2010 Mazda3 GT sedan
2010 Mazda3 GT sedan. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2010 Mazda3

Ottawa, Ontario – It wasn’t so long ago that a “fully-loaded” compact car included little more than air conditioning, power locks and windows, at a cost that drove the price of the car up into more comfortable mid-size territory where these items were often standard kit.

Those days are long gone, for sure. If the previous-generation Mazda3 was a poster child for the new math of small cars, then this redesigned second-gen 2010 model is an even more apt example.

My tester, a GT-trimmed sedan, came to me with an MSRP of $23,795 including a $1,200 five-speed automatic transmission that was the sole option. Anything north of $20,000 is a lot of money for a little car, in my opinion, but it’s a little easier to take when you get stuff like stability control, automatic climate controls and xenon headlights as standard, plus the sharp styling and handling that have defined the Mazda3 from its 2004 debut.

2010 Mazda3 GT sedan
2010 Mazda3 GT sedan. Click image to enlarge

While base 2010 Mazda3s use the same 2.0-litre engine that powered first-generation models, the top-line GT now employs a 2.5-litre four-cylinder shared with the Mazda6. Its 167 horsepower is a boost of 11 over the old 2.3-litre, but more important is the extra 18 lb-ft of torque (for 168 total) that the 2.5 brings to the power party. The extra power makes this car feel more athletic than its predecessor, particularly off the line. Though the 2.5’s torque peaks at the same 4,000 rpm as it did in the 2.3, more of it seems to be available at lower engine speeds. The big four is also very smooth and quiet, despite being perfectly happy to rev right to its 6,200 rpm redline.

The optional five-speed automatic transmission, like the 2.5-litre engine, is straight out of the larger Mazda6. It’s a very smooth performer and knocks off nearly imperceptible shifts under light to moderate throttle. Downshifts come easily, a hint that, even with the automatic, this car is still geared to appeal to enthusiastic drivers.

2010 Mazda3 GT sedan
2010 Mazda3 GT sedan. Click image to enlarge

While I don’t tend to make much use of the manual shift feature incorporated into so many modern automatics, this one actually works well, quick to respond to requests for up- and downshifts.

The GT’s official fuel consumption figures are 9.2/6.8 L/100 km (city/highway) with the automatic transmission; the city rating is actually quite a lot better than you get with the manual, whose digits are 10.1/6.9. In a week of driving, my tester averaged 11.7 L/100 km: a rather high number that I will attribute partly to the cold, but clear, weather conditions that week, and to my tester’s low-mileage (the car had about 1,200 km on it when I picked it up), and probably not-quite-broken-in engine.

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