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2010 Mazda 3: A hatchback standout

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  August 13, 2009 11:57 AM

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(All photos: Clifford Atiyeh/

Sometimes, it takes a more expensive car to really know how good a less expensive one is.

The pricey car was the BMW 128i. Stretching only 172 inches, nearly 9 inches shorter than a 3 series coupe, the 128i by its stature looked bound to be tossable and lively. The near 50-50 weight distribution, rear-wheel drive, a grunting inline-six and creamy six-speed automatic confirmed that thought. BMW's obsession with fine-tuning its steering, suspension, and brakes really gave it the driver-centric polish that few other cars can match, and that's the real reason journalists rave about these cars. Few other companies really care to go that far.

But BMW is also concerned with positioning its cars above reach of average earners. And $41,000 for a teeny two-door, no matter how great it drives, is as comical as the 1's stubby exterior. Which explains why the 128i, as Bill Griffith noted in his April review, is a rare car on the road, even with around 6,500 cars sold in the US through July.

Meanwhile, for half that price, Mazda has sold roughly 24,000 of its newly redesigned 3 sedans and hatchbacks in the same time. Is it silly to compare a $21,000 Mazda to a BMW, especially when the Mazda isn't the racy RX-8 or Mazdaspeed 3? No, because the BMW's 10 percent higher fun factor — addictive as it is — isn't worth 100 percent more.


Our 5-door Sport tester started at $19,980 with destination, which includes Bluetooth, power windows/mirrors/locks, trip computer, four-wheel independent suspension, 17-inch alloys, 6-speed manual transmission, and about five inches extra length over the 128i. Besides the requisite six airbags, ABS, and stability and traction control, our 3 added Sirius radio ($430) and a 10-speaker Bose sound system, 6-CD changer, and power moonroof package ($1,395) for $21,725.

It's a tight, handsome package in and out. While the gaping, smiling front grill isn't as big of an air intake as it seems — half of the plastic is filled — the styling statement, along with the large Mazda logo and swept headlights, is appropriately aggressive. A subtle roof spoiler rounds out the rear, along with chrome-tipped dual exhaust tips. It's not a radical change from the previous 3 when viewed from the back at three-quarters, and like the outgoing models, the 3's shape doesn't suffer from cartoonish, overblown rocker panels and trim.


Inside is where the new model shines. The beige/black combo on our car was quite pleasant with silver-painted trim, blue LED accent lighting on the uncluttered center stack and front passenger footwells, and cutout red-faced gauges on the instrument cluster. Soft dashboard padding, tight panel gaps, high plastic quality (just as good, if not better, than the 1 Series), and a thin, leather-wrapped steering wheel with stereo and phone controls were very welcome in this economy segment.


Overfed drivers and their families won't get comfortable in the 3, but I was, along with three similar-sized adults and a hatch full of large luggage. Perhaps it's the sporty European in me, but I'll always prefer good lateral support and a firm, supportive cushion on my back any day over a flat, wide sofa.

These seats kept me snug and relaxed as I threw the 3 into Boston traffic. There is little body roll, the settled suspension isn't too firm, and the variable-assist steering is crisp and direct, if not a tad light on initial turn-in. Clutch take-up is easy to find and modulate in stop-and-go situations, the short-throw shifter a bit rubbery, unlike the 6 sedan we recently tested. (Part of that may be due to having little over 1,000 miles on the clock.)

When the road's clear, exercising the 2.5 liter, 167 horsepower inline-4 (165 on our PZEV-spec motor) is a pleasure for more-than-adequate acceleration, though it won't get you into trouble as fast as a Subaru WRX or the 263 horsepower Mazdaspeed 3. The engine and transmission are shared with the 6 sedan, and while vibrations are kept to a minimum, it's obvious that much of the 6's sound deadening and insulation were removed in the 3. It's a louder car at any speed, but for a compact, it's fair game.


Fuel economy during our 449-mile test was a combined 25 miles per gallon, right in between the EPA 21/29 rating. That's disappointing for a car this size. However, the lighter Kia Soul, with its smaller 2.0 liter engine, returned only 22 miles per gallon in an earlier test this year.

