Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile equiraptor.com Previous Previous Next Next
The Mazda 3 - Equiraptor's Journal
The Mazda 3
So I've had the Mazda 3 for over 150 miles and almost a week, now. This has been nearly exclusively city driving. The car is "Mazda 3i Touring 4 Door," a 2.0 version with a 4 speed automatic gearbox. It's white with cloth seats and a relatively pale interior (I don't pretend to know what Mazda calls the interior - I'm not an automotive journalist ;) ). The car does have power windows and locks, and AC.

As should be obvious from my journal, this is from the perspective of someone accustomed to a modified MX-5, set up for CSP in autocross, who autocrosses the car regularly, tracks it occasionally, and just generally drives hard. My "wants" from my car are very high - much higher than the general population - so many of my complaints won't be relevant for others.

Complaint number one: Front wheel drive. I know, it's a small sedan, get over it. It's still FWD, and it still sucks to have the front wheels trying to do everything. When it manages to try to accelerate through a corner, it ends up understeering.

Complaint number two: The transmission. It's automatic, yes, but that's not the real complaint from me here. The car has a 2.0 that actually manages to have some kick at high RPM. Though it won't be enough to call the car a "sports car" or a "sport sedan," it gives the car some life and some of that sportiness Mazda's "Zoom Zoom" implies. But the transmission ruins it. The four gears, the way they're setup, just don't allow me to use the engine to get that pep. If it had a lower first and another gear I could actually make good use of that engine, and the car would feel a lot better.

I have to say, though, I'm impressed with the turn-in on this car. It's more responsive and nimble than I expected, especially with the soft suspension and the amount of body roll. Direction changes happen easily and quickly. I'm also pleased with the car's response to correction attempts. It does understeer, as to be expected of a FWD sedan, but a minor change easily gets a bit of rotation out of the back of the car, correcting the understeer. Though I can't really accelerate through corners *cough* no power *cough* understeer *cough*, if I can enter the corner with some speed, the car will quite happily maintain it.

This specific car does not have ABS. Yes, a 2008 year model car without ABS. No, I don't know what Mazda was thinking. The first time I braked hard in the car I was shocked at how long it took to stop and how lumbering it felt. Then again, that's coming from my MX-5, which on OEM tires stops from 60 in 112 feet, and I'm accustomed to slaming on the brakes with R-compounds on. Not exactly a fair judgment. As I've grown accustomed to the car, I appreciate the good brake feel and the effective braking. Yes, it's not an MX-5 on slicks, but the brakes do a great job slowing the car, and it's easy to stop in a relatively short distance without locking up the wheels.

There are steering wheel controls on the car. The steering wheel and controls have a very different feel than the ones on my MX-5, but the same basic buttons are in the same basic places. I find my left thumb does have to reach a bit more to change radio stations... I prefer the wheel in the MX-5, but this one isn't bad.

I'm not great with interior / comfort reviews. I tend to only notice something if it bothers me, and I don't remember any particular annoyances with this car. If you have any questions or particular concerns about things I haven't mentioned, ask. I just may not have thought of whatever it was.
10 comments | Leave a comment
(Deleted comment)
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: March 25th, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
DSG isn't an automatic, but rather a manual with a computer controlled clutch, isn't it? I guess those lines are getting blurry, but it's clutch based, rather than torque converter based, and it's actually, like, fast and good! (says someone who's never actually driven one... hehe)

I'm sure a 6MT would fix many of my frustrations, and even the 6AT they use the the MX-5 would be a nice improvement. Alas, I'm stuck with the bottom of the barrel the dealer managed to scrounge up. I can definitely see the potential of the chassis... If only it had the right tools within. It's definitely vastly better than my parents' old Camrys, and I suspect I'd rather be in it than my aunt's Lexus (GS of some sort, automatic), even with the RWD of the Lexus.
sfida From: sfida Date: March 25th, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's because Lexus does not know how to make fun cars. The last time some interloper tried (first IS), they were either evicted or severely punished, as the IS has been remade into the corporate model: attractive if anonymous, unrememberable if not quite unforgettable, and completely, totally sterile.
sfida From: sfida Date: March 25th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
My 3, an s Touring hatch with 2.3L 5-speed auto, doesn't suffer from the transmission troubles you describe. It has a manual mode, but I never use it, as the auto mode generally tends to shift just when I would. Last May, though, I had a 5 with 2.3L and 4-speed auto as a loaner for about a week, and it didn't have the trouble you describe of the gearbox draining the power. Perhaps the 2.0 has the same problem my old Sentra did: It was programmed for driving in Japan, which is done at much lower speeds.

Body roll: no better with the upgrade. Despite that, though, grip is good, and there is no faulting the responses, after you take into account the FWD handicap, and the extreme nose-heaviness. Still, though it's not perfect, I'm deeply satisfied, in part because it's the best thing out there, with the possible exception of the Civic, which I can't comment on for lack of experience. Oh how I long for a small RWD practical car. I was thinking I should've got an MX-5 instead, but I was pretty happy with the 3 a week and a half ago at Ikea, as the seats in The Maternal Unit's Impreza don't fold.
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: March 26th, 2008 12:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I doubt programming is the problem. I suspect the torque curve on the 2.3L is significantly different than the 2.0, with the 2.0 basically being, "No where near enough torque until you approach 5,000 RPM". With only 4 gears, there just aren't enough options to keep it in the power band all the time. The gear ratios on it certainly don't suggest its intended for lower speeds. As most of my driving has been city, that'd be nice.

Body roll isn't inherently evil. I'm impressed with the car's ability to change directions even with the body roll, and I suspect some not-too-bad suspension mods would improve that even more so. I've tossed it back and forth in a lane (sorta pretending I had a mini-slalom) quite a few times and I've always been quite pleased with the results.
sfida From: sfida Date: March 26th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm definitely pleased with how communicative the steering is; I'm never left guessing what the car is doing.

One fault I noticed that you probably wouldn't (and indeed, I didn't until a road trip to southern Georgia) is that the seats are made for someone noticeably shorter than I am. In fact, the whole seating position is; even with the steering wheel set at its max-telescope setting, it's still just a little too far away for me. It's not nearly so bad as in the Amana Kia Spectra, but it's still noticeable. I realize now that I may never find an affordable car that properly fits me.
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: March 26th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I'm a great size for Mazdas. :/
decibel45 From: decibel45 Date: March 26th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)
5 speed autos are still quite expensive, heavier, and probably less efficient. Of course, it's only the cost that's keeping it out of that car :P
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: March 26th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Five speed? Screw that. I want the 6AT in the MX-5! :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 24th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

your transmission choice

why did you get a girly automatic transmission? My 3i has a 5 speed stick and it rocks.
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: July 24th, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: your transmission choice

Your reading comprehension is poor. These were all rental/loaner vehicles. I didn't choose the transmission on any of them.

Additionally, manual transmissions are just as girly as automatics. If you read a bit more of my journal, you might figure out why I say that.
10 comments | Leave a comment