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ZOOMING AWAY FROM THE PACK

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Sep 5, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

By Paul Robinson The midsized compact market is recently the most demanding and competitive of the automotive markets. Virtually all the major manufacturers are trying to get their foot in this small-car low-price market. The Mazda3 is no newcomer to this market, having first been released in 2004. It has become well-refined with age.

While walking up to this new version, it is obvious Mazda has put in more effort and emphasis on making this a great-looking vehicle - and not just an inexpensive car. The wide stance and strong body lines make this 5-door the best-looking car in its class. With eight trim packages available, Mazda has given us a lot of options. Once in the roomy cockpit notice, I the technology package - surprising for a car in this price bracket. The small but effective display is located at the top of the dash just under the driver line of vision. It is much easier (and safer) to use while driving than the larger screens located in the lower part of the dash. All navigation and audio controls can be adjusted through the steering wheel which also is a great and unexpected feature.

During long commutes and spending more than two hours a day on the Southern California freeways, most drivers need more than a good technology package and good gas mileage. When spending large amounts of time in a small car it is easy to start feeling like a big sardine in a small can. I am quite surprised at the interior space in the Mazda3. Being a big guy, I fit very comfortably in the front bucket seat. With the rear seats folded down, there is also an ample amount of storage space in the car. The Mazda3 exhibits minimal road noise, and the ride is very smooth considering the weight of the car and its performance features.

There is no part of the new Mazda3 that does not look and breath performance. From the redesigned front end, with its aggressive Bi-Xenon HID lights and valance mounted adapted front lighting system, to the 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, Mazda engineers and designers kept performance in mind. From the streets to the freeway, the Mazda3 does not disappoint. The 167 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque coming from the 2.5-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engine makes more than enough power to put a smile on my face and have my girlfriend grabbing for the handles. Partnered with the manual six-speed transmission, the low speed acceleration is impressive and will easily pull the front tires off the ground on the sandy roads by the beach. The need to double downshift to pass on the freeway, however, takes some getting accustomed to.

Even with this power, the Mazda3 5-door still achieves a commendable EPA rating of 21/29 miles per gallon city and highway accordingly. The midsize compact class thrives on good mileage. Even though the Mazda does not have best-in-class gas mileage, it out-performs on almost every other level. Mazda has done an exceptional job in the redesign and have once again come through on their slogan. SUMMARY JUDGMENT Even more zoom than the previous benchmark. For more information about Mazda products, go to www.mazdausa.com 

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 Mazda3 s Grand Touring 5-door Hatchback Price: MSRP: $21,500 As Tested: $24,760 EPA mileage estimates (city/highway): 21/29 Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve in-line four Horsepower: 167 @ 6000 rpm Torque: 168 pound-feet at 4000 rpm Drive configuration: Front Wheel Drive system Transmission type: 6-speed manual transmission Steering: Electro-hydraulic power assisted steering Suspension: Front: Independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs and stabilizer bar Rear: Independent multilink coil springs and stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: 17" alloy wheels P205/50R17 all-season tires Brakes: Front: Vented Rotor Rear: Solid Rotor ABS; Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD); brake assist Overall length: 177.4 inches Overall width: 69.1 inches Overall height: 57.9 inches Curb weight (lbs.): 3,005 lbs.

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