Mazda 3 Sport Review

If we're all headed for compact cars (um...Mr. President, a follow-up question?), then this is the way to go.

Early and/or thorough TireKicker readers will remember I gave the last-gen Mazda 3 a glowing review in one of the first TireKicker posts. Every word still applies, but the 2010 Mazda 3 is a game-changer.

I get the same feeling from the new 3 that I got when I got behind the wheel of my 1984 Honda Civic...and I wasn't alone then. Jean Lindamood of Car and Driver (now Jean Jennings of Automobile) ended her review thusly:

"Damn, she's a fine one. Our orders are in."

It inspired me to take a test drive that led to a 14-year ownership of said Civic.

Well, I sat right down in the driver's seat of the new Mazda 3 4-door Sport and felt the same way. While Honda's gone too techno for its own good, the 2010 Mazda 3 keeps it simple and direct...everything is where it should be, falls easily to hand, performs its function and never...never...distracts the driver from...well, driving.

And yes, there's driving to be done in the 3. It almost feels like the Mazda engineers passed on the Corolla, Civic and Sentra and rustled up an old BMW 2002 tii to benchmark for handling and sheer fun to drive.

The incredibly low price of $18,740 gets you a 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve four, a six-speed manual, dynamic stability control, traction control and and independent front and rear suspension.

17-inch alloy wheels come standard with the sport, as do supportive and comfortable cloth seats, an AM/FM/CD/WMA/MP3 audio system, bluetooth, air, power locks and windows and a bunch more.

The tester had Sirius Satellite Radio and the Moonroof/Bose package...which ups the audio ante to a 242 watt Bose Centerpoint 10-speaker audio system and an in-dash 6-CD changer...and a moonroof.

Total price, including destination charges; $21,235.

EPA estimates: 21 city/29 highway.

I would absolutely buy one if I were in the market. If you are, you owe yourself at least a test drive.