There's not much else on the 3 to complain about. Mild torque-steer, no separate volume controls for phone and stereo (when the music's up, the ring is deafening), and like the 6, a surprisingly low top gear that keeps the engine at a high 3,000 rpm at a highway cruise are about it.

It's a standout car, but there are also few 5-door hatches on the US market. That seems to be changing, what with the 2010 Honda Insight and upcoming 2011 Ford Fiesta.

Sure, the 1 Series will ruin the 3 on a twisty road, mostly because of the German car's surefootedness at higher speeds. The 3 doesn't quite have that extra edge.

For average Schumachers, though, this little Mazda is plenty of entertainment.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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72 comments so far...
  1. The lower fuel economy is a direct tradoff for more safety, with maybe a couple mpg due. to low break-in miles. This and similar cars now weigh 3000-3200#, that's about what a Ford Fairmont weighed in the '80s. The Fairmont was a (nominally) 6 passenger car with rwd.

    If mpg is really what you want, get a Geo Metro, which are available used for about free. More real world mpg than a Prius, lower resource consumption and 1/10th the price.

    Posted by Bubba Sixpack August 13, 09 01:57 PM
  1. I find the MPGs on these small car reviews pretty atrocious.
    I drive a 2008 Honda Accord 4cyl 5auto, EPA 21 city/31 highway, and get 28+ MPG overall in mixed summer driving and 26+ MPG in mixed winter driving.
    How is the reviewer only getting 25 MPG in a Mazda3 and 22 MPG in a Kia Soul?

    Posted by SingleCommuterWithBagel August 13, 09 02:18 PM
  1. I own a 2009 Mazda 3 hatch and have test-driven the 2010, and I have to say, I think the new design ruined a lot of what I love about the Mazda 3. The gaping smile is just ugly, the silver plastic trim looks chintzy compared to the piano black of the old design ,and the rear visibility and blind spots are much, much worse. The 2010 also seemed to have noticeably louder road and engine noise than my '09. Yeah there's a slightly bigger engine and a few more bells and whistles on the 2010s (the push-putton opener for the hatch is pretty cool), but overall I think the older 3's are much classier looking and better to drive.

    Posted by sam m. August 13, 09 02:32 PM
  1. Not a bad little car, but for New England, you're better suited getting a Subaru Impreza 2.5i; just as quick, get's the same gas mileage, same price, but with AWD!

    Posted by Mark D. August 13, 09 02:33 PM
  1. u dun li3k sittin on fat sofa seats? i luv me a good bench seat u can sink into. u kno u r turning too hard when u slide away from the wheel

    Posted by Tode Meriam August 13, 09 04:24 PM
  1. Another vote for the 2009 Mazda 3 over the 2010 version. Just don't care for the redesign.

    Posted by Lauren August 13, 09 04:26 PM
  1. Gotta say - big fan of the Mazda lineup. They seem to design and tune each of their car entries to be the "driver oriented" model among its competition. Flatter cornering, decent steering feedback, and typically great clutch/gearbox combos. I currently drive an RX-8 and my first car I ever bought with my own money was a protege so, yeah, I am kind of biased.

    For Mark D - the impreza is not a bad choice if AWD is important to you, but it gets about 15% worse gas mileage (EPA 21 or 22 overall vs 24 or 25 overall) and comes across as a bit crude compared to the Mazda. Here's a side-by-side comparison of compact hatches so folks can find their own best fit.

    Posted by WVW in West Newton August 13, 09 04:54 PM
  1. Mazda do make nice sporty hatchbacks. I wouldn't mind this new one, but my protege5 have left me wondering if the quality is on par with price. One word: RUST.
    My car is from 2003 and there is already significant rust, places where I wouldn't expect it to show up at this time. From what I can tell Mazda puts all the $$ into the gadgets and design and forget about making the car worthy of regular usage. These sub $20K cars are even more designed with the 'only 5 years' usage in mind. You can only get nice features and keep the price down if you cut cost. In this case you get less rust proofing. I see it even on the Mazda 3's from 2005 and up.

