My enthusiastic assessment following a first drive was that it was the most refined compact car I’ve ever driven… 

The 2010 Mazda3
The 2010 Mazda3
The 2010 Mazda3
The 2010 Mazda3

The Mazda3, from 2010 to 2013

The new generation Mazda3 launched in 2010 was an immediate hit with Canadian compact car buyers.

The car, available as a sedan or 5-door hatchback, is a nicely proportioned car with curvy styling lines, more defined front fenders and a distinctive (happy face) front air take.

The zoom-zoom mind-set may not be used in the advertising today but it is still very much alive at Mazda and my enthusiastic assessment following a first drive was that it was “the most refined compact car I’ve ever driven.”

This generation Mazda3 initially came in three trim levels GX, GS and GT. There’s also a high-performance edition called Mazdaspeed3. A hood scoop, which directs air flow to a turbocharged engine intercooler, gives the Madaspeed3 a more distinctive frontal appearance.

Regardless of price, trim or potency, core elements of this ‘3’ are its light yet rock-solid body platform, combined with a sport-minded engineering theme. Its lighter and stiffer chassis has more high-strength steel and other enhancements to reduce body flex and combined with suspension changes the result is a tighter and better handling car.

The GX and GS trim levels come with a 148-horsepower 2.0-litre engine that provides a nice balance of power and fuel economy, which is 8.1/5.9 L/100 km (city/highway). The GT comes with a 2.5-litre that can deliver 167 horsepower and it gets 9.2/6.8 L/100 km (city/highway).

Mazda3, which was first launched in 2003, has been consistently one of the best selling cars in Canada and the Mazdaspeed3 variant typically accounts for less than 2 per cent of sales. That certainly makes it a harder car to find on the used car market and while prices generally tend to be premium they also vary considerably depending on condition and history.

This generation Mazdaspeed3 is a more refined high-performer. It offers a more controlled unleashing of power from its turbocharged engine, yet it is still an extremely fast car. Changes to its drive shafts were designed to reduce torque steer (which still exists) and a torque-sensing limited-slip differential was added to the drivetrain.

Mazda claims a top speed of 250 km/h and zero to100 km/h time of 6.1 seconds. Engine output (263-horsepower) is the same as the 2009, however it provides a more progressive release of torque that peeks at 3000 rpm and 280 lb-ft is available. Its fuel consumption rate is also faster at 11.5/8.0 L/100 km (city/highway).

Inside there’s enough room for four, maybe five, adults provided those up front are willing to share leg room. There’s more cargo room in the hatchback, however, the added security offered by the sedan’s trunk might be preferred and used prices tend to be lower.

The only significant change in 2011 was the inclusion of electronic stability and traction control as standard on all models.

The 2012 model year brought the introduction of Mazda’s “Skyactiv” performance and fuel-saving technologies, offered initially on the mid-range GS trim line. A direct-injected 2.0L engine is mated to either a special 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. It also got a mild exterior and interior restyling job that included as updated (subdued happy-face) front grille.

Mazda3 is highly rated by Consumer Reports for dependability, offers great value for the money and can certainly be one of the better buys on the used car market.

**********

Price Check: 2010 – 2013 Mazda3 (January 2014)

Year    Edition           Expect to Pay Today

2010    GS                  $10,000 to $13,000

2011    GS                  $12,000 to $15,000

2012    GS Sky            $15,000 to $18,000

2013    GS Sky            $18,000 to $21,000

Prices vary depending on a used vehicle’s condition, mileage, usage and history. A complete mechanical check should always be performed by a reliable auto technician prior to purchase.

Safety Recalls: 2010 to 2013 Mazda3

2010: Excessive heat inside the headlight housing where the Daytime Running Light bulb is attached may cause a loss of functionality. Dealers will repair as necessary.

2010: Insufficient clearance with the starter motor may eventually result in damage to an engine electrical harness and a possible short-circuit, in some vehicles. This can then cause an engine control malfunction, poor shift quality or the engine may stall or not start. Dealers will inspect the engine harness and, if necessary, install a protector clip.

Contact: bob [dot] mchugh [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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