For the 2010 model year, the Mazda3 is being redesigned and refined. Every single body panel from the old model has been thrown out, so the Mazda3 is sporting a new pair of clothes. That’s the biggest change though, as the rest of the modifications are a lesson in prudent refinement. The previous Mazda3 was a fun, sporty little car, and the new one doesn’t mess with that heritage, but it does have some problems.
Aside from the exterior changes, the new Mazda3 also gets an upgrade under the hood. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine has been replaced with a 2.5-liter version, although because of some clever engineering, the new engine has a larger displacement but is physically the same size as the old engine. This motor produces 167 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque, a slight increase over the its predecessor. However, while the raw numbers don’t see a huge increase, the car feels more powerful and quicker, due largely to the diet Mazda put the car on.
The 2010 Mazda3 attempts to embody the phrase “less is more.” As already noted, the engine stays the same size dimension-wise, but increases its displacement. The chassis saw the addition of a high strength steel that increased its firmness (and thereby improved the handling), yet it weighs 25 pounds less than the old chassis. Adjustments to the existing suspension, particularly spring refinements in the front end, make the car more responsive to drive, as does a new three-point steering rack mounting design that makes the car more responsive.
Okay, so that’s a lot of good things said thus far, what’s the bad? First of all is the fuel economy. The manual transmission model is rated at 22 mpg city/ 29 highway, with the automatic model losing 1 mpg city, the same highway. When it comes to the latest generation of compact cars, a highway mpg rating under 30 no longer cuts it. One of the main draws of compact vehicles is that they can reach 35-38 mpg highway. What does the car offer to offset that rating? Nothing really. Is it a peppy drive that is fun to take around corners? Yes, but so are some other compacts that get better fuel economy.
The 2010 Mazda3 is a good car, and it is an improvement over the previous model year, but it is just not enough of an improvement to really be successful in the compact market. A base level 2009 Honda Civic starts at $15,500 (withing a few dollars of the base Mazda3) and gets 34 mpg highway. The Mazda3 has a lot of potential, but it falls a little short in 2010.