What do you think of when you hear the term small car? Do you think of some tiny underpowered econo-box that can’t get out of it’s own way, or do think about all the money you’re saving because it only sips fuel. One thing that most people don’t equate to our small four wheeled friends is “fun”. You see most people buy small cars out of necessity and compromise. They either live in an urban area where parking is tight, they’re looking for better fuel economy or they simply just can’t afford anything more substantial. The big question here is, do you really have to compromise when purchasing a small car? The answer is simple… no.
For the last week I’ve been driving around in a 2010 Mazda 3 sedan and saying I like this little car would be an understatement. I, like you, had all the same thoughts about what a small car represents so when I heard I was getting a Mazda 3 as a press car I wasn’t all that excited. The car was dropped off at about 10 am and I proceeded to give it the once over. From the outside the 2010 Mazda 3 Sport is actually a pretty handsome little sedan. It doesn’t look like an economy car, nor does it present itself as one. In fact the Mazda 3 Sport is something totally different… it’s fun.
One thing, at least in my mind that has always made Mazda stand out amongst the competition was the quality of the materials and overall feel of their cars. Slide behind the wheel of any Mazda and you are greeted with a car that is not only well built, but one that has a great history of reliability and quality. Everything from the cloth seats, to the dash materials to the leather wrapped steering wheel gives you a sense that you are in a quality automobile, and it doesn’t end there.
Once you slip behind the steering wheel you’ll notice that this is a very well thought out little car. The gauges are clearly visible behind the steering wheel, radio and dash controls are all within arms reach and for the most part, everything can be easily figured out without opening up the owners manual. The steering wheel mounted radio controls take a bit of getting used to, but after a day you should be fine with their functionality.
I have to say that the front seats in the 2010 Mazda 3 Sport 4-Door are simply fantastic with some great bolstering. I like seats like this, but for some I feel that the extra bolstering may become annoying, especially if you don’t like a very sporty feel. Rear seating room is cramped but that shouldn’t really be of any surprise since this is a small car.
They’re fine for small children, but any adult over 5′ 2″ is going to have a tight fit. Only two things about the Mazda 3’s interior annoyed me. First off the passenger side seat has a rear map pocket, yet the driver’s side is void of one… why? Two, the center console butts up against my right leg when I’m seated and regardless of how I adjusted the seat I simply could not get 100% comfortable. Shorter drivers however may not have any of these issues.
Pop open the trunk and you’ll be greeted with 11.8 (cu ft) of cargo space. Not that much really, but plenty for two adults looking to get away for the weekend. You can also put down the 60/40 split rear seats to offer up some more cargo space. The 2010 Mazda 3 Sport 4-door also comes with a space saver spare tire located under the trunk matte in case one of your tires decides to take a dump.
Mazda utilizes “Zoom-Zoom” in their marketing campaign, and for good reason as this little car is a hoot to drive. The 2.5-liter 4 cylinder pumps out 167 hp and 168 lb-ft tq through a 5-speed automatic transmission. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this car is fast, but it is definitely quick enough to have some fun in. Another bright spot is the Mazda 3’s suspension and brakes. I took this car through some of my favorite twisty roads and I must say that it handles great.
The steering is nice and tight and it’s very predictable and confidence inspiring when running through the corners. In fact, and don’t kill me for this, it feels somewhat similar to a BMW 3 series. As mentioned, the brakes are superb as well. I did a couple of very hard stops and the car came to a halt with no drama whatsoever while all the while maintaining good pedal feel. Mileage wise I’ve been averaging about 25 mpg in mixed city and hwy driving, which is really pretty good. Mazda rates the car at 22 city / 29 hwy, so this figure falls right into line with what they’ve worked out.
If you are in the market for a small car I would absolutely give the 2010 Mazda 3 a look. It offers up great build quality, wonderful performance for it’s segment and some fresh styling (although it does look like it’s smiling at you) and at $23,000 fully loaded it is a pretty good value for your dollar.