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November 4, 2009 > Auto Review: Mazda3 5-door

Auto Review: Mazda3 5-door

The all-new 2010 Mazda3 is a great car, but... look at the photos. What does the front end look like to you? The Joker from the latest Batman flick comes to my mind. In fact many of the 2010 Mazda products use the same "smiley face" look for the front end. I think the stylists could have come up with something that would be more attractive.

Moving on to the facts, our Mazda3 5-door Grand Touring had an MSRP of $23,550 which included a 5-speed automatic transmission. Adding packages that included a navigation system, moon roof, Bose surround sound system, and other items brought the total to $25,760. Using a 6-speed manual transmission would have lowered the price by $800.

If you want to save some money, the other Mazda3 5-door model available in the USA (the Sport) with the automatic, starts at $21,090. But then you don't get the high intensity Xenon headlights that turn as you turn the steering wheel, LED tail lights, rain sensing windshield wipers, leather seats, and a few other items that are standard on the Grand Touring model. The Mazda3 is the first compact on the market to have an Adaptive Front Lighting System that turns the headlights up to 15 degrees to help you see as the car is turning. The system also self-levels the headlights to compensate for how the car is loaded.

The 5-door Mazda3 gets a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. This unit develops 165 HP and 167 foot pounds of torque in its PZEV version that we can buy here in California. It delivers 22 mpg in the city test and 29 mpg in the highway test on regular unleaded gas and comes with a 60 month, 60,000 mile warranty on the power train and 36 month/36,000 on the rest of the car.

A 4-door sedan Mazda3 is also available. With the standard 2.0-liter, 148 HP engine, its MSRP is only $16,045. You can also get the 4-door with the 2.5-liter engine.

This car is fun to drive and has a very sporty ride. It handles very well and makes back roads fun to use instead of staying on the freeway all the time. Visibility is good in all directions and front seats are comfortable and supportive. The back seat does not have much leg room wherever you put the front seat so don't plan to put adults back there very often. Kids in kid's seats are fine, but let the adults sit up front.

The navigation screen in the Mazda3 is one of the smallest built-in ones that I have seen. It is about the size of the "hand held" navigation systems that you can buy and move from car to car. The rest of the interior is laid out well and the controls are easy to see, understand, and use.

Mazda's engineers spent a lot of time improving the aerodynamic drag of the 2010 Mazda3 compared to the earlier version. This improves fuel efficiency and lowers the noise of the wind rushing by. In fact, it has flaps in the radiator shroud that automatically open at freeway speeds to let air bypass the cooling system to improve the coefficient of drag. This new Mazda3 is one of the most aerodynamically efficient designs in its market segment.

The Mazda3 is a great car for the price and delivers good value. If you want to drive faster (for not much more money: $23,945) take a look at the MazdaSpeed3 version. A turbocharger adds 100 more ponies and makes this little car a real screamer.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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