The Mazda3 has been a sporty alternative for compact-car buyers since it debuted for the 2004 model year. It undergoes its first redesign for the 2010 model year and is still offered in sedan and four-door hatchback forms. The 2010 Mazda3 has all-new exterior and interior styling and is now available with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that offers more power than the four-cylinder it replaces. Competitors include the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Nissan Sentra.
The 2010 Mazda3's exterior styling builds on its predecessor's athletic proportions by emphasizing design features. One of them is the front grille, but Mazda may have gone a bit too far with it, as the gaping opening in the lower bumper looks like a sinister smile. It's a little much on the front of this car. The rest of the Mazda3 is stylish but much more toned down than the front, with smooth body panels. Adaptive xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and LED taillights are optional.
Standard steel wheels measure 16 inches in diameter, and 17-inch alloy wheels are available. Other options include a moonroof and a rear spoiler.
The previous Mazda3's cabin was starting to show its age, but the new Mazda3's interior features significant revisions that result in a contemporary cabin. The gauges have red illumination, and there's a dash-top screen that shows radio and air-conditioning settings. With the optional navigation system, the Mazda3 gets another screen for map information. The navigation system is operated by a cluster of buttons on the right side of the steering wheel.
With front bucket seats and a rear bench, the Mazda3 has room for five people. Cloth-covered seats are standard, but heated leather seats are optional. The 60/40-split rear backrest in both the sedan and hatchback folds down to expand the cargo area, which measures 11.8 cubic feet in the sedan and 17 cubic feet in the hatchback.
Standard features include a CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power windows. Air conditioning is standard on all but the base, iSV trim. Cruise control and remote keyless entry are standard on all but the iSV and the iSport.
Under the Hood
The Mazda3 i comes standard with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that can team with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Mazda3 s models use a 167-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that works with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The automatic includes a clutchless-manual mode that lets the driver control gear changes by nudging the console gear selector up or down.
A Mazda3 i with a manual transmission achieves the best EPA-estimated gas mileage, with its 25/33 mpg city/highway rating. Selecting the automatic lowers the city rating by 1 mpg. The Mazda3 s, meanwhile, is rated at 21/29 mpg with the manual and 22/29 mpg with the automatic.
Standard features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. An electronic stability system is standard on the iTouring and all s models.
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