Review: 2010 Mazda 3 GT by Tony Whitney

19 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Review: 2010 Mazda 3 GT by Tony Whitney
Mazda 3

2010 Mazda 3 GT

The original Mazda3 first appeared at the Paris auto salon as a 2004 model and it marked a significant advancement for the Hiroshima-based automaker and one that was to have a dramatic effect on the company in the years that followed.

Previously, Mazda’s entry in the highly competitive compact class was the rather unmemorable Protegé, which although a reasonably good car, didn’t really give the manufacturer much of a toehold in its market slot. The later Protegé 5 was far more “interesting” with its hatchback design and almost sleek lines. This model proved to be a stopgap product between the Protegé sedan and the Mazda3 range, which from the start included both sedan and hatchback body styles.

The Mazda3 (based on a platform that was a joint design effort by Mazda, Ford and Volvo) was a big success right from the word go and brought the automaker back into the forefront of small car design. It was much praised by the automotive media for its value, modernistic design, excellent power and handling and an interior that didn’t shriek “low rent” in any way. From that time on, it’s always been among the top three sellers in its class and for one heady period, actually edged ahead of the all-conquering Honda Civic in the sales charts.

Buyers have always liked to have the Mazda3’s choice of sedan or hatchback bodystyles – options which help when selecting a vehicle for a specific application. Neither Toyota (Corolla), Nissan (Sentra) or Ford (Focus) has a hatchback option available to buyers shopping in this segment. Incidentally, for anyone who visits Japan and would like to rent one of these, don’t ask for a Mazda3.

It’s called Axela over there. In some markets, the even more compact Mazda2 is offered and there’s also a plan for a smaller yet Mazda1. Even so, the Mazda3 remains the smallest model from this automaker offered in North America and there are no plans afoot to bring us more diminutive vehicles.

Japanese nameplate automobiles outside the luxury segment usually have four-year model lives, so with the recent announcement of an all- new 2010 Mazda3, the car has had a longer-than-usual run – and justifiably so. Even so, every model generation comes to an end at some stage and the new car boasts a wide variety of upgrades and enhancements, both technical and cosmetic.

My most recent focus was on a GT sedan, a version that sits pretty well at the top of the Mazda3’s price spectrum. Like the first generation car, it has a tight, sporty look with a short, almost stubby trunk. When the first generation cars debuted, some critics thought the sedan looked better than the hatchback but with the new generation, both versions are equally attractive when placed side by side.

The new car is about the same size as the old one with an interior of similar dimensions to the earlier product. This is no bad thing, as too many automakers keep edging the size of their “compacts” up a notch with each new model until they’ve almost grown into the class above. One thing that is bigger on the new model is the trunk, which should please families who use the car for lengthy road trips.

The styling is very easy on the eye and our GT looked great from the front with its big grille and (standard on the GT) bi-xenon headlights. Usually, bi-xenon lights are associated with far more expensive cars than the Mazda3 GT. Mazda calls its styling philosophy “Nagare” and apparently this translates into “motion and flow.” The sedan is more or less wedge-shaped, so it looks very contemporary and even aggressive.

The huge grille, incidentally, is fully functional according to Mazda engineers.

The GT is fitted with a new 2.5-litre 16-valve 4-cylinder powerplant that develops 167-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 168 lb-ft of torque.

My GT featured a 6-speed manual transmission which proved precise and smooth to operate – in fact, the efficiency of this transmission coupled with the new engine’s snappy performance made this car a delight to drive. More basic Mazda3s use a 2.0-litre 4- cylinder that’s much the same as the one in the previous generation cars. The automatic transmission for this range is a 5-speed.

Mazda 3

Inside the 2010 car, the tradition of “more opulence than you’d expect” is carried on and the cabin is far more pleasing than you’d hope for at this price point. The instrument panel is home to a pair of large hooded dials that tell you most of what you need to know and other information is displayed on a couple of electronic panels. A full-function trip computer is included and it works very well indeed.

Thankfully, the heating and air conditioning controls are uncomplicated and easy to grasp and the nicely-shaped leather-wrapped steering wheel is used to locate buttons for, among other things, cruise control and sound system functions. Mazda says that steering wheel buttons have “youth market appeal,” but we can’t imagine anyone, however old, who wouldn’t prefer to have the cruise control buttons within fingertip reach, rather than on poorly located stalks.

Blue/red accent lighting is used to create something of a cozy atmosphere and it’s worth noting that several automakers are realizing that coloured “mood lighting” in a vehicle cockpit can create a relaxed ambiance. A navigation system is available as an option. Also on the options list is a Bluetooth system which links to most mobile phones for hand-free use – now more important than ever thanks to some regions of Canada banning handheld phone use in vehicles (BC may be next!).

The front seats are well-formed with good side bolstering and the rear accommodations are fine for a car in this class. One thing Mazda always seems to get right is the relationship between driver’s seat, pedals and steering wheel. Climb into a new Mazda3, adjust the seat and it’s almost certain that whatever your stature, you’ll feel pretty good behind the wheel first time out.

There’s no question that the cabin of this car is right up with the very best in its class.

Dynamically, the new car impresses again, with a suspension that combines just the right amount of sportiness with a comfortable ride. Wound up a little on a country road, the Mazda3 is very taut and supple on its 17-inch wheels with 50 series tires and the electro- hydraulic steering is a real high point – the car goes exactly where it’s pointed and it’s very forgiving if you make any minor mistakes. You’d probably have to go to a European import sports sedan to get better “feel” out of a small sedan and that would cost an awful lot more than this Mazda.

The GT has all-around disc brakes with ABS, plus electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. If the sensors detect an emergency stop attempt, the electronics step in to help out and the result is a car that will stop remarkably quickly – the main worry would be the vehicle behind if a “panic stop” is made. If all this fails, there’s a full complement of air bags and active head restraints are also part of the safety roster.

Replacing the first-generation car must have caused Mazda’s development team more than the odd headache but it’s clear they didn’t need to adopt a “reinvent the wheel” approach. The old model was very well executed, but let’s just say that with the 2010 version, a very good automobile managed to become even better.

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