Almost two weeks ago, I got to experience a week-long test drive thanks to Mazda USA and Driveshop, an amazing marketing company who wants real people to share real life experiences with cars that go beyond the horsepower and technical specs. Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on and experiences with the Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring. Features vary by trim level, so check them all out at Mazda’s website.
I’ve spent my entire life around cars of every make and model, but this is only my second experience driving a Mazda. My first was a long time ago, back when I was a teenager. As I mentioned last month, we had been hoping to head North to the Saginaw Bay/Bay City area to take in the views and experience some of what the area has to offer. Taking the Mazda3 5-Door out to stretch her legs was the perfect excuse. The drive was about an hour and gave me a chance to experience the Mazda3 5-Door in a true ‘highway driving” experience. We packed up Saturday morning and headed to the USS Edson, a retired Navy destroyer.
From the moment you approach the Mazda3, the features start jumping out at you. The Mazda3 has an advanced keyless entry system, letting you unlock the car without digging out your keys. You won’t need to pull them out to start the car (push button start), so why have to dig them out to unlock it? Once you start the car, more features spring to life, quite literally! There is an awesome little display (called the Heads Up display) that raises behind the steering wheel on the dash, allowing you to see your MPH and even directions from the navigation system without taking your eyes off the road. It is one of my favorite features. The navigation system even alerts you to the speed limits where you’re driving and if you are exceeding them. I also love that the display sits high and not down in the dash, just another feature helping you keep your eyes on the road.
The controls for the entertainment/navigation display are situated right between the seats and are super easy to reach. They use a joystick-like set up allowing ease of use without using your eyes. Heated seats and dual zone temperature controls help everyone stay comfortable no matter what season, though I tried to enjoy the moonroof as often as possible.
On the road, my favorite feature was the Blind Spot Monitoring. Really, it was a toss up between that and the Heads Up display. Both revolutionized my driving experience. If you’ve never driving a car with BSM, you have no idea what you’re missing. I was able to stop craning my neck, worrying about whether I was missing anything in my mirror or not. And, before using the Heads Up display, I never realized how much time I spent looking down at my speedometer.
As far as driveability, the car handled very well in both warm, sunny conditions and in the rain. Our trip to the Bay City area was mostly highway driving, but my regular daily commute to and from work is mostly stop and go city traffic. The Mazda3 accelerated well, braking was spot-on and even with most of my driving for the week being “city driving”, I still averaged over 30 miles per gallon for the week. Blind Spot Monitoring was particularly helpful during my 50 mile (each way) commute, as was the Heads Up display. I also very much enjoyed the apps on the Entertainment System, like Pandora. I was able to connect my phone and stream my Pandora stations and other music on my phone through Blue Tooth.
The Mazda3 Grand Touring is a super sporty little ride. And even though it is a smaller car, it is very roomy. The trunk was a little tight, but as long as you aren’t hauling around huge baby gear or other large items, you’ll be fine. The interior has a lot of nice details, like red stitching and leather trimmed seats, steering wheel and gear shift. This model also comes with paddle shifters, if you want to switch over to a more sporty style of driving. Me, I’ve never been one to shift gears, so I stayed away from that feature. It has loads of exterior trim features, including awesome wheels and a shark in antenna. I got multiple comments through the week about how “snazzy” the car looked.
Of course, I try to be super honest about my reviews, so there are a few things I want to mention. These aren’t bad things necessarily, but things to keep in mind…
First, the super sporty exterior trim means the front of this car is very low. You need to be careful when pulling up to a curb to make sure you don’t pull up too far. This is pretty normal for most sporty looking cars, but still worth the mention. Second, the cruise control is not adaptive. I have to admit that adaptive cruise control is one of those things for me…especially with the amount of stop/go/slow down highway driving I do. If you have no idea what adaptive cruise control is, then never mind. You won’t know what you’re missing. Last, road noise. The Mazda3 has low profile tires and low profile tires equal road noise. It’s the norm for any car with low profile tires and might surprise you if this is your first experience with them.
All in all, the Mazda3 Grand Touring was a great, fun to drive car with tons of features. I would recommend it for teens/young adults, couples with no kids, couples with older kids and empty-nesters. If you’re lugging around a baby or very small child and all of the gear that goes with them, you might want to check out a larger vehicle in Mazda’s lineup.
When you’re car shopping, what features are most important to you? Do you have a feature now in your vehicle that you just can’t live without? Tell us about it in the comments below. Or, if you’re a Mazda owner, we’d love to hear your experiences with the brand as well. Happy driving!