    Posted by CarNut August 13, 09 05:10 PM
  1. Why compare a GREAT Mazda 3 with a BMW 1 Series you Idiot, one if front wheel drive one is rear wheel drive, just shows how little you know about cars, both have totally different handling characteristics which you do not compare if you know what you are talking about.

    Posted by Ash August 13, 09 06:40 PM
  1. Hey Ash, I'm well aware of the characteristics of front versus rear-wheel drive cars. Point being: the 3 does much of what the 1 Series does (not everything, of course) for half the price. That's enough to win kudos in our book.

    Posted by Clifford Atiyeh August 13, 09 07:36 PM
  1. 2010 redesign smiley front is just plain silly looking
    I own a 2006 MZ3 GT 5 door and my next car won't be a MAZ3 due to this fugly redesign.

    off topic:
    Last pic looks like BC Gasson Hall

    Posted by Jim Dubois August 14, 09 09:40 AM
  1. No one has ever gotten laid for driving a Mazda, though

    Posted by Rick P. from Kentucky August 14, 09 09:46 AM
  1. Big Mazda fan here - I'm still driving and enjoying my 2000 Protege. I would be looking for a new Mazda 3 soon, but I want really good mileage. Does anyone know if Mazda is thinking of producing a model with a diesel engine? Seems like it would be a good fit for the company because you could get good fuel economy without sacrificing performance. As it stands now, I am thinking about a Volkswagen Jetta TDI to get the 45-50 mpg, but I worry about Volkswagen quality and would much prefer a Mazda.

    Posted by Jeff August 14, 09 09:49 AM
  1. If I were in my 20s (or could afford two cars), I'd love the Mazda3 hatch. It seems like a worthy successor to my beloved '95 Acura Integra. For those who, like me, have moved on to family-land, let me put in a plug for the Mazda5. It's literally the same car but with about 3x the interior room.

    Of course, the bigger body (and higher seating position) means you lose a good deal of the sporting quality -- but by no means all of it. It drives really well, way more nimbly than you might guess.

    Posted by CTS August 14, 09 10:02 AM
  1. Ash - the 128i and the 3 are pretty similar in size and functionality. Like the writer said, regardless of rwd and fwd, the 128i is 10% more fun for 100% more price, which is why you don't see too many on the road. And if you were to get a 1 series, the one you really want is the twin turbo 300hp 135i.

    Posted by kdilkington August 14, 09 10:15 AM
  1. "Overfed drivers and their families": is that a euphemism for fat people? Weird.

    Posted by anna August 14, 09 10:22 AM
  1. While I haven't driven the redesigned 3, I am leasing a 128i. I must disagree with the "10% more fun" figure. How do you measure that? Does a smile come on your face whan you press the "start engine" button in a 3? It does with the 3.0L flat six of the 128i...

    Yes, the 135i is more fun. It is also faster aroun the track than a Porsche Cayman and cost 5-7 k more than a 128i. And it will take you to the pump more often.

    I think the Mazda 3 is a great competitor in a very competitive segment. I think it's a lot of good sense car for the money. I drove a previous generation 3 and it was very enjoyable. But please measure apples with apples. Very enjoyable is not close to the ultimate driving machine.

    Posted by 162wst August 14, 09 11:27 AM
  1. WVW - Oh, right, I didn't really check the over-all MPG. When I got my Subie, I compared it to the last-model 3, to which it drove very similar (if a bit more neutral, due to AWD). I'm getting ~25 MPG now, in mixed driving (live in Cambridge, work in Wellesley), but that's after the break-in period (10k miles), and with slightly higher tire pressure (38 psi v 35 normally).

    I find it odd that, even with a 6-speed, it still cruises at ~3k at highway speeds (my 5-speed subie runs at 3k @ 75 MPH)

    Posted by Mark D. August 14, 09 12:05 PM
  1. To Carnut: My wife and I drove an '03 Protege5 for three years and I wish I still had it. It wore like iron inside and out. Parked outside for the duration of our ownership, it kept a shiny black paint job with regular washing and waxing. It wore so well, in fact, that it kept a better shine than my gray Accord sedan of the same year. About three years ago, I traded in my Accord for an '05 Mazda6 and same deal here. The car goes from Providence to Boston three days a week in rain, snow, and 100 degree weather, and it still looks incredible (with 66K miles) inside and out..... because I wash and wax it regularly. Cars last longer with regular upkeep and maintenance - especially in New England. Just sayin'....

