Category Archives: Cars

The Effectiveness of a Reminder

I love the little multi-info display on my new car. It has a trip computer on it, and with the trip computer brings an instant Miles-per-gallon readout. I’ve found lately that I’ve been trying to game this little meter, figure out its quarks and how it reacts to poking around in the city.

Currently, my overall gas mileage is terrible because I have a very short commute with six stoplights. Plus, it’s winter gasoline, it’s colder out in the mornings, et cetera. Once summertime rolls around, I hope to get around the 22 MPG baseline for city driving with the 3. For now, I’ll make the best of a bad situation. The car has plenty of power and a light foot’s all that’s necessary to get it going. It’s a lot like my old car in terms of off-the-line response since it does have a lot of lower end torque. The main difference is that it uses less gas overall because it’s a lighter car with a smaller engine.

I just wish the little screen could display even more information. It does tell you which door is ajar, for instance, but why can’t it tell me useful information like the engine coolant temperature, oil pressure, transmission temperature, et cetera? Two steps forward, one step back…

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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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New Car Thoughts

Just to annoy Brickroad, who is not as interested in the subject of my new car as I am, here’s some thoughts on said new car. First, the negatives, such as they are.

No remote release for the hatchback. There is for the trunk on the sedan models. The hatch requires you to unlock all of the doors, get out of your seat, and press the release button on the hatch while simultaneously pulling the hatch upwards. I think this’ll just take a readjustment and before I know it I won’t miss the driver’s side release.

Width of the center console can be problematic. Specifically, right around the knee area. There’s a slight bulge around where you’d naturally want to rest your knee in cruise control, and it robs some room from you. Maybe this will be less problematic once I finish dialing the seat in how I like it.

The horn is weak. It does not sufficiently display my rage towards my fellow Route 128 maniacs. As a loudmouth jerk in Metro West, angrily tooting my displeasure is my right. This thing needs an upgradde.

The stock shifter knob is so-so. This is a personal preference more than anything. I still like to rest my hand on the shifter, and the knob is more oblong than round. Plus, it has a silver plastic section where your palm likes to rest. Why not wrap the whole knob in leather? I’d like to replace it with a T-style handle similar to a Hurst shifter of yore. It’ll work well with the sport shift mode, too.

Of course, these are minor niggles in the big scheme of things. Which is why I wanted them out of the way. How about some good things that I appreciate?

The gated shifter is done right. Each position of the shifter has a right angle movement, unlike some other shifters (cough, Toyota, cough). You still get one swift movement from Park to Drive and back again, but when you have to row inbetween reverse and drive you know exactly what gear you’re in thanks to tactile feedback.

You pull towards you to upshift in Manual mode. This seems backwards compared to what you might be used to, but it makes total sense if you consider that a ratchet shifter on a race car or drag car works in the exact same way. Pulling it towards you to upshift? It just feels better.

The wiper stalk is shorter than the steering wheel. Thank God Mazda did this. Most cars nowadays have two stalks because the wiper and light controls have gotten so complicated. The left stalk is usually the lights, and the right is the wiper controls. On a Toyota I drove recently, the wiper stalk was longer than the radius of the steering wheel, so as you moved your hands across the wheel you would wind up whacking the wiper stalk, making you look like a dork. Thankfully, the wiper stalk on the 3 is about an inch shorter than the radius of the steering wheel, so no accidental thwacks will happen.

Automatic rear defrosting? There seems to be some cases where the rear window defroster will automatically engage. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I noticed that it did turn on by itself on a drive yesterday. That’s helpful – one less thing to worry about in some conditions.

Hands-free bluetooth works as advertised. Even if you don’t have the address book programmed entirely, it’s not painful. Setting it up is easy, and you’ll be voice dialing before you know it. I wouldn’t have ordered this option specifically, but since it comes standard on the hatchbacks, I guess I appreciate it. I’m not one to talk on the phone while driving anyway, but it’s nice to know it’s there. You can also stream audio on a supported phone, which my first-gen iPhone is not.

Phone and radio have separate volume levels. Thank god. You can crank your music and when someone calls, their voice on the radio is a more reasonable level.

I think that’ sall for now. You’ll get more later.

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