|The pleasantly-firm suspension with larger stabilizer bars gives the impression that the car rides on rails.|
Even better, this new engine generates more torque at similar revs than its predecessor -- 168 lb-ft vs. 150. The gain is particularly appreciated in rush-hour traffic when you’re reduced to low-speed, stop-and-go driving in 2nd or even 1st gear.
The six-speed manual gearbox of the 2010 Mazda3 (sedan or hatchback) is arguably one of the most pleasant to manipulate. The gears are nicely spaced and the precise shifter actually feels like a computer joystick. In dense traffic, what else could you ask for?
Of course, the little Mazda3 Sport is equally fun to drive on the tight, winding roads of the countryside. The clutch is smooth with just enough stroke. Meanwhile, the pleasantly-firm suspension with larger stabilizer bars gives the impression that the car rides on rails -- or sort of.
The rigid chassis, sharp steering and powerful, four-wheel disc brakes also make for genuinely-sporty driving dynamics, something very few compacts can brag about. Comfortably seated in the prominently-contoured bucket seats of the GT model, I never wanted to get out!
Obviously, since the majority of drivers prefer automatic transmissions, Mazda is offering a 5-speed unit featuring a "Sport" mode (that’s quite an overstatement). At $1,200, the autobox will likely satisfy these owners.
An extra $3,100 for the GT!
Still, it’s hard to justify the gap of $3,100 which separates the mid-level GS model from the high-end GT. After all, on the surface, the 17-inch alloy wheels of the latter appear to be the only difference between the two.
However, the GT adds stability and traction control as standard equipment, whereas the GS requires you to pay an additional $1,495 (Comfort Package). Also standard on the top-of-the-line model are bi-xenon headlights which make nighttime driving so much safer.
|The new dashboard with circular shapes and stretched lines creates an impression of movement and airiness.|