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2010 Mazda 3s Grand Touring Review & Test Drive

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The all-new 2010 Mazda 3s 4-door Grand Touring edition offers the consumer bolder styling, more power and performance, more comfortable interior and added standard safety systems.  The car is an overall sophistication that ventures beyond the sport-compact segment to rival import models costing thousands more.

Realizing that the Zoom-Zoom emotional spirit is both static and dynamic, Mazda gave the new 3i a more expressive and sophisticated interior and exterior with added sportiness.  New features-many of which are borrowed from the new Mazda6-are also introduced in here with the aid of exceeding constantly rising consumer expectations.

Ultimately, Mazda designed and engineered a whole new Mazda3 that blends the best of the first-generation with large and small refinements in countless areas. It begins with the bold grille that is purposely polarizing.  It is the new ‘face’ of Mazda.

The grille design also helps the new 3 distinguish itself from the new Mazda6.  However, the five-sided opening is still instantly recognizable as a strong Mazda design cue.  Likewise, the aggressively sculpted front fenders and hood share a clear family resemblance with the Mazda6 and RX-8.

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Combining the two-medium-sized grille openings used previously into one larger opening also pays functional dividends.  Shifting the air-intake lower on the car increases the pressure of the flow.  As a result, the actual grille opening is 20% small than what was necessary with the previous generation Mazda3.  Most of the air is routed over the hood or around the sides of the car, yielding a significantly lower drag-coefficient, now rated 0.29 to 0.31.  Cars equipped with an automatic transmission have a second driver’s-side inlet opening that routes air through a heat exchanger.  The grille and various elements within its periphery are three dimensional so they literally flow into the surrounding surfaces.  The Mazda front badge is larger and prominently raised above the front body surface.

The front-to-rear rise of the beltline gives the Mazda3i a crouched, expectant look of an animal ready to pounce, and also provides functional benefits.  The low-in-front window opening provides excellent outward visibility.  The higher belt-line in the rear seat area gives occupants a greater sense of security, and the elevated decklid surface with the spoiler is both an aerodynamic aid and a means of maximizing trunk room.

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The rear is now flat with a vivid LED taillamp execution and dual exhaust pipes in the 3i and 3s models.  Wind tunnel testing found that small deflectors located near the front tires and subtle adjustments to the upper-forward corners of the A-pillars, outside mirrors, windshield wipers, and taillamps also helped smooth air flow along the sides of the car.  The net gain was a 6% reduction in wind noise.  The new 3 is the most aerodynamic of the new breed of compact sport sedans.

On the inside the new Mazda3’s cockpit is configured to support you in a more dedicated manner than any sport-compact competitor.  Two large instrument clusters are carefully positioned and clearly marked to deliver engine and road speed information.  Key controls are located in the steering wheel spokes where they can be reached with minimum distraction.  A new Multi-Information Display screen containing navigation, audio, and trip information is positioned high on the instrument panel to avoid the need for you to refocus vision off the road ahead.  A second screen slightly to the right provides station frequency and climate control setting information.

Mazda’s ‘Human Machine Interface’ approach breaks the interior into three key zones: displays and controls used most frequently are located high and close to you to significantly reduce eye motion and refocusing; audio and climate controls are also elevated in the center stack to minimize the amount of head motion needed to change any setting; switches located on the door arm rest, steering column, and steering wheel are designed for intuitive operation so they can often be activated with no need for head or eye motion.  Responding to the knowledge gained from human-machine studies, the new Mazda3’s center console was elevated to shorten the reach to the shift lever and parking brake more by two inches.  From the pleasant sound of the chimes to the gradual rise of interior illumination, every Mazda3 interior design detail is carefully conceived and executed with high quality in mind.  Roof pillars and the beltline are designed to maximize outward visibility and the feeling of roomy openness.

