I was a kid when Mazda launched their Zoom-Zoom ads in the early 2000’s. The ones with the oddly over-dressed little boy who whispers, “zoom-zoom” into the camera while a Mazda car drove past showing that they are fun cars at affordable prices. Since then Mazda has developed a reputation as the “fun” alternative to a Honda or Toyota.
Save the Manuals!
A long time ago someone got the idea that automatic transmissions were more luxurious than manually changing gears. Since then, manual transmissions have been kicked down the food chain into only being offered in base models, or certain performance cars.
When I took delivery of the 2016 Mazda3 i Grand Touring it was refreshing to see that it was optioned with a 6-speed manual. Seeing three pedals and a gear stick, instead of an automatic wrapped in a leather fob to give the appearance of a sporty manual. Shows that Mazda’s new ad campaign, “Driving Matters” is not just a gimmick, but an example of giving their customers an option no matter the trim level.
Top Shelve Tech.
This Mazda3 i Grand Touring is one of the top of the line trim models, so it came with all the goodies:
- Moon roof
- Leatherette-trimmed sport seats
- Keyless push-button ignition
- Rear-view camera
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- Duel Climate Control
- Bluetooth Hands-free
- 7’’ Touch-screen display with Multi-Function Commander Control
- BOSE 9-speaker sound
- Satellite Radio
- Heated seats
All for under $24,000 grand! Did I mention that it gets 33mpg?
The Road Test – It Won’t Let You Down
During my second day with the Mazda3, I had to drive my brother to the bus station so he could travel to Houston and catch a flight to Costa Rica. I was at work when he called me, which meant I had to drive across town to the apartment, and then drive to downtown San Antonio in less than an hour.
We’ve all been in that tense situation. Clock is ticking, traffic is building up, and you pray a cop doesn’t see what you are about to do.
The Mazda3 handled beautifully moving through traffic. The blind spot monitor was not overbearing, giving me a simple beep to warn me when a car was too close before changing lanes.
Even in sixth gear, the Mazda3 was able to accelerate with enough gusto to pass slower moving cars. It’s small on the outside, but big on the inside, dimensions meant I could zip in and out of heavy traffic with ease.
I arrived at the bus station with eight minutes to spare.
Fun to Drive? – It’s a 4-Door Miata!
Over the weekend I took the Mazda3 on a scenic country road with plenty of turns, dips, and curves to see if the Mazda lived up to the reputation of being a driver’s brand.
Mazda3’s come standard with four-wheel independent suspension, which meant I could really feel what the car was doing and where it was going. The 6-speed transmission allowed me to make good use of every 155 horsepower produced by the 2.0 liter Skyactiv-G four cylinder engine.
With traction control switched off, the car drove even better. The Mazda3 feels like a 4-door Miata in that you can really throw it into a corner with confidence. It’s a prefect car for anyone who wants to learn the art, and fun, of driving a stick-shift. The clutch is light and forgiving, while the hill launch feature will protect you against rolling back into traffic when setting off on an incline.
Unlike other modern cars, the Mazda3 has a handbrake instead of an electronic parking brake button. So, yes you can have exciting driving experiences with the Mazda3 while still having plenty of room for a car-seat.
Is It Safe? – Very
Besides coming with a 36 month warranty, the Mazda3 is full of safety features to protect you when the hazards of the road catch you off guard.
Here are just some of the safety features that are equipped with the Mazda3:
- Blind Spot Monitoring
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System
- Brake Assist
- Dual Front & Side Airbags, and Air Curtains
- Anti-Theft Engine Immobilizer
- Dynamic Stability Control
Final Thoughts – I Like It, A Lot
I really enjoyed this car, and was sad to see it go when I had to return it. I would recommend the Mazda3 to anyone who is tired of the same old Toyota Corolla, or Honda Civic, lease. The Mazda3 is a car with enough space for daily driving duties, but with the spirit of a sports car. If I had one critic about this car is that it rides so nice that you won’t notice how fast you’re going – 80 feels like 60.
The Mazda3 i Grand Touring is a car that leaves an impression when you walk away from it.