2010 MAZDA3 and MAZDASPEED3 leave you grinning

(All photos courtesy Mazda)

As I look at the new front fascia for the 2010 model year MAZDA3 I wonder if designers found a little inspiration from CGI artists working on the latest Alice in Wonderland movie. Perhaps the two parties share a favorite pub and the latter left some napkin sketches lying around as carelessly as an Apple employee?

Grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat, the new MAZDA3s still embody that all familiar “zoom-zoom” marketing philosophy while offering value, quality and a truly nice driving experience for the segment.
Love it or hate it though, Mazda says the new bold design was intentionally polarizing and was achieved through a new design philosophy of “Nagare” or flow. And this car flows.

Since going to the single digits for its vehicle designations, Mazda proves it is capable of delivering automobiles worthy of the consumer dollar. On a grand scale, MAZDA3, in both four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions, delivers. Big time.

I have not been shy in proclaiming my love for the platform underneath the MAZDA3 (which is shared by the small Volvo and European Ford Focus). Even at the base level the entry Mazda is capable of delivering a pleasurable driving experience that combines comfort and quality and wraps it up in a vehicle one is not ashamed to park up front for all to see.

The 2010 is the second generation of the new 3 series. Highlights of the makeover include:
• A more sophisticated and exciting exterior hinting at Mazda’s Nagare (motion and flow) design philosophy
• Elevated driving dynamics attributable to comprehensive body, chassis, and powertrain enhancements,
• Key safety and environmental upgrades,
• A higher level of standard and optional equipment,
• An overall sophistication that ventures beyond the sport-compact segment to rival import models costing thousands more.

According to David Matthew, MAZDA3’s vehicle line manager, “This product has earned its stripes as a high quality and exciting sport compact. Our customers voice four reasons why they choose this product over direct competitors as well as alternatives outside the sport-compact segment:
• Zoom-Zoom Design-MAZDA3’s dynamic styling stands out from the small-car crowd to provide customers lasting pride of ownership.
• Zoom-Zoom Performance-This car’s driving character is steeped in vigor and exhilaration, the sheer joy of motion. It delivers on the visual promise provided by its distinctive exterior. Long after the new wears off, MAZDA3 continues putting a smile on its driver’s face.
• Exemplary Quality and Craftsmanship-Every see and touch point is finished to a level of perfection unmatched in the compact class. MAZDA3’s interior design and execution goes beyond Japanese competitors to rival more expensive European brands.
• Insightful Features-Several of MAZDA3’s rivals-Civic, Focus, Sentra-skip the versatile 5-door bodystyle, a configuration one third of the MAZDA3 customer base prefers. Mazda also pioneered the availability of upmarket features such as a navigation system, leather trim, xenon headlamps, electronic stability control, and rain-sensing wipers. MAZDA3 is well known for offering the creature comforts and equipment savvy buyers are seeking in a small, affordable, and highly maneuverable sedan.

Mazda outfits the 3 with choice of 148hp 2.0-liter or 167hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines mated to various five- and six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, depending on “i” or “s” model packaging.
Should this still not quite satisfy the soul, Mazda answers by offering an awesome little rocketship dubbed MAZDASPEED3. If MAZDA3 is Woody, MAZDASPEED3 is Buzz Lightyear – and beyond.

For this little hellion, Mazda takes its five-door hatch and wraps it in an Ironman suit that consists of a 263hp turbocharged 2.3-liter four, slick six-speed manual gearbox with wider gear ratio, sportier suspension tuning, wider 18-inch tires on custom alloy wheels, torque sensing limited slip differential, beefed up disc brakes, new larger floating rear spoiler, MAZDASPEED3 specific front and rear bumpers and MAZDASPEED3 interior package including bucket front seats, turbo boost gauge and new tachometer.

This car is fast – wicked fast – and fun. It offers a “zoom-zoom” experience that will leave you grinning wider than the front grille.

Pricing for a 2010 MAZDA3 starts under $20,000. The MAZDASPEED3 comes in around 25 grand.

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