Mazda Maxims

Well, there’s not very many maxims to be had, here. It’s just a nice title for another post of car thoughts.

So far, after a week of having the 3, I’ve been quite happy with it. Is it perfect? No, and no car really is. But it’s handled nearly everything I’ve thrown at it with aplomb. I had the interesting fortune to buy a car right before a series of snowstorms hit. I read that the stock tires performed poorly on snow, but so far I made it to work in truly terrible weather with very little fuss. Plus, the stability control is very easy to learn. You pick up its reactions and signs very quickly, so predicting it is not that bad at all.

One thing that is not a problem at all with the car but more with its driver is that I’m relearing the car’s personal space and how it handles. The Firebird was a big car – 196 inches long. The Mazda 3 hatchback is actually a few inches shorter than the sedan version at 177 inches. That’s more than a foot and a half in length. I’m used to a long hood, short deck car, and now I’m in a short hood, no deck car. It definitely takes some getting used to. 75 inches of width for the Firebird versus 69 inches for the 3 means that the car fits easier in parking spots, too. Doubly so, since the doors aren’t as wide as a 747’s wingspan.

What about the brakes? Well, the brakes are fucking powerful, for one. They react totally differently from the Firebird’s brakes, which were always a bit on the spongy side on the outset. You had to put your foot into them, but they did brake admirably. This one? There’s much less resistance on the brake pedal. The grip is fantastic, and having bigger wheels helps too. It just takes a light touch, otherwise WHOA you stop faster than you expect.

I’ve also managed to learn the radio and the bluetooth handsfree feature. Bluetooth is one of those things that I wouldn’t have explicitly ordered on a car, but because it came standard, I figure “why not?” It’s actually really slick and works very well. Gotta give them credit for that. Is it as good as Ford’s Sync? No, but you are trading that geek toy for zoom zoom.

Speaking of Zoom-Zoom, the 2.5L engine, same as the Mazda 6 (and a few other Ford products, like the Fusion) is one stump-puller of an engine. Plenty of torque is waiting for you when you press the gas. With a few simple modifications (new intake, freer flowing exhaust) it opens it up even more. Given the drastically lower weight of the 3 hatchback compared to the Firebird, the thing already has plenty of get-up-and-go. Is the feel different? Absoltuely. The wrong wheels are being driven, for one. Two, the low-end torque bias of the 3.8L V6 has been more evenly distributed. There’s less off-the-line punch, but it actually felt more responsive at higher speeds to me.

Stay tuned for more car thoughts as I live with it for a while.

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