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The new instrument cluster panel top is a padded, seamless, and elegantly grained surface that sweeps from the center console to both A-pillars.  The center console holds two cupholders, a sliding armrest and a roomy storage box, before blending in a continuous curve into the instrument panel.  HVAC and audio controls are large, properly textured and illuminated to provide a visual feedback that a command has been received.  A damper is included to smooth the opening and closing of the small compartment built into the instrument panel, the overhead sunglasses storage box and the roomy glove box.  Ambient illumination, cruise-control, power windows/door locks, dual map lights, 2-12-volt plugs, illuminated vanity mirrors and three grab handles are standard in all Mazda3’s.

Improved seating comfort is the result of front cushions extended by 0.8 inches for enhanced thigh support.  Seatbacks are reshaped for more lumbar support and extended by 1.4 inches for added shoulder support.  Optional sport-seat upper bolsters are canted inward more aggressively for added restraint during hard cornering.  A segment-first eight-way driver’s seat with memory has been added to the option list.  Dual-zone automatic temperature control, heated seats, and a Bose Centerpoint audio system are other new features also not offered by other sport compact competitors.  The 5.1-channel surround sound system engineered cooperatively with Bose experts includes digital amplifier, noise cancellation technology and an array of ten premium speakers.

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Loaded versions of the Mazda3 have a small-diameter leather wrapped/tilt/telescoping steering wheel and soft-touch surfaces finished with French-stitched seams.  Seating areas are available in black or dune colors in both close and leather.  All Mazda3 interiors feature a black instrument panel with pewter-painted accents and black carpeting.  All models feature a 60-40 split-folding rear seat with pull-down dual cupholders as standard to stretch the utility of the trunk.

The Mazda3’s new Multi-Information Display (MID) is patterned after the compact aftermarket navigational devices that provide guidance at an affordable price.  Controls located on the steering wheel select the information to be displayed on the 4.1 inch LCD color screen.  In addition to maps and turn-by-turn guidance, the screen conveys MP3 and i-Pod program information, trip data including fuel economy, plus various maintainance and alert messages.  A monochromatic readout MID is also without the navigational functions.

Advanced keyless entry allows Mazda3 drivers to unlock the doors and start the engine with the key fob in your pocket or purse.  A discrete door handle button and a start/stop button on the dash are used in lieu of a key.  The addition of Bluetooth capability in the new Mazda3 provides wireless mobile phone and audio player connections and hands-free operation.  Instrument panel and steering wheel switches can be used to sort through music selections.

Steering and braking accuracy and feedback that leads to avoiding collisions is one of the best ways to avoid problems.  Towards that end, the Mazda3 excels in agility, maneuverability and ease of control at the limits of braking and cornering adhesion.  Powerful disc brakes, ABS, and electro-hydraulic power steering are standard equipment.  Dynamic stability control and Traction Control are standard on most models.

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The new Mazda 3s the first compacts on the market with an Adaptive Front Lighting system (AFS) containing self-leveling, bi-xenon (high and low beam) headlamps.  Standard equipment in the top Grand Touring trim level, the inner beam steers up to 15-degrees into the turn to expand the illumination pattern.  To minimize the likelihood of injury when a collision occurs, the Mazda3 uses a technology call Triple-H unibody design.  Efficient H-shaped reinforcements in the floor, roof, and side of the body structure resist intrusion and support crush zones at both ends of the car.  Six airbags and active head restraints are also standard.  Side-curtain airbags, which help protect all outboard occupants, are a fast-inflating design with 40% larger coverage area.

Mazda’s MZR engine family is widely regarded as one of the world’s most advanced forms of fuel-efficient, high-energy propulsion.  As before there are two distinct MZR four-cylinder engines available in the Mazda3, both of which offer outstanding performance and efficiency.

