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2010 Mazda3 i Touring Review

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By John Heilig
The Auto Channel

MODEL: 2010 Mazda3 i Touring
ENGINE: 2.0-lier DOHC I-4
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 148 hp @ 6,500 rpm/135 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
WHEELBASE: 103.9 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 180.7 69.1 x 57.9 in.
TIRES: P205/55R16 plus space saver spare
CARGO VOLUME: 11.8 cu. ft.
FUEL ECONOMY: 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway/26.1 mpg test
FUEL CAPACITY: 14.5 gal.
CURBWEIGHT: 2,963 lbs.
STICKER: $20,775 (includes $750 delivery charge and $2,150 in options)
Bottom line: The Mazda3i maybe at the bottom of Mazda’s model line (for a while), but it shares some of this manufacturer’s panache in styling and performance. I hesitate to say it, but could this be “zoom-zoom” in action?

I’m always interested in driving economy cars, because in the present economy, these are the vehicles that are most attractive to the buying public.

The Mazda3 is an excellent example. Here is a car that is at the bottom of Mazda’s model lineup, at least until e Mazda2 becomes available in the US. Yet, at a tad over $20,000 it shares Mazda’s “zoom-zoom” philosophy that derives from the RX-8 and Miata. No, this isn’t a sports car in the style of those two, but it has the same love-to-drive attitude that makes it fun.

The Mazda3 isn’t perfect. Few cars are. But it is a decent compact economy car that has some street creds. For example, we were in our local supermarket parking lot when a 20-ish friend instantly recognized the Mazda3 for what it is and expressed interest in our opinions. It was on his ‘to-be-considered’ list.

The Mazda3 is a good package with decent size for a compact. With a 103.9-inch wheelbase, it has enough length under the wheels to provide for a decent ride. Shorter wheelbase cars have difficulties dealing with Pennsylvania’s infamous washboard roads, for example.

Overall length is 180.7 inches, putting the Mazda3 squarely in the compact car class. Still, with 76 inches of overhang (approximately three feet front and rear) it still won’t look like a Fifties American land yacht. And, trust me shorter cars handle better than longer ones.

Styling is neat and aerodynamic.

The 2.0-liter inline four under the hood delivers 148 horsepower, which is fine when matched with the 5-speed manual transmission. TheMazda3 only weighs 2,963 pounds, so it doesn’t need V8 horsepower to make it perform. Even in fifth gear, there was decent torque available so there isn’t a constant need to downshift.

Even though the Mazda3 is a compact car, it was comfortable on long trips, something that can’t be said for some of its competitors.

In addition, it had a useful, if smallish, trunk that had a good opening for loading. The rear seat backs fold 60/40 to increase the trunk’s utility. The trunk has a flat floor with the mini spare located underneath.

In front of the driver is a fairly standard instrument panel with a tachometer and speedometer (in white-on-black) with a digital bar graph fuel gauge in the middle. Our tester had a good Bose audio system with an orange read-out in a pod on top of the dash. This pod also had an outside temperature readout and a digital clock. These pieces of information were in useful locations, and once we became accustomed to them, we felt they were in exactly the right place.

Front seating was comfortable with decent side support. Side support is necessary for sports cars, but even in less-than-sports car it’s important for overall rider comfort. The rear seats have okay knee and leg room, but there is really only room for two rear passengers.

The rear doors have huge cup holders/water bottle holders in the doors that isn’t mimicked up front. In addition, there are two cup holders in the fold-down rear armrest. The rear seats have good headroom.

There is good visibility all around for the driver and all passengers.

Economy measures are noticeable. For example, the visor mirrors are unlighted which made it difficult for my wife to check her beauty in the dark. Me too. And you must push a button to remove the key from the ignition, a feature that I thought disappeared years ago.

While the Mazda3might not be your first choice when you’re looking for a compact car, it is one that should be considered.

2010 The Auto Page Syndicate