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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
2010 adds slightly more power and slightly better fuel economy
“a gem of an engine”
All the subtle changes in the chassis and suspension haven't hurt the ride and handling a single bit
The Mazda3 2010 will arrive on U.S. shores next year with a moderate power boost, thanks to an available larger engine, and the same sharp, grin-inducing handling that characterized the first generation.
The 2010 Mazda Mazda3 is available with one of two engines, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. AutoWeek notes that the 2010 Mazda3 gets an optional "2.5-liter four-cylinder engine borrowed from the Mazda6" that "produces 167 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque," while the "base engine remains a 2.0-liter, 148-hp, 135-lb-ft inline four." The various engines are denoted by differing suffixes on the 2010 Mazda3 lineup; 2010 Mazda Mazda3s with the 2.0-liter get a Mazda3 i designation, while those with the upgraded engine will be known as the 2010 Mazda3 s model. Both engines provide plenty of pep, with USA Today calling the 2.0-liter "sufficiently powerful for most conditions" and describing the 2.5-liter engine as having "enough go for most drivers, notably more than the 2-liter."
The available transmissions for the Mazda3 2010 also rate highly with reviewers, particularly the manual offerings. Among the available transmissions, Car and Driver reports that "a slick-shifting five-speed manual is standard with the 2.0-liter and a new five-speed automatic is optional," while "the larger engine comes with a six-speed manual; a five-speed automatic is optional." USA Today reviewers claim that the manual is "fun-to-shift," with a clutch that "seemed just so." Jalopnik also points out that an "electronically controlled Sport-AT automatic transmission" is available, which "offers enthusiastic drivers the control of manual gear engagement with the convenience and comfort of a conventional automatic."
Compact cars typically feature high fuel economy as a major selling point, and while Mazda would like to market the 2010 Mazda Mazda3 as a class standout, it falls short in some versions. The EPA estimates that 2010 Mazda3 i models will get 24 mpg city and 33 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission, while the manual gets a 25/33 mpg rating. For the more powerful Mazda3 2010 s, the numbers drop to 22/29 mpg with the automatic and 21/29 mpg with the manual. According to Cars.com, "neither engine beats the competition on the mileage front—the 2009 Toyota Corolla gets 27/35 with an automatic—but the Mazda3 has always been about the fun driving experience."
Speaking of a fun driving experience, the 2010 Mazda3 offers it in spades. AutoWeek reviewers agree, raving about the "direct and linear steering feel, rigid chassis and well-sorted suspension." Motor Trend also approves of the new steering system, noting that "the added stiffness and responsiveness when exercising the subcompact through hard accelerating uphill curves, as well as off-throttle downhill downshifts," made a significant difference in the overall driving experience. USA Today calls the Mazda3 2010 "solid" and "surefooted," while AutoWeek points out that "the braking system is upgraded with a new vacuum booster that provides good, light pedal response without overboosting hard braking."
The 2010 Mazda Mazda3 doesn't offer the best EPA numbers in the class, but for driving excitement, it's hard to top.