantastic with a beautiful design and build with nicer materials than the 2009 model. Inside it's the creature comforts that set the Mazda 3 apart.

With 5 versions there is plenty to love for the 2010 Mazda 3. The top-of-the-line Grand Touring is lavishly equipped with heated leather seats, power driver's seat with memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, and headlights that turn with the steering wheel. A navigation system, Bose stereo and keyless push-button ignition are optional. But even the Special Value model isn't too shabby, with power windows and mirrors and a CD player as standard.

All versions come with six airbags and antilock brakes, and all but the i Special Value and i Sport get electronic stability control. With a height adjustable driver's seat and a tilt and telescope steering column visibility is excellent with plenty of room up front. In back it is comfortable but a bit tight compared to the competition. Mazda hasn't announced the trunk space as of yet, but we suspect it will be similar to the old car. If trunk space is what you are looking for, then the Mazda 3 hatchback version should offer plenty of cargo space.

On the Road: More of the same

Above all else, this car is fun to drive. Mazda's strong suit has definitely been the fun factor and the new Mazda 3 is no exception. The 3i comes with the smaller of the Mazda 3's two engines, a 148 horsepower two-liter that produces a great deal of thrust and acceleration. On the twisty back-roads the 3 really comes alive with tight and responsive handling which is much improved from the old 3. Test drivers report an overall fantastic time behind the wheel. EPA fuel economy estimates for the 3i are 25 MPG city and 33 MPG highway for the 5-speed manual and 24/33 for the five-speed automatic which is certainly improved over last year's offering.

"S" models are powered by a 167 horsepower 2.5 liter engine. This is a huge upgrade for a car of this size. This engine comes directly from the mid-sized Mazda 6. The test car had a 6-speed manual, and while testers enjoyed the extra urge of the bigger engine, they reported the ride was a little less comfortable and quiet than the 3i which is probably due to the model's larger (17') wheels and lower profile tires. EPA fuel economy estimates for the S are 21 MPG city/29 MPG highway for the manual, 22/29 for the automatic; pretty crummy for a car this small.

Pricing starts just under $16k, similar to the Honda Civic. A Mazda 3 with all the trimmings will top $25k, more than most compacts,  but then again, the Mazda 3 offers more features than most of its rivals.

A Lot to Love

The new Mazda 3 has a lot to love about it. The interior is brilliant, and it's available with creature comforts that just a few years ago would only be found on luxury cars. The Honda Civic EX-L and Toyota Corolla XLE offer leather and navigation, but not active headlights or a power driver's seat with memory. Mazda hasn't changed the 3's basic character with few affordable cars being able to match the Mazda 3's fun factor, although the Mitsubishi Lancer GTS certainly tries.

Applause goes to Mazda for offering electronic stability control (ESC) on most of the lineup, it should at least be optional on the entry-level 3i SV and 3i Sport. As the least-expensive Mazda 3 model, it's logical to assume that the 3i is likely to be purchased by the youngest and least-experienced drivers -- the ones who need ESC the most. Toyota offers ESC as a $250 option on the cheapest Corolla; Mazda should do the same.

Overall, the new 3 is a very promising car, one that will most likely achieve Mazda's goal of pleasing existing 3 owners while bringing new buyers into the Mazda family. The Mazda 3 is incredibly fun to drive with a beautifully redesigned interior with lots of comfortable additions. The consumer looking for an upscale small car who wants something that offers a sportier driving experience than the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla is the type of person who will love this car. Expect the 2010 Mazda 3 to be a hit both north and south of the border.

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