Whenever a car manufacturer launches a new version of a popular model, they must hold their breath while they wait to see how the public reacts to their bread & butter. Mazda has had a string of successful revamps that have been successful in the showroom, so we were eagerly awaiting the launch of the 2010 Mazda3. Back in the early part of this decade, the somewhat aging Protege was gained a new stable mate in the stylish Protege5. Consumers loved the fun little 5 door hatch and a whole new generation of Mazda buyers were born. In 2004, after a short run, that car was replaced by the curvy new Mazda3 sedan and hatch that added even more style and better build quality to the smallest Mazda. That car has had a wildly successful run in the last 5 years, but the model cycle had run its course. A replacement was due. Enter the 2010 Mazda 3.
From a styling standpoint, Mazda actually played it safe. They took the shape they knew the public loved and made it a bit more swoopy. Add in a few well placed design & functional details and put on a happy face and you’ve got a pretty hot looking hatch. Our tester was a fully loaded GT model complete with 17 inch alloys, HID headlights, fog lights, LED tail lights and the requisite boy racer body kit. In other words, this thing looks beyond cool and has all the toys.
Open the door and crawl behind the wheel and our little monster had a few surprises in store inside as well. The creature comforts are there, with heated leather seats and a power sunroof. Tech nuts will be enthused by the vast array of goodies: am/fm stereo with mp3 input, in-dash 6 disc cd player and Sirius satellite radio all reach occupants through a killer 10 speaker Bose system. Bluetooth connectivity is a given.
Perhaps the only downfall is the in dash mounted navigation system. The screen is smaller than what most manufacturers use these days and is mounted within a cool nook at the top of the dash. The slick packaging can be a touch difficult for those of us with less than perfect eyesight. Also, the controls have been simplified to the point that they are actually tougher to use than most. I never did break out the manual to learn how to enter a destination.
I was afraid of the owner’s manual, as it was roughly the same size as your average hotel room bible.
All of those nice treats come together very well to create an interior that feels modern and warm. Fit and finish is outstanding for a small car and every surface feels nice to the touch. Wind and road noise are very well managed and there wasn’t a single creak or rattle to be heard even on a gravel road that had been ravaged by the spring run-off. Rear seat legroom seems to have shrunk since the P5 days and while our kids loved the sporty leather seats, they did complain about squishy feet. Oh well, they’re just kids. Isn’t it all about the driver anyway?
The GT model is fitted with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder which in our tester was mated to a slick shifting 5 speed automatic with manual shift option. As per usual, I don’t think I flicked it over to the sporty mode once during my time with it. Power is just about perfect for normal driving, with plenty of oomph for the daily grind or even the occasional twisty rural road.
A friend who owns a 2003 MazdaSpeed Protege took a turn behind the wheel and brought up an interesting point: with 167 horsepower, the 2.5l GT is only 3 hp down from his Speed. A quick look at the charts shows that the 2010 3 is carting around an additional 234 pounds, but that gives a pretty good indication of what we can expect from the upcoming MazdaSpeed version.
Says John Leblanc from the Toronto Star:
The new Mazda3 handles like a bmw on a budget.
Leblanc makes an excellent comparison. In fact, that friend I mentioned above did a bit of a double take when I responded to his “how much” question with: 29 grand and change. That sent both of us looking at the competitor’s sites comparing content. You know what? There are very few small sporty 5 door models on the market that jam this many features into their package. Believe it or not, the only one we could find with every single option our GT had was the 3 series BMW. The premium? A cool $20,000! Suddenly 30 large seems like an absolute bargain. Of course most cars sold will likely be entry level cars and the hatch starts at just $16,995 here in Canada.
Indeed, a BMW on a budget!