    Posted by Delgetti August 14, 09 12:21 PM
  1. A lot of road noise? I don't care much for that.

    Posted by Alex August 14, 09 01:06 PM
  1. Nice choice of location for the photo shoot!

    Posted by doubleeagleguy August 14, 09 02:08 PM
  1. I hate the front bumper. The grill is too big.

    Posted by Anonymous August 14, 09 04:02 PM
  1. I just bought my first Subaru, an Impreza WRX 5 door. I've got less than 1000 miles, but I'm liking it so far. I got 26 MPG on my second tank of mostly highway driving at 70. Keeping the turbo out of the picture certainly helps with the mileage. On the first tank, I was in the turbo more often (rapid acceleration can be very addictive) and got only about 20 MPG. It's a little noisier than my 130K mile 2002 Maxima 6-speed SE that is now relegated to limited use, but the WRX will hopefully be better in snow than my Maxima ever was.

    Posted by DinosaurManualTransmissionLover August 14, 09 10:58 PM
  1. Fuel economy isn't so great. I usually get around 35mpg in my 2002 Saturn SC2. I can get 40mpg on highway road trips. They should bring the Mazda 2 over here. The front end design looks similar.

    Posted by bradley August 15, 09 05:33 AM
  1. I agree about the rust. I own 2004 3s Hatchback and start seeing the both rear panels getting small spots. Also interier carpet are pretty cheap and ripping from every direction. Other then that Car is worth to own.

    Posted by sam August 15, 09 07:08 AM
  1. I recently bought a 2009 Honda Fit, well trimmed out for only $16,200. Surprisingly roomy, hatchback with versatile interior, handles great, good safety features, and averages 38 mpg. I looked at the Mazda and didn't see any added value for that extra five grand.

    Posted by JohnB August 15, 09 10:50 AM
  1. I own a 2009 MAZDA 3 Hatch 2.3 Touring Edition and get consistently 30-31 MPG... all around driving - maybe 50/50 highway/city.

    Posted by Brewtalboyz August 15, 09 02:21 PM
  1. I'd consider this, but I'm only looking for cars over 35 mpg for city driving. Mazda seems to be a step or two behind in the hybrid sedan/hatchback department.

    Posted by Meekman August 15, 09 04:21 PM
  1. I wonder how it would look with my 17'8" kayak on top...

    Posted by kayak guy August 15, 09 09:35 PM
  1. All this aside, how are the seats? That's where it really matters

    Posted by Jay August 16, 09 12:37 AM
  1. Go BC!
    I'm liking the Honda Fit for a hatchback. But I'm not a car person.

    Posted by cleareyesfullheart August 16, 09 10:51 AM
  1. I just bought a 2010 Mazda 3 and couldn't be more happier about it. The car is a lot of fun to drive. Zoom! Zoom!

    Posted by Anonymous August 16, 09 11:14 AM
  1. It's Mazda's attempt to do what Ford did with the 1996-1999 Taurus. Take the nameplate and devise a way to style every primary element of the car to conform with the shape of the nameplate, from grill to rear. I'm surprised they didn't border the rear fenestration with litle winglets in the upper left and right corners or draw down a little ducktail into the bottom center of the rear glass.

    I'm gonna throw up. Wow that's ugly.

    Posted by mike August 16, 09 11:16 AM
  1. Wait, they did draw a little ducktail down the center of the rear glass. I hadn't bothered to scroll down to the back photo until now.

    Posted by mike August 16, 09 11:18 AM
  1. I'm a long time Mazda owner with a MS3. IMO Mazda builds some of the most underrated cars hands down. Mazda does require a bit more care and feeding compared to the Toyotas and Hondas of the world. But it's worth it to me considering the Mazdas possess a helluva lot more personality and driving fun. Properly taken care of Mazdas will last as long and wear as well as ANY make. For those of you who hate the new styling well at least Mazda isn't afraid of trying out new ideas. The last pict in the article shows the 3 to be a very sporty looking car. Don't like it then go drive one of the "me-too" Hondas and Toyotas. :-)

    Posted by Tony August 16, 09 03:48 PM
  1. I drive a 1998 Honda Accord with 177,000 miles on it and I get 29 mpg highway driving. 95% of my driving is on the highway.

