The 2010 Mazda 3 is a premium car in a compact package. The Mazda 3 is available as a four-door sedan or four-door hatchback, and offers comfort and luxury features we're not used to seeing in a small car.
The Mazda 3 has been reengineered for the 2010 model year. It gets new styling inside and out, a larger, more powerful engine, new transmissions, and even more luxury and technology amenities than the generous helping it offered before. It hasn't been completely redesigned, however. It keeps the same basic architecture, with some upgrades. Introduced for the 2004 model year, Mazda calls the 2010 Mazda 3 an evolution, not a revolution of the previous model. Built on a Volvo platform, the previous Mazda3 was a sales and critical success for Mazda. With that in mind, Mazda hasn't radically changed anything on its sales leader. Instead, the company set out to make incremental improvements.
Inside, the Mazda3 adds Bluetooth cell phone connectivity, a Bose Centerpoint surround system, and an available Multi-Information Display that adds a second level of information. The interior is first-class interior with lots of other available amenities. Higher line models get a Multi-Information Display below the windshield that houses readouts for the vehicle information center, climate system, radio presets, and even the available navigation system. A unique cluster of buttons on the steering wheel controls these functions. The readouts are easy to see and the steering wheel controls work intuitively. It's a pretty trick setup. The other controls are mounted high on the dash's center stack, and are also easy to see and use.
The Mazda3 is practical, with useful small items storage up front, as well as plenty of room for the front passengers. The back seat will fit two adults fairly comfortably, provided the front occupants aren't too tall. In both the sedan and hatchback, the rear seats fold 60/40 to create a mostly flat load floor. Flip the back seats down in the hatchback and you'll have lots of cargo room. With its sportier character, better looks, and more useful interior space, the hatch is our choice between the two body styles.
The 2010 Mazda 3 benefits from several architectural enhancements designed to make the structure stiffer. The result is a sporty car that feels firm and composed on the road, with moderate lean in turns. The steering is sharp and precise, and the brakes provide a linear pedal feel. The suspension deals well with most bumps, though large ruts can pound through with the available 17-inch wheels.
Three engines are offered. The base engine is a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that provides adequate power for most needs. Fuel conscious buyers will want this engine, as it delivers EPA fuel economy as high as 25 mpg City/33 mpg Highway. Those who prefer a sportier driving experience will want the new 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which delivers 167 horsepower and is available with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic with manual shift capability. The top of the line marks the 263 horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder of the Mazdaspeed3, which comes mated to a six-speed manual only.
Mazda rightly points out that in many countries a compact car is a destination rather than starting point for car owners, and that's partly due to fuel costs. The Mazda 3 is an affordable car that offers a pleasant interior environment, sporty handling, and useful space.