Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

2013 Mazda3 Review - 40 mpg in a perfect package

2013 Mazda3 Grand Touring with SkyActiv
I come from a family of car fanatics. My brother, Chris, is the talent and creator behind the television show, Motorz, as well as the exclusive automotive tool spokesperson for Sears Automotive and Tools. If you get the Sears catalogs, his mug is on half the automotive pages. My oldest brother, Brett, is an owner of a Porsche and a Ferrari and races them in his spare time. He taught me how to drive on a stick shift and some serious hills.

Needless to say, I know how to drive a car. Really well. He also taught me how to change my own oil and I assisted in far too many hours in the garage helping him work on his car growing up. But what's a green girl to do when most of the cars out there are petrol chugging monsters? Did I also mention that I'm cheap and don't want to pay much for a car?

Our newest car is a 2002 Honda CRV. We used to have a 2000 Civic HX, but that met an unfortunate fate a few months ago. Since then, we've been looking for a replacement commuter vehicle that gets great gas mileage and meets my standards for handling. We've toyed with getting a hybrid, an electric car or just not replacing the Civic. But the CRV doesn't get very good mileage and, honestly, we need two cars with my husband's twice weekly chemo treatments.

So, when I was approached by a local company to test drive and review high fuel efficiency vehicles, I literally jumped at the chance. We were in the right place at the right time.

Last week, they dropped off my first test vehicle, a 2013 Mazda3 Grand Touring with SkyActiv, which touts gas mileage up to 40 mpg. Not bad for a 4-door car with an all gas engine. Yes, you read that right, this isn't some fancy schmancy new hybrid vehicle, just a regular ol' gas powered car.

Since our current car is the equivalent of something from the dark ages, I was rather easily impressed by the litany of features this car sports: heated seats, automatic headlights and windshield wipers, blind spot car detection, directional headlights, anti-skid control, Bluetooth phone connection, automatic mileage calculation, navigation, satellite radio, push button start, keyless entry and fob... the list goes on. But, aside from all the gadgets, how does it drive? Well, even though it's an automatic, and I've only ever driven 5 speed manual transmissions, I have to say I was impressed with the shifting. Even if I didn't like the automatic shifting, this car gives you the option of switching from automatic drive to 6 speed shifting up and down. But, I never felt the need to bother with it. I had to retrain my left foot to stay still.

Once I set up everything to my liking, starting the car and driving happened in seconds. No key to fumble with in the dark. As long as I had the key fob on my person I could get in the car and start the engine and go. No setting up lights or windshield wipers - they're all automatic. It did pretty much everything but drive for me. I didn't find any major issues with blind spots when backing up or changing lanes (unlike our Honda CRV) and felt like I had full visibility. It didn't drive like a go-cart like most automatics. In other words, it had a lot of pep. Not quite stick-shift responsiveness, but tolerable. And the sounds system was amazing as well. Did I mention all the controls (including voice activation) for your phone and radio/music were on the steering wheel?

So, what are the problems you ask? Well, first of all, I found the interior roominess was a little lacking. Granted, I'm 6' tall, but with the front seats pushed all the way back, our 9-year-old daughter was complaining there wasn't enough leg room and her feet kept getting stuck under the seat when she tried to get out. I did find that the headroom was a little tight. The trunk was enormous and could easily fit an extra person. Not that I recommend it. The back seat accommodates three people, but not very well and I'd have to admit that our 2 door Civic had a much more spacious interior in the back and the front than this four door. I suspect that rear-facing car seats would be a bit of a challenge. However, if you are using this as a commuter vehicle and/or not hauling 5 adults around, then the space is really a non-issue.

The biggest disappointment for me was the mileage. With our old Honda Civic, we got about 32 mpg in-city driving. Our Honda CRV gets about 23. I was hoping to get away with closer to the 40 mpg on this car, especially since I don't drive aggressively, but the best I got was 26 mpg. Which doesn't exactly meet my mpg standards for buying a new car. Since I don't drive freeway miles, my mpg was closer to the city mpg for this car (27). On the other hand, if you drive mostly freeway miles, I suspect you'll get 38-40 miles per gallon since the mpg ratings seem to be fairly accurate. If that's the case, then I'd seriously consider getting this car given it's low cost (MSRP $22,800) for all the bells and whistles.

I was really hoping this car would work out because I loved almost everything else about it. If I were a mostly freeway driver, I'd get this car in a heartbeat. But, unfortunately, the mileage for our usage is just too low. And that's my deal breaker.

Small print - I was in no way compensated by Mazda for this review beyond the fact that I received the vehicle for a week's test drive.