    Posted by David August 16, 09 05:12 PM
  1. I own the 09 mazda 3 5 door with auto. i like it. good room, enough pickup(tiptronic), and decent interior features. i bought it because i rented one the year before. i've owned acuras, hondas and for the price, the mazda 3 is a good car.

    Posted by jaxon August 16, 09 05:18 PM
  1. Believe it or not, BMW does offer a version of the 1xx series in Germany for just a tad more than $20,000, and in fact you can get a nice one in the mid $20,000 range. The problem is that BMW imports only the fully outfitted versions at premium prices here, which is some of the stupidest management thinking around. Right now I'd say the German manufacturers are competing with GM on the automobile management stupidity scale. They could flood the US market with well-made, German-engineered cars at Japanese prices, but German management has this bizarre "tradition" of only selling their premium versions in the US, which is really a shame. I only wish the American manufacturers knew how to build a car like BMW, Audi, or Mercedes, but American engineering long ago lost its ability to design and build such quality machines.

    Posted by blumenbach August 16, 09 06:05 PM
  1. Rick P. from Kentucky wrote "No one has ever gotten laid for driving a Mazda, though"

    Ha! My Mazda Miata is how I met my girlfriend.

    Yes, an unmasculine Miata can attract women.

    Posted by Andy August 17, 09 09:36 AM
  1. Andy - I never got what was unmasculine about a light-weight, rear-wheel drive, two seater roadster in the tradition of fabulous old Austin-Healey's and Triumphs! But, I guess that's the same American mentality that birthed the F-250 Harley-Davidson edition...

    Posted by Mark D August 17, 09 09:53 AM
  1. How many tires did the reviewer go through during the test?

    The Mazda low-profiles pop at the slightest road bump. I got rid of my Millenia S solely for this reason. In four years I went through 2 full sets of tires.

    Posted by Good cars, bad sneakers August 17, 09 09:59 AM
  1. Ha. You're right, Jim Dubois. That whole photo shoot was done on the Boston College campus. Good eye. Nice.

    I currently own a 2004 Mazda 3s Hatch and have been considering a getting a new BMW X5 or X6, but just can't get over the thought of parting with this fun little driving machine...

    Posted by DJ Phen Wei August 17, 09 11:02 AM
  1. This Mazda looks to be a mix of the two best cars for the money I ever owned. Sorry to hear about the rust problem. (Did they catch that rust flu from Ford, I wonder. Achoo!)

    (1977 Saab 99 EMS + 1989 Honda Civic Hatchback) = Mazda 3 ??

    The Saab could drive circles around muscle cars on twisting roads or in the snow. And it got 25 mpg. At about 3,000 pounds. With 108 horsepower. It got great acceleration where it mattered, from 20 - 80 mph. And even without airbags, it saved my life.

    The Honda was lighter. It always got way over 35 mpg combined, and very often on long-distance trips we'd easily exceed 45 mpg with it all loaded up for camping. At the end it wasn't pretty, but it lasted for 18 years.

    Good luck with your horsepower jones.

    Posted by OneMoreBicycle August 17, 09 11:40 AM
  1. @ 41.... Mazda doesn't make tires, you know.

    Posted by Nicholai August 17, 09 12:07 PM
  1. The last good Mazda was the 1997 Mazda RX7. That was one fast and sharp car. I am not a fan of the newest RX7/RX8 or any other Mazda for that matter.

    Posted by Tom August 17, 09 12:42 PM
  1. I own a 2003 Toyota Matrix XR 2WD (1ZZ engine) 5spd with 145K miles on it and I'm still getting 32 MPG out of it (mostly highway) and it still runs like a top. Not a big fan of the body styling on the new Matrix though. I am looking at a lot of the options in the 5 door wagon category for my next car buy and even though I like the new Mazda 3, I'm thinking that I'm going to be picking up a pre-09 Matrix for my next car. I'll take the 30 or so less HP for some of the best reliability in the car market any day!

