Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mazda3 Still Makes Great Sense

The 2010 version of Mazda's hugely popular Mazda3 sedan seems to smile at its front end, which is fitting, because you're sure to smile if you drive this machine.

There are two four-cylinder engines to select from, and the fun, darting driving qualities that the car has been known for over the years are still present.

In addition to the sedan, the Mazda3 still is available as a five-door hatchback.

Both have front-wheel drive.

The latest version has a new five-point grille that Mazda calls its new “global face.”

The look is handsome, upscale and has a sportscar wedge to its profile and the smile in front. Inside, the cockpit has gotten more sophisticated and plush, with refined shapes and expansive pieces of black and toned plastic.

The entry-level Mazda3 “i” is equipped with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. The sportier “s” model comes with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that the Mazda6 has and that pumps out 167 horsepower. The larger engine gets a six-speed manual transmission as standard and the same optional five-speed automatic as the base car. The base engine does a competent job of producing commute-worthy power, and with the five-speed automatic, it's reasonably swift for lane changes and highway passes.

The 2.5-liter four picks up nicely in most gears and feels very refined. Both trannies are good, but the automatic's manual shift mode really lets the car fulfill its intended purpose.

Fuel economy rates from 25/33 mpg for the smaller engine with the manual gearbox, to 22/29 mpg for the larger engine with the automatic-- very impressive.
The Mazda3's athletic suspension delivers the promise of “zoom zoom” from behind the wheel. The engineers seem to have made the new car more resilient.
Mazda calls the 3 a five-passenger car, but in reality, it is more comfortable with only four onboard.

Ingress and egress are good, and with fold-down rear seats, the trunk capacity grows considerably. The lift-over height is high, though, and the opening to the trunk is a bit narrow. Interior headroom is a major issue for tall backseat passengers--and if you order the sunroof, drivers will need to ratchet the front seat down to avoid bumping the Mazda3's headline.
The Mazda3's crisp, responsive handling and standard anti-lock brakes go a long way toward avoiding a crash.

Six standard airbags, active head restraints, and carefully engineered crush zones help you survive an accident when the handling can't help you avoid it.

Optional dynamic stability control and traction control are standard on higher-end models of the Mazda3 but not offered on base versions.
The original Mazda3 sets itself apart from its competitors in many ways, one being the availability of features that you can’t find in other compacts.

The 2010 Mazda3 continues this trend with first-in-class bi-xenon adaptive lighting standard on the Grand Touring model.

A three-position memory function has been added to cars equipped with power seats—another first for the segment and not offered on any competitor's compact car.

A navigation system is available.

Other available features include a Bose 10-speaker premium surround sound system, Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones and portable media players, a dock for iPods, and Sirius Satellite Radio.

An advanced keyless entry system includes push-button engine starting. The Mazda3 options list also includes rain-sensing wipers, a sunroof, leather upholstery, and heated seats and side mirrors.

Our tester, which had manual transmission, had a very reasonable sticker price of $18,965.

The Mazda3 is a great buy for those seeking a bit of luxury and driving enjoyment, and a not too expensive price.

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