As our Four Seasons Mazda 3 continues to accumulate miles, it's also picking up a wealth of positive praise for its engaging personality. In a Goldilocks moment, assistant editor David Zenlea finds the 3 to be just right, bookending it between a subcompact Honda Fit and mid-size Mazda 6.
"The 3 is so much more solid and refined than our Honda Fit," he notes. "I know that's an unfair comparison, but it's not that far of a stretch from a well-equipped Fit to a more modest, but still enjoyable 3." Zenlea also points out that the comfortable and composed chassis of the 3 is just as competent as that of the Mazda6. "Unless you're constantly carrying passengers in the back seat, the four-cylinder 6 simply has nothing extra to offer me. The 3 feels just as solid and is also a good deal spunkier."
"Really, the 3 occupies the sweet spot in terms of both its pricing and size," Zenlea concludes. "It's cheap enough that someone could theoretically stretch into it from an econobox, but big enough and grown-up enough that a mid-size sedan buyer should give it serious consideration."
That being said, the 3 isn't without fault. For example, the miniature navigation system continues to draw complaints. "With a screen smack dab in the driver's line of sight and controls right underneath your thumb on the steering wheel, you'd think the 3's navigation system would be the least distracting system to use while on the move," muses Web producer Evan McCausland. "Frustratingly, Mazda's electronic nannies prevent me from using almost every function while the car is rolling. I'm all for undistracted driving, but as I putzed in bumper-to-bumper traffic at a whopping 5 mph, I simply wanted the ability to scroll through the map to find a detour. And it wouldn't let me."
Copy editor Rusty Blackwell has struggled with Mazda's tight rear seats and his young daughter's rear-facing child seat. Even placing the child seat in the middle of the bench requires pulling the front seats forward. Additionally, the top tether anchors are difficult to reach, and in the case of the middle position, require an extension strap. The inconvenience is enough that Blackwell suggests that young families highly scrutinize the 3 before buying one.
The cargo hold isn't exceptionally large, but has been able to accommodate everything we've thrown at it so far. Senior web editor Phil Floraday loaded the rear with two rifles, a box of ammo, and a bag of gear for a day at the range. Afterwards, while running around town, he was grateful for the standard rear cargo cover that kept the guns out of sight.
Our Mazda3 now has some 7300 miles and while we're smitten with the way it drives, we still haven't had the opportunity to sample it in every situation, such as a lengthy road trip. We're eager to log more miles and see if it can continue to meet our expectations.
2010 Mazda3 s Sport 5-Door
Base price (with destination): $19,900
Price as tested: $22,570
Body Style: 4-door hatchback
Construction: Steel unibody
Size: DOHC 16-valve I-4
Displacement: 2.5 liters
Power: 167 hp @6000 rpm
Torque: 168 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel economy: 21 / 29 / 24 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns lock-to-lock: 2.9
Turning Circle: 35.8 ft
Suspension, Front: Strut-type, coil springs
Suspension, Rear: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented disc/disc, ABS
Wheels: 17 x 6.5 in
Tires: Yokohama Avid S34
Tire Size: P205/50-R17
Headroom F/R: 38.1/37.4 in
Legroom F/R: 42.0/36.2 in
Shoulder Room F/R: 54.9/54.0 in
Wheelbase: 103.9 in
Track F/R: 60.2/59.6 in
L x W x H: 177.4 x 69.1 x 57.9 in
Cargo Capacity: 17.0 cu ft
Weight: 3005 lbs
Weight Dist. F/R: 60/40%
Fuel Capacity: 15.9 gal
Est. Range: 382 miles
Fuel Grade: 87 octane
Front, side, and side curtain airbags
Push-button ignition with intelligent key
Power windows, locks, and mirrors
Auxiliary audio input
Tire-pressure monitoring system
Moonroof/Bose Package $1395
-242 watt Bose Centerpoint 10-speaker surround sound
-Moonroof with one-touch open
-In-dash 6-disc CD changer
Technology Package $1195
-Color display with compact nav-screen
-Advanced keyless system with push-button start
-Sirius satellite radio with 6-month subscription