    Posted by Matrixowner August 17, 09 12:46 PM
  1. i, too, will note that the previous generation's hatch was unusually handsome for the segment because of the flowing shoulders/hips design that seemed make the car look more-sophisticated (ie, more-expensive) than it really was.

    this generation tossed that shoulders-to-hips design in favor of the front arches and swept-back styling prevalant in the other cars in the segment today.

    it's not as good looking. looks like a Vibe.

    Posted by mikeybigboy August 17, 09 02:24 PM
  1. I like Mazda, but they did such a hack job on the front end (the big smiley grill and huge cut outs are the front turn signals.) I just could not own one.

    Posted by Dave Steel August 17, 09 02:53 PM
  1. Believe it or not, I'm still driving a 1994 Mazda Protege (bought it in Nov. '93). Car has $140,000 miles on it, and except for problems with the a/c and various noises, it still runs great. Gas mileage this summer has averaged 29-30 miles per gallon. No rust, even though it's been kept outside the entire time (first 8 years were in Maryland, so not as much salt). I'd love to buy another Mazda but am holding on to the Protege for as long as possible.

    Posted by Kathy Benoit August 17, 09 03:36 PM
  1. Has anyone mentioned how the Mazda 3 handles in snow yet? I've owned my 2008 Mazda 3 since last August, and after getting stuck in the driveway (basically flat) on the first big snow, I realized I needed snow tires. Also, I don't think the sight lines work very well for me (I'm 5'3") I can't rave about the car.

    Posted by Janet Fischer August 17, 09 03:58 PM
  1. 1 word: ICK!

    Posted by tom tavilla August 17, 09 04:04 PM
  1. I have a 2005 Mazda 3 and generally love it. I paid relatively little for a reliable car with plenty of pep and good styling. However, I'm really disappointed with the goofy grill on the 2010. Some tweaking is always a good idea but this looks like something out of a Pixar film. Too bad 'cause I might have upgraded in time. Maybe Mazda wtill rethink the design for 2011.

    In response to two comments above: my then-girlfriend instantly loved my car and I did just fine. We're married now. The factory tires were terrible (I had to replace all 4 by year 3 despite well below-average mileage). I replaced with performance-grade Dunlops. They just shouldn't have worn out that quickly.

    Posted by Patrick August 17, 09 05:07 PM
  1. I love how the press views a $ 23,000 car as inexpensive......THEY have helped contribute to a very over priced market. Any market researcher knows the cash for clunkers is proof positive that the auto industry is struggling because they have priced their products way too high. The industry also has the press and consumer believing that smaller & high MPG cars are going to cost last - that makes NO sense what so ever. Iron ore is a large cost driver in the total cost of a car.....smaller cars weigh a lot less.

    The Globe and others need to start to begin to objectively critisize the auto industry for what it has become - none competing. Why compare a Mazda 3 to a BMW? - try a Honda Fit.

    Posted by carsareoverpricedperiod August 17, 09 07:02 PM
  1. Still like my 2000 Protege LX, with 78K miles. But when that dies I'm thinking
    I'll move to something that offers better mileage, like the Honda Fit, Nissan
    Versa (interesting CVT), or maybe see if the Chevy Cruze with its HCCI engine
    turns up in time. Zoom-zoom is all very well, but a compact car ought to do
    around 35+ mpg these days, not 20-25mpg.

    I like Mazda, but their engine and transmission technology (at least in their
    US products) seems a bit old and inefficient.

    Posted by Richard Cownie August 17, 09 08:00 PM
  1. love how everyone compares to bmw per the heading of this article: "sure, a bmw will beat it". oh no, really? you're buying a mazda and you'll get blown away by a 135i or 335i (or even a 128i)? the horror!

    just goes to show that all those "awful" bangle designs really didn't put a dent in BMW's reputation, especially considering everyone copied them.

    if you can afford a bmw, why would you even consider a mazda? sure, i'm not saying mazda isn't a nice car for what it is, but a bmw will come with better standard safety features, will handle better, and will be an all around better and more reliable car for a longer time. yes, i said more reliable. people who don't know much about german cars, you can put down consumer reports and actually try owning one for a while.