Mazda3i models are fitted with the MZR 2.0 liter, DOHC, all-aluminum engine making 148hp at 6,500rpm and 135lb.ft. of torque at 4,500rpm. It is mated to either a standard smooth-shifting manual box or a sophisticated, electronically controlled automatic with a manual-shift mode.  Both are fitted with five forward speeds.  EPA specs are excellent-25mpg/city and 33mpg/highway.

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Mazda3s customers benefit from a healthier injection of Zoom-Zoom attributable to the new 2.5 liters of displacement.  This new engine is similar in most details to that found in the all-new 2009 Mazda6i.  Changes from the previous 2.3 liter I-4 unit include a fatter bore and a longer stroke packed into a cylinder block with unchanged external dimensions by using cylinder-bore liners made of a steel-molybdenum alloy offering strength and stiffness increases of 30%.  A forged-steel crankshaft provides the necessary stamina.  Twin balance shafts located in the oil sump cancel second-order noise and vibration, allowing this engine to sing up to its 6,200rpm redlines.  The deep skirt block is engineered for extra stiffness and main-bearing caps are integral with a ladder-type lower-block reinforcement.  To minimize the noise and vibration typically found on large displacement four-cylinder engines, the damper at the forward end of the crankshaft is equipped with two tuned masses.  At the output end, a new flexible flywheel also curbs NVH.

Fuel is delivered to the intake ports by an electronically controlled sequential injection system.  Ignition coils are modular units positioned directly above the spark plugs.  Shim-less bucket tappets require no maintenance.  Light-weight pistons are coated with a special anti-friction compound and fitted with low-tension rings for improved gas mileage.  Sintered powder-metal connecting rods and lighter, full-floating wrist pins minimize the reciprocating weight.  As a result, this engine hums as contently at 6,000rpm as it does at 2,000rpm.  Like the MZR 2.0 liter, the new 2.5 liter power-plant features variable intake valve timing and a two-mode composite intake manifold.  A 4-into-1 exhaust manifold improves cylinder scavenging and reduces the time necessary for the catalytic converter to warm to full operating temperature.  Dual tailpipes and specially tuned mufflers provide a pleasant exhaust note with a hint of mid-range boom or high-rpm thrash.

Providing 167hp at 6,000rpm and 168lb.ft. of torque at 4,00rpm, the MZR 2.5 liter engine is available with a smooth shifting six-speed manual or a five-speed electronically controlled automatic with manual shift control-again, borrowed from the larger, up-market Mazda6.  Despite an increase in power and displacement, fuel efficiency ratings show no loss over the 2009 2.3 liter models, with EPA figures of 21mpg/city and 29mpg/highway with the manual and 22mpg/city and 29mpg/highway with the new automatic.

A uniquely Mazda Active Adaptive Shift protocol provides the new 5-speed automatic with the performance and response that Mazda3 customers expect.  Part-throttle downshifts are delivered in sync with the nudge of the accelerator during passing.  When the car is braking aggressively in anticipation of cornering, the transmission also downshifts to add engine braking and to prepare for an expedient exit from the curve.  A wider overall ratio spread assists acceleration from standstill while also providing quieter and more efficient high cruising.  This new engine pulls mightily at launch and through the gears enabling the all-new 3s to race out to 60mph from a standstill in just 7sec.

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By refining the strengths of the previous unibody, steering, brakes and suspension systems-instead of starting over with radically different designs-Mazda engineers delivered major improvements in ride and handling performance while also reducing several pounds from the unibody and chassis weight.  As before, the new Mazda3 rides on a 103.9in. wheelbase.  Wheel track dimensions are also unchanged.  A 3in. increase in length yields a lower drag coefficient and additional fuel capacity with the 2.5 liter engine.  Unibody bending stiffness has been increased a significant 7% by a major gain in the use of high-tensile-strength steel panels, by adding gussets in heavily loaded areas, such as the suspension mounting points, and by strategic increases in metal gauge thickness.  In addition, a technique call weld bonding first used in the new Mazda6 has also been applied to the Mazda3’s unibody construction.  At key locations-such as the door aperture areas-the combination of structural adhesion and spot welding greatly enhances the unibody’s flex resistance.  A stiffer structure also provides a quieter ride, improved suspension response to steering and cornering loads, and more stable cruising and braking performance.  The weight saving is a significant 24lbs.

