Mazda3 - Grand Touring 5-door

Written By nyit on Saturday, April 9, 2011 | 3:35 AM

Wipe off that grin off your grill – we like you just the way you are.
Yes, the 2010 Mazda MAZDA3S Grand Touring sure is one happy-lookin' compact sedan, mostly due to its unique grill design. But there’s more to this second-generation MAZDA3 (first gen came in 2004) than just that snarky grin – there’s a bit of MAZDASPEED pace as well as space in this 5-door, part sports sedan and part compact wagon. Zoom-zoom.

*Mazda grin – The big grill grin and the sweeping body lines are all part of Mazda's current Nagare (motion and flow) design ethos that has resulted in some intriguing concept cars like the Ryuga, Hakaze and Taiki, full of streamlined lines that look carved by wind. But when that idea moves from concept to reality, well, some of it flows away like sand through an open hand. Take the smiley face grill, a wide plastic mesh under the metallic gray upper, flanked by sculpted side vents over a small splitter dead center, flanked by faux side intakes with integrated fog lamps. The grill has too much of a goofy look to it.

It all integrates nicely with the almond-shaped headlights that spear into the edged rounded fenders which have a hint of sporty RX-8 in them. The hood has design lines flowing off and sliding into the windshield frame and arcing roof. On the flanks, one distinct line angles up below the window line to flatten out before intersecting with the slit taillights, while another parallels the sporty lower sill before arcing up ahead of the rear wheel flares. In back, the roof line ends with a window-top spoiler, while the rear bumper bulges out just a bit over twin polished steel exhaust tips. The final touch – 10-spoke alloy wheels wearing 17-inch Yokohama radials framed by the flat-edged flares that complete the look.

The whole look is streamlined and very sporty, all lines flowing together, all just a tad exotic in a very crowded and varied compact field (Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla/Matrix, Chevy Cobalt, Nissan Sentra, VW Jetta, Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Lancer, Kia Soul and Forte, Hyundai Elantra and MINI Cooper). I like it a lot, and so did many others who saw it. And the Velocity Red metallic paint had some real fire in it under the sun.

*Mazda life - The front doors open wide into a black-over-black interior with a motorcycle-like main instrument cowl, and a sweeping upper display for a high-mounted trip computer display and a separate station frequency and climate control information screen under a well-crafted padded seamless grained dashtop. The tilt/telescope steering wheel gets a thick leather-wrapped rim and simple stereo, Bluetooth cellphone and cruise controls, framing a 160-mph speedometer and 8,000-rpm tach, with a bar graph gas gauge and odometer/trip odometer in between. All gauge and most dash graphics are red/orange backlit and clear to see, the only other highlights some silver accents. The dash center gets a decent Bose Powerpoint 10-speaker AM-FM- six-disc CD sound system with MP3 (no standard USB/iPod) audio input and 12-volt power plug under the center console armrest. The silvery main tune/file knob is easy to use, a blue halo line around it pulsing when any knob is adjusted, while simple black or silver buttons access the rest of the audio features. Simple dual zone a/c controls are under the stereo, part of the silver-clad lower dash along with dual seat heater controls, a 12-volt outlet under a door and a stubby gearshift mounted 2 inches higher in this second-gen model (to shorten the reach). Twin cup holders live under a flimsy black console door.

Our Touring model had well-bolstered black leather seats with 8-way power adjustments for the driver, and three memory presets to boot. They were very comfortable during hundreds of miles of driving, but I would have liked some kind of adjustable lumbar control. In back, though, adult leg room is tight. But there is good head room for two with a center arm rest. The rear seatbacks split and fold 60/40 for access to a big square trunk-under-glass with a security cover.

There’s some high-tech (for a compact) here as well. The bi-xenon headlights angle into turns, the taillights are LED, and the front windshield wipers are rain sensing. There’s subtle blue LED illumination inside, and the moonroof is a nice touch too. Overall, a well thought-out interior with decent storage and good build quality, with a smart idea - black cloth on the dash top to eliminate glare on the upper displays. The key release button on the ignition is annoyingly old-fashioned and the horn is tinny. The trip computer display’s white graphics don’t fit the next-door display’s red graphics, looking out of place. If you get optional navigation, that’s where it’s small-but-usable screen goes. And the glove box door will tap the front passenger’s knees when opened.
*Mazda spin – The MAZDA3 goes as well as it looks thanks to the S Touring’s 2.5-liter, 167-hp in-line four. The last MAZDA3 we tested with the smaller 2-liter, 148-hp engine got to 60 mph in a decent 8.5 seconds in second gear with a snarling engine buzz. Our 4,500-mile-old S’s extra 19 ponies were noticeable, getting us to 60 mph in a good 8 seconds, barely into third gear, with a nice engine snarl and slick shifts. Passing power is ample, and it will even get up a bridge or merge onto an interstate in sixth gear without protest, showing how flexible this powerplant is. We averaged a decent 25 mpg, lots of interstate thrown in for good measure.

The second-gen MAZDA3 gets reinforcements in the floor, roof and sides for a solid, creak- and rattle-free drive, the ride firm but comfortable, pliant over bumps without any harsh rebound. With independent front MacPherson strut suspension and independent rear multi-link suspension, toss into an exit ramp and road manners were fine and fun. Push hard and there’s mild understeer and body roll aided by standard traction and stability control, but it carves turns well for a family compact. The steering was precise and direct, with good road feel, while the 10.9-inch front/10.4-inch rear disc brakes offering great pedal feel and no fade after repeated use. Our only comment – the rubber was noisy on many highway surfaces, something noticed by my spouse and I.
*MAZDA3 money – The base price of the MAZDA3S Grand Touring 5-Door is $22,000 with all above standard except the $1,395 Bose sound system/moonroof package, a $50 cargo mat and another $50 for black rear bumper step plates, for a total of $24,425. That said, there’s a lot of standard stuff here.

The Kia Forte is roomier, with a bit more power and a pleasing shape for a bit less. A Corolla XRS has 158-hp, very solid construction, but not as much fun to drive for about $20,000. A 170-hp VW Golf with 5-speed manual is better built and roomier inside, with similar 5-door utility and maybe equal driving fun for about $1,000 less. And a $23,000 MINI Cooper S two-door is smaller, sassier in style, more fun to drive and very economical, but try fitting two in the back seat as well. An all-wheel-drive Impreza has a bit more sportiness.

* Bottom line – Yes, it isn’t the outrageously good MAZDAPEED3. But our metallic red MAZDA3 S 5-door is pretty much a car I could love as a daily commuter that’s fun to use on the back roads drive home - a decent dose of zoom-zoom in a stylish, well-equipped and fairly frugal compact sedan with a dash of sportiness.

2010 Mazda MAZDA3 Specifications
Vehicle type - 5-door, 5-passenger front-wheel-drive compact
Base price - $22,000 ($24,245 as tested)
Engine type - DOHC, 16-valve VVT in-line four
Capacity – 2.5 liter
Horsepower (net) - 167 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque – 168 @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission - 6-speed manual
Overall length – 177.4 inches
Wheelbase – 103.9 inches
Overall width - 69.1 inches
Height - 57.9 inches
Front headroom – 38.1 inches
Front legroom - 42 inches
Rear headroom – 37.4 inches
Rear legroom – 36.2 inches
Cargo capacity - 17 cu.ft./42.8 w/rear seats folded
Fuel capacity – 15.9 gallons
Weight – 3,005 lbs.
Mileage rating - 21-mpg city/29-mpg highway
Last word - A compact way to zoom

By Dan Scanlan - MyCarData

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