    Posted by FJ August 18, 09 07:40 AM
  1. to be fair, the front looks much better/less offensive in person compared to photos. the hood looks longer and more muscular in person than the previous gen, so i'll give them points there.

    Posted by mikeybigboy August 18, 09 07:50 AM
  1. Smart alec. Of course Mazda doesn't make tires, but they select the supplier and the specs for the tires that are put on the vehicle at the factory. And the Mazda low profile tires are not suited for Massachusetts roads.

    Posted by THanks, perfesser August 18, 09 09:34 AM
  1. Matrix Owner--We ditched our 04 Matrix--what a lemon it was. 5-speed had to be rebuilt at 61,000, and dealer (Acton Toyota--don't beleive the ads) would do nothing about it 1000 over warranty. The Matrix replaced a 5 speed Accord wagon with 180,000 and original clutch and tranny, so not the drivers. A/C leaked, and cat converter going at 110,000 miles. Traded for 09 Mazda 3, and while mileage is somewhat disappointing, a much more enjoyable car to drive. Wish Honda had a 5-door Civic, but after driving a 3, the Civics were boring. Zoom Zoom

    Posted by ZoomZoom August 18, 09 10:45 AM
  1. I LOVE my Honda FIT: avg mpg 43!
    Peppy, handles well, low price.

    Posted by Selkie August 18, 09 12:08 PM
  1. I agree with comment 56. I've seen the 2010 in person at the showroom and it is much more appealing than in the photo. I would buy this car in black or the gun metal grey. I drive a Mazda3 2007. I drove down to Provincetown from Boston on 3 1/2 gallons of gas, that's about 34 mpg, not bad. I get 25 mpg in the city.

    Posted by RouteNorth August 18, 09 12:22 PM
  1. I don't know why Mazda can't just put a really tall top gear. You can keep it tight and high-revving through 5-gears, then leave the top gear for quieter and more economical cruising. If you really want to accelerate, you'll drop down to 4th or 3rd anyway. The better highway mileage would probably get more people to consider it.

    One thing you haven't mentioned is that the rear seating is significantly wider than than other cars of its size. According to one site, the Mazda3 has 52.2" of rear hip room vs. 43.7 for a Matrix and 51.2" for a Prius (no specs on an Impreza). That's the main reason for getting our Protege5. We don't often try to cram 5 people in, but we can. It's wide, low stance helps the handling, too.

    Posted by Mike August 18, 09 01:08 PM
  1. I bought my 2010 Mazda 3 hatchback in May. I'd been driving a 2002 Audi A4 quattro. As much as I loved the look of that car, I never bonded with it and didn't like the expensive repairs and requirement for premium gas. I was looking to downsize but wanted fun and versatility. I've admired the 1st generation Mazda 3 for years. At the time I bought mine, there were great incentives on the 2009, but I was really turned on by the look of the 2010. Yeah, I read the reviews about the 'goofy' smile, but I find it very attractive and it really does grow on you. I drove out of the lot saying that I wish I had saved some money and bought the 2009, but after a few months and seeing the two cars on the road, I'm really happy that I opted for the new model

    Posted by Phil August 18, 09 02:21 PM
  1. I'm actually starting to like this new Mazda 3. I mean really, the 3's are GREAT all around cars plus sporty attitude. Take a peek at old Protege's that are gently used, they could be sold today and still sell well.

    These cars are problably the most exciting cars for the money compared to it's contemporaries. Sure the new Corolla has got a fun new look but they are still a bit bland. Civic, forget it. The I4 Civics are a pain to get up to speed.

    My 93 Classic Red Miata is my daily driver for the summer. If it was road worthy in the winter it would be the perfect car for a young person with no kids like myself. 41mpg for the win!