Changes to the rubber-isolated front, and rigidly mounted rear, subframes also enhance rigidity while saving weight.  A new instrument panel support structure using two instead of the previous one steel reinforcement tubes saves 4.4lbs. while providing more solid support for the steering column.  Adding ribs to the inner door panels and increasing the size of the roof reinforcements bar yield major reductions in NVH.

To improve steering precision and feel, a third mounting point has been added near the center of the electro-hydraulic-assisted rack & pinion steering gear.  The diameter of the rack has been increased from 1.57-to-1.61in. for improved stiffness and to facilitate more precise calibration of the speed-dependent power assistance.

Because the previous car was so effective, suspension changes are modest.  The span between front and rear anti-roll bar support points has been widened by nearly 1in. to increase the effectiveness of the bars without raising their weight.  Minor changes to the steering geometry and the layout of the multi-link rear suspension diminish understeer during turn-in and oversteer while exiting a curve.  Front struts and rear monotube dampers are recalibrated for this new generation to take advantage of the more robust unibody structure and tire specification changes.  Its amazing that the all-new 3s rides and handles even better than before.  Turn-in is sharp and quick, there is no vibration when handling the steering wheel.  The suspension and steering are so well connected that you feel like you are part of the car, so harmonious is the new ride.  Engineers have found the ‘sweet spot’ by combining performance and comfort so well.

Power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist are standard Mazda3 equipment.  Rotor sizes are 10.9in. and 10.4in. in back in the Mazda3i and 11.8in. and 11in. in back in Mazda3s models.  These larger rotors work in conjunction with the electronic enhancers to bring the new 3i and s to a shorter, more controlled stop.

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As before, 205/55HR16in. all-season radial tires mounted on 6.5in. steel wheels, or available aluminum alloy, are standard Mazda3i equipment.  The more powerful Mazda3s models roll on larger 205/50V17in. all-season performance tires wrapped around 17X7in. aluminum alloy wheels.  These tires and wheels enhance ride comfort and traction.

New from front to back, from top to bottom, with heavily restyled bodies and updated or all-new powertrains, and a comprehensively revised interior, the 2010 Mazda3 four and 5-door hatchback models are ready to protect their ground in the popular and ever-growing sport compact segment.  The new car offers a level of content, style, dynamics and sophistication simply not seen elsewhere in the segment.

It is the best Mazda3 ever, and a sure winner!

COPYRIGHT:2009:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

Specifications

Price: MSRP $21,500 As-Tested $24,760
Type: Compact Sedan
Where Built: Japan
EPA Class: Compact Cars

Dimensions

Exterior
Length: 180.9 in. Width: 69.1 in.
Height: 57.9 in.
Wheel Base: 103.9 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.7 in.
Curb Weight: 2963 lbs.
Interior
Front Head Room: 38.9 in.
Front Hip Room: 53.7 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 54.9 in.
Rear Head Room: 37.5 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 54 in.
Rear Hip Room: 52.2 in.
Front Leg Room: 42 in. Rear Leg Room: 36.2 in.
Luggage Capacity: 11.8 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 5

Performance Data

Base Number of Cylinders: 4
Base Engine Size: 2.5 liters
Base Engine Type: Inline 4
Horsepower: 167 hp
Max Horsepower: 6000 rpm
Torque: 168 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 4000 rpm
Drive Type: FWD
Turning Circle: 34.2 ft.
0-60mph: 7.4 seconds

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 15.9 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Manual: 21 mpg / 29 mpg / 24 mpg
Range in Miles:
Manual: 333.9 mi. / 461.1 mi. / 381.6 mi.

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