2010 Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Mazda3 5 Door Hatchback

SEE ALSO: Mazda Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Mazda Buyers Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2010 Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring

Dare to be different. If Mazda is not one of the major Japanese import-brand manufacturers, no worries. Instead of attempting to compete with mass-market blandness, Mazda carves its own niches by building cars with character.

Case in point: the second-generation Mazda3, the Japanese manufacturer's entry-level line in North America. Where other Japanese automakers go for mass sales through broad appeal and low price for their entry-level offerings, the Mazda3 is a more substantial car positioned further up the socioeconomic ladder. It plays against the European contingent much more than the Asian, especially in the five-door hatchback body style.

For as with the original, the newest Mazda3 comes in both four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions. Where the mass-market automakers position their hatchbacks as the utilitarian base model, Mazda knows that there are enough people with automotive tastes more European than American to make a sporty five-door hatchback a viable vehicle, and positions it at the top of the line.

As was the Mazda custom with the first generation, the 2010 Mazda3 sedan is offered as an "i" model, powered as before by a 2.0-liter, 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine, or in "s" trim with a new 167-hp 2.5-liter replacing the previous 156-hp 2.3. "i" models come in SV, Sport, or Touring trim levels; "s" gets Sport and Grand Touring, with more standard and optional equipment. Fitting its premium status, the 5-door comes in 2.5-liter "s" trim only, Sport or Grand Touring. Cheap econobox not spoken here - Grand Touring models have such upscale amenities as automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, bi-xenon headlights with adaptive lighting, and heated outside mirrors as standard equipment.

Mazda's goal with the second-generation Mazda3 was improvement in all areas, with no loss of character. And that last is important, as the 3 had (and still has) character, an elusive attribute in a world of committee and focus-group designed transportation appliances. To that end, structural, suspension, and engine improvements were made, underneath bold but undeniably Mazda styling. Improved aerodynamics contribute to stability and quiet on the road. The redesigned interior improves function as much as style, with intuitive instrument and control design, high-quality materials, and seat comfort at the head of the class.

I've just finished a week at home with a new 2010 Mazda3 s 5-door in Grand Touring trim, after first experiencing the same car at a journalist's comparative ride-and-drive and track day event a couple of months ago. There, it interestingly seemed a little soft on the road, but was completely at home on the track. Well, the track was Mazda Raceway At Laguna Seca, so perhaps that wasn't so surprising... The car is an automatic, and the displacement increase was most noticeable in the broader power band and greater reserve power - on the track or during spirited street driving, third gear was all that was necessary, and D worked just fine. As equipped, with the Technology and Moonroof/Bose® Audio Packages, it had all of the high-tech features expected in an entry-luxury car -- for considerably less than an entry-luxury price. The previous Mazda3 was an impressive car that seemed to be a tough act to follow; Mazda has significantly improved it.

APPEARANCE: Wipe that silly grin off your face, because you look like you're having too much fun... Whoever said that cars should have faces would love the new 2010 Mazda3. Mazda's press materials say that the front design was purposely made to be polarizing, but if onlooker comments mean anything, it's struck a positive chord with men in their 20s and 30s, who I suspect are its intended buyers. It's sporty in intent, so the 5-door gets a factory "aero kit" of lower front fascia and side sills. Interestingly, there is functional underbody air management -- that's not an SUV "skid plate" under the front. And small flaps in front of the tires further reduce drag. Back up top, prominent front fenders establish a family resemblance to the also-new, larger, Mazda6, and the rising shoulder line gives a muscular look. At the rear, twin exhausts and LED taillights give a contemporary sport-compact look.

COMFORT: Inside, in Grand Touring trim, the 2010 Mazda3 s 5-door could pass for a car costing $5,000 more. Youthful style is not at the expense of function. Materials, including leather seating surfaces and door trim, and soft-touch synthetics in multiple textures, are first-rate, as is fit and finish. The silvery trim is plastic, as it is in some more expensive German cars. The front seats are heated, by six-position rheostats, and the driver's seat is power-adjustable. Comfort is above what's expected. Instrument panel design is very good, with electroluminescent main instruments for easy visibility and a small but easily visible "multi-information display" screen under an anti-glare hood at the top of the center stack, placed for easy visibility. That display screen, upgraded to color, is used for the optional navigation system. Control of that, and MID functions, and auxiliary audio and Bluetooth® phone control, is by means of marked buttons on the arms of the leather-wrapped tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel. Simple and functional. Dual-zone climate control is another upscale Grand Touring feature. The optional Bose sound system works well, and accepts auxiliary audio players by means of a jack and power point in the console box. There is also an iPod connector in the large glove box. Rear passengers get four-door access, and the rear seat offers very good comfort and space for two, with a center passenger a short, short-term prospect - as in nearly all small cars. A 60/40 folding rear seat , cargo shade, and low-liftover hatch access make the Mazda3 hatchback as versatile as any small crossover.

SAFETY: Mazda's "Triple-H" unibody construction protects passengers with a strong central section and front and rear crush zones. Six airbags, including side curtains with 40 percent greater coverage than previously, and active head restraints add further passive protection. Strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, and Dynamic Stability Control with traction control add active protection, as does the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) with bi-xenon headlights that steers headlights in the direction of a turn, which is standard in the Grand Touring models.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Responsive handling also aids active safety, as well as increasing driver enjoyment. The 2010 Mazda3 5-Door shines here, and increases in structural rigidity and seemingly-minor but significant modifications to the design and implementation of the fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension result in a comfortably supple ride over poor surfaces -- and fine handling characteristics when such are demanded.

PERFORMANCE: A slight increase in length and the reinforcements to the chassis have increased the 2010 Mazda3 5-Door's weight a bit, but that's more than offset by the increase in power from the larger engine. The 2.5-liter twincam, 16-valve four-cylinder is similar to the previous 2.3, but increases in both bore and stroke enlarge it and help produce more horsepower -- 167 hp at 6000 rpm (or 165 in PZEV states) -- and torque, now 168 lb-ft at 4000 rpm (167 PZEV). Twin balance shafts reduce vibration, and variable intake cam phasing improves power delivery and lowers emissions. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard; my test car had the optional five-speed automatic. The engine's increased torque worked very well with this, in the manner of a luxury car with power reserves. And if a more spirited experience was desired, third gear worked just fine for most local twisty roads - and (Mazda Raceway at) Laguna Seca, Corkscrew, hairpin, and all.

CONCLUSIONS: With the new 2010 Mazda3, Mazda has made a fine car even better.

SPECIFICATIONS
2010 Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring

Base Price			$ 22,300
Price As Tested			$ 25,760
Engine Type			16-valve dohc aluminum alloy 4-cylinder
				 with variable cam phasing
Engine Size			2.5 liters / 152 cu. in.
Horsepower			167 (165 PZEV) @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			168 (167 PZEV) @ 4000 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		103.9 in. / 177.4 in.
Curb Weight			3064 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		18.3
Fuel Capacity			15.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P205/50R17 88V Yokohama Avid S34
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		22 / 29 / 22
0 to 60 mph				7.6  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Pearl paint					$  200
Technology Package - includes:
  full-color MID with compact navi system,
  advanced keyless system with push-button
  start/stop, Sirius satellite radio,
  perimeter alarm				$ 1,195
Moonroof/6CD/Bose Package - includes:
  242-watt Bose® Centerpoint® 10-speaker
  surround sound system, in-dash MP3-
  compatible 6CD changer, moonroof		$ 1,395
Destination charge				$   670
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