    Posted by Archer August 19, 09 11:28 AM
  1. I got my 2010 Mazda 3 GT hatch in June and love it. I test drove Civic and Accord and liked those, too, but the Mazda is more exciting (except for the Civic Si, but you can't get leather in that car). I think the 2010 3 looks great; I disagree with the "goofy grin" comments but really that's a matter of personal taste. And people like to pick on something. The car is great fun and a great value. Over 3500 miles my MPG has not been below 30, mostly highway at 75 mph but some town driving as well. A few years ago I drove a '91 Protege to 155K miles and it still ran well when I sold it. Regular maintenance really works.

    Posted by Scott August 19, 09 12:50 PM
  1. After driving Honda's (one bike and two Accords) for about 15 years, I switched to Mazda's over 10 years ago. Didn't like the 323 wagon because it was a wagon, but the 626 2.0 L sedan is best car I've owned---250K miles, although replaced engine two years ago with a used one. Gets 35 mpg on highway; Have recently replaced CV joints, but still ORIGINAL ball joints and ORIGINAL CLUTCH--AGAIN, THAT'S WITH A QUARTER MILLION MILES.
    However, I will NOT own a vehicle in New England with aluminum rims nor low profile tires, and anyone who does is simply an ignoramus, IMO. If you drive on New England roads, why would you want a car with tires and rims that are TOTALLED on a single pothole strike? Mazda's are underrated indeed. They engineer well, but market much better in other countries than the states.

    Posted by Michael Schuttenberg August 19, 09 12:57 PM
  1. Bought my 2010 Mazda3 5dr in June. As a former Miata owner the Mazda brand is fun, economical and reliable. My wife and I call it the Miata with 5 doors!
    ZOOM-ZOOM !!

    Posted by Erskine B August 20, 09 10:34 AM
  1. The gas mileage for that car stinks.

    I have a Nissan Versa and get just a little over 30MPG. It's a very nice and economical hatchback, a lesser price, tons of storage space, and a very roomy interior, even though on the outside it looks tiny.

    Posted by YouAreAllMySons August 20, 09 10:54 AM
  1. I agree with Mike (post 61), I have a brand new 2.5L S sedan with the 6 speed manual, and I do not understand why the 4th to 5th and 5th to 6th gear spacing is so short. We end up with a 5th and even a 6th gear that is much shorter than the 5th in the automatic transmission. Granted, the car is very peppy at 74mph and 3000 RPMs, in the sweet range of the torque curve, but at that highway speed, shouldn't such 3000 rpm engine speeds be reserved for 5th gear, not 6th ?

    Posted by Tom August 31, 09 12:48 PM
  1. 128i does not cost 41k, actually it's 29k - check the web site before making any claims. 29/21 is not even close to 2. Plus with BMW you get 4 year warranty + 4 years of service included.

    Posted by Alex September 10, 09 03:34 PM
  1. Take both cars through a closed course or just a spiritied drive (i did both) and you will see that the fun factor and handling difference is way more than 10%.
    The Mazda is peppy and fun, but in no way it handles even close to BMW.

    Btw, I owned 2005 Mazda3 GT and BMW 328i. The difference is significant. Mazda gives a lot for its price, no doubt about. However, those two cars are in complete different leagues.
    At the same time we could compare Audi R8 to Kia Coup... Bentley to Hyindau Genesis, etc...

    Posted by Alex September 10, 09 03:38 PM
  1. My friend just got one in black. Seems to help quite a bit.

    Not a bad car, just hate how much interior plastics there are everywhere. I felt like I was in a coffin or sardine can when I was in it. Quite confining.

    Other than that, not a bad econocar.
    Find used cars

    Posted by Auto Chart September 14, 09 12:52 AM
  1. Type your comment here

    Perspective, perspective, perspective! I just got out of a 2007 Ford Escape and into a mildly optioned 2010 Mazda3-5door (GT). I couldn't be happier. My other car is a Toyota MR2 Spyder, so now I can have fun + good mileage year 'round. The Mazda is already averaging 22+ mpg and I only have 270 miles on it. Mileage - within certain limits - is more a function of how one drives vs. car specs. I expect to get 24/25 mpg around town once I get used to it. The ride is a little firm, but the steering, cornering and handling are outstanding. The cockpit (where I sit) is g-r-e-a-t! For me, this one looks to be a long-term keeper!

    Posted by Michael Beauxman September 26, 09 08:40 PM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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