I am a road warrior, albeit a reluctant one. I commute every week day from my apartment in San Francisco to a multi-city area about 20 miles south known as the Peninsula. Once there, I do even more driving: running errands, going to appointments, taking care of business. Then on the weekends, my friends and family are fond of long treks. We love the beach, the mountains and lots of venues in between, located in every corner of the bay area.
It blows my mind to think I probably spend almost quarter of my waking life in my car. Because of that, I’m pretty particular when it comes to my ride. I need great handling, so I can get around slowpoke drivers, take shortcuts or avoid traffic. Being a diehard Star Trek fan, I of course need to be surrounded by gee-whiz gadgetry. Finally, my music keeps me sane during rush hour, so I need awesome sound.
Last week I let a family member temporarily borrow my car. I was faced with a replacement I was unfamiliar with, yet it had to meet all my needs– a 2012 Mazda 3.
I was a little worried. It was like a blind date– if there was no chemistry between the car and me, or worse, if it had annoying flaws or quirks, it would be a very. long. week.
My commute can be an easy 30 minutes or it can be a very long 2 hour ride, navigating accidents, road hazards and distracted drivers.
For the first time in my life, I actually enjoyed being stuck in traffic. Yes really.
I cranked up the stereo, reclined the chair and was in bumper to bumper heaven, enjoying a piece of my own little Mazda 3 heaven. When I missed my exit due to singing along a little too enthusiastically, I discovered this car handles a U-turn like I’ve never experienced before. I barely had to crank the wheel! It almost felt like the car did most of the driving itself, especially on curvy roads. I took the family to Stinson Beach and it took those infamous corners and twists like a pro, so smooth and effortless. Here’s an example of my easy breezy U-turn.
The Mazda 3 also includes “Active Safe Technology” which allows for automatic headlight adjustment according to the steering angle and speed of the car (which came in quite handy for those foggy SF days) and “Rear Vehicle Monitoring” or RVM, an alert for vehicles approaching from behind or from the side during an attempted lane change.
At first, the RVM startled me, but after awhile I became pretty used to it. My appreciation for it increased after it prevented a near collision when another driver and I were simultaneously merging into the same lane. I was able to take defensive action (aka cursing while yanking the 3 back into my lane) thanks to that technology.
Then there was the sound system. The model I got came with a premium Bose sound system and Bluetooth (which is fantastically easy to pair and set up for calls or for listening to music from your phone). I made a video of it so you guys can “see” how it sounds:
About the gas mileage. I drove the hell out of that thing: Took the parental units to Stinson beach, took the kid to Half Moon Bay and many other trips around the bay. I went 540 miles in less than a tank and a half of gas…unbelievable. I was floored! I didn’t see that gas gauge move below half until the fifth day. Speaking of beach trips, I need to make a quick comment about the trunk space. I was very surprised at how roomy the trunk was. I was able to fit a Goodwill load and all our beach equipment in the back. SWEET.
Now that I’ve sang some of my praises for this car, I did find a couple of issues. While they are not showstoppers, I do hope they fine-tune them in next year’s model.
Like it’s true the car can hold 5 people, but I would only pack that many in for shorter trips. For max comfort, stick to 4 or less. I had two toddlers and 3 adults in the car at one point and once we placed the kids in their car seats we realized pretty quickly that there was little to no room for my sister to sit. So, while this car is great, I wouldn’t recommend this as a family car if you have more than one child. The other thing was that the RVM alerting was alarming at first. I guess that is the idea, as it’s letting you know when another object is getting too close, and I did get used to it after the first day, but perhaps it could be made more intuitive so it is not so distracting.
Overall, this car was wonderful. If you’re looking for a great commuter car, or perhaps you’re a college student on a budget and want a car that looks and feels great, the Mazda 3 is definitely a great choice. It’s compact, making it a breeze to parallel park; it’s brilliantly easy to drive.
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