2010 Mazda Mazda3

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$15,345

starting MSRP

2010 Mazda Mazda3
2010 Mazda Mazda3

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Handling
  • Manual shifter
  • 2.5-liter engine power
  • Interior quality
  • Hatchback versatility
  • Upscale options

The bad:

  • Fuel economy compared to other small cars
  • Clown-faced front-end styling
  • Faux-metal interior trim
  • Too much lumbar support for some
  • Navigation system too small
  • Somewhat firm ride

9 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2010 Mazda Mazda3 trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • Redesigned for 2010
  • New 2.5-liter four-cylinder
  • Sedan or hatchback
  • Manual or automatic transmission
  • Optional navigation system

2010 Mazda Mazda3 review: Our expert's take

By Kelsey Mays

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

The redesigned Mazda3 will impress driving enthusiasts, and it improves upon its predecessors in a number of other areas. If I were in the market, it would be high on my list. But these days, my backbone does as much as my right foot to sway my opinion — and I have to concede that Mazda doesn’t have the most comfortable small car out there.

I drove a Mazda3 sedan with an automatic transmission; I’ll offer up a short take on it here. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive review of the car, read our evaluation of the stick-shift hatchback version here; you can also compare the 2010 Mazda3 to the 2009 Mazda3 here. The turbocharged MazdaSpeed3, sold only as a hatchback, is covered separately in the Research section.

Moving Around
My test car had the smaller of two available four-cylinder engines; coupled with a five-speed automatic, its power is comparable to a Honda Civic or Kia Forte — and greater than the relatively pokey Toyota Corolla. The automatic’s gear ratios are well spaced for workable 60-to-70 mph spurts, even with two adults onboard, but it sometimes bogs down when kicking down to lower gears.

I found enough power to get around town, but if you’re looking to move away from intersections a bit quicker, consider trading the 148-horsepower four-cylinder for the 167-hp four. It’s optional in the sedan and standard in the hatchback. I’ve driven it, and it packs a gratifying — and palpably stronger — amount of power. Beware, though: You’ll sacrifice 2 – 4 mpg overall, depending on transmission.

Mazda3 Engines and Mileage Compared
  2.0-liter four-cylinder 2.5-liter four-cylinder
Availability Standard on sedan Optional on sedan, standard on hatchback
Horsepower (@ rpm)* 148 @ 6,500 167 @ 6,000
Torque (lbs.-ft. @ rpm) 135 @ 4,500 168 @ 4,000
EPA gas mileage (city/hwy., mpg) 25/33 (manual); 24/33 (automatic) 21/29 (manual); 22/29 (automatic)
* Low-emission PZEV vehicles sold in California and several Northeastern states have 144 hp or 165 hp, respectively. Torque figures are also nominally lower.
Source: Automaker and EPA; all drivetrains use regular fuel.

Some may find the Mazda3’s steering wheel too stiff to turn easily at low speeds. The handling payoff, however, is dramatic: The steering lightens up when you hit 20 – 30 mph, and you can actually carve corners with this thing. Body roll is well-contained, and the steering wheel exhibits good precision with excellent feedback of the road surfaces. A few competitors — the Mitsubishi Lancer and Volkswagen Jetta come to mind — are similarly fun on winding roads. I can’t say the same for many others.

Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, with traction control and an electronic stability system on most trim levels. The brake pedal doesn’t provide the most linear stopping power, but the response is strong enough. Senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder found the hatchback’s brakes more impressive — though his came with larger discs, as do all trims with the 2.5-liter engine, so that may have had something to do with it.

Ride Quality, Road Noise
Mazda tunes its suspensions “to the handling side of ride [versus] handling,” spokesman Jeremy Barnes told me. He’s right: The Mazda3 rides on the firmer side, even with the test car’s 16-inch wheels. (Cars with the larger four-cylinder get similar suspension tuning but 17-inch wheels with lower-profile tires.) Highway expansion joints come and go with a noticeable kathunk, and uneven pavement can leave you in a constant pattern of down/up motions as the car follows each dip and rise. The suspension sorts things out well enough after each bump, with few reverberations as the car resettles itself, but the shocks could stand to soak up a bit more. The Civic and Forte ride a bit better, and the Corolla veritably glides over the rough patches.

