2010 Mazda3 Sport GT
2010 Mazda3 Sport GT
2010 Mazda3 Sport GT; photos by Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

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By Haney Louka

“No problem. Have a blast.”

That was the response from Greg Young, Mazda Canada’s PR Manager, after I worked up the nerve to request the use of one of the newest cars in his press fleet on the track for the Winnipeg Sports Car Club’s High Performance Driving Experience in May. In hindsight, he obviously knew something I didn’t about how well the new-for-2010 Mazda 3 would fare in a demanding track environment.

In addition to crisper and more daring styling, the 3 now benefits from the same 2.5-litre engine that powers the bigger 6 sedan. Quieter, smoother, and more powerful than before, the 3 surprised many people (including me) with its ability to get up to speed in a hurry.

Of course, if the 3 didn’t have the same communicative, telepathic steering response and strong brakes it would not have fared so well on track day. But it does.

2010 Mazda3 Sport GT
2010 Mazda3 Sport GT
2010 Mazda3 Sport GT; photos by Michael Clark. Click image to enlarge

Sure, the car is betrayed by its front-wheel-drive layout, wanting to understeer (push ahead rather than turn in) at the limits and having trouble pulling out of corners with authority.

Pricing for the new 3 starts way down at $15,995 for the 2.0-litre sedan with steel wheels. The Mazda3 Sport hatchback starts at $16,995 with the base engine or $22,095 for the GS with the 2.5, the obvious enthusiasts’ choice. Of course, Mazda loaded up our $25,195 GT press car with leather and navigation, meaning it had everything but the automatic transmission.

I was happy about that last omission – the six-speed stick (standard on 2.5-litre cars) was a very capable performer. Aside from an occasional hesitancy to slide into first gear, it proved a wonderful companion on road and track. Highway speeds saw it revving at nearly 3,000 rpm in sixth gear though, taking away from the expected efficiency of a car in this class. A taller sixth would have been welcome and would not have cut into the 3’s performance at all.

2010 Mazda3 Sport GT
2010 Mazda3 Sport GT; photo by Michael Clark. Click image to enlarge

On the upside, highway passing didn’t even require a downshift.

But back to the pricing: with such features as aggressively bolstered leather seats, navigation (with a smallish screen tucked nicely away on the dash and slick buttons on the steering wheel), swiveling bi-xenon headlights, keyless ignition, stability control, dual-zone climate controls, ten-speaker audio, and a power moonroof, our loaded-up 3 tester tipped the pricing scales at $28,180 before freight and taxes are factored in.

A sharp-looking, family-friendly package that can enjoy being flogged around a track, the 2010 Mazda 3 comes close to being one car that does it all.

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