There isn’t much wind noise, and the Mazda3 remains pretty well unfazed by highway crosswinds. Road and tire noise, however, are a different story. They’re noticeable at all times and, over some surfaces, are downright loud. I took the car some 350 miles between Chicago and upstate Michigan, and the road played a constant backdrop to my music. I ended up having to crank the stereo volume to overcome it — which incidentally revealed the mediocrity and overblown bass of the six-speaker system.

The Cabin
If the Volkswagen Jetta leads the pack in small-car cabin quality, I’m prepared to award the silver medal to Mazda. The dashboard panels have upscale textures and padded surfaces, and most controls feel high-rent for the segment. The windshield and dash slope far forward, giving you a sense of roominess that’s similar to the Civic. Over time I felt like I was sitting above everything: The cockpit doesn’t wrap around you so much as it’s arrayed before you, a layout that might take some getting used to.

The cloth seats have supportive backrests, though there could be more shoulder support; the sport seats in 2.5-liter models are intended to help with this. There’s enough bolstering to hold you in as you sling the car through a corner, but my 5-foot-11 frame never had enough thigh support. Part of that is because of the short seat cushions, but the seating angle is also to blame: It didn’t slope back enough for me, particularly when you jack the cushion up — as I do — with the standard seat-height adjuster. It’s possible the highest Grand Touring trim addresses this, as its power-adjustable driver’s seat includes a seat-angle adjustment.

Mazda3 in the Market
Even in its least fun combination — with an automatic transmission and the smallest engine — the Mazda3 courts driving enthusiasts like few cars in this price range can do. When Mazda introduced it for the 2004 model year, I lived in Los Angeles where I could fling cars around impossibly twisty canyon roads. In short order, Mazda’s Civic fighter tore the Civic a new one.

I’m pleased the automaker didn’t tinker with a good formula. The Mazda3 is still a fun little car, and provided your commute is free of too many potholes, it’s a mighty compelling choice.

Send Kelsey an email  

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.5
  • Interior design 4.5
  • Performance 4.5
  • Value for the money 4.7
  • Exterior styling 4.6
  • Reliability 4.8

Most recent consumer reviews

4.9

Super Reliable Car!

I bought this car used with about 110,000 miles on it. Within the first couple months I took it in for an oil change and was told the brakes were ok, but would probably want to replace them in the next year as they were still original. Fair enough. Over the next four years I would replace the tires and have the suspension done. All of these things are consumable parts and replacing them after 100,000 is not out of the norm. Other than that, I replaced the speakers because the factory ones were not too great. What really got me was, no oddities. I did not have to pay for some odd part that broke or wore out for no reason. I have owned cars where random hoses, engine parts, or transmission parts deteriorated and cost me a random $1000 to fix. Not this one. This car has been great incredibly reliable. As for the "negative" traits. There is no room. The backseat can fit two adults fine. But that middle seat is useless. The trunk is small. It is deep, but the opening is not very accommodating. I bought a couple of outdoor chairs at Target (non folding) and could not get them in the trunk. To make matters worse, they did not fit through the doors either. So this is definitely a compact car. Another negative is the price of a replacement key. $350 if you want a fob, $150 for just the key. But overall, this car is great. I have enjoyed it. Gas mileage could be better (30 combined) but it really is not bad. It gets me from point A to point B without costing me a fortune in repairs. It has a nice, smooth ride and a bit of pep.

4.9

Very reliable, corners well.

The hatchback made this car easy to haul lots of stuff. It was one of the most reliable cars and very little maintenance needed. I love having a trunk that you don't have to bend over.

5.0

I was a bit reluctant on choosing the Mazda3 becau

I love this car it is such a beautiful car it rides good is good on gas and The Styling is impeccable. I am very well pleased with this purchase

See all 119 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
36 months/36,000 miles
Powertrain
60 months/60,000 miles
Roadside assistance
36 months/36,000 miles

Compare the competitors

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2011

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See all 2010 Mazda Mazda3 articles