Monday, May 27, 2013

Mazda 3 Skyactiv

 STI- The Drive Experience Company provided a vehicle for review.  The driving impression I give is my own.  I disclose this in accordance of FTC Guides concerning use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising.

I recently had the opportunity to drive the Brand New Mazda 3 Skyactiv sedan the 1st week of May 2013.  This car was supplied by STI to my wife of Leslie Loves Veggies and me for an official review of the product.  While she wrote her own review I can offer my own impression of the vehicle.

First some background;
I have owned a few cars of different makers over my 36+ years of auto driving experience.  I would say I am an above average driver simply by my defacto driving record.  52 years old, no accidents, 280,000 miles on my current 13 year old vehicle.  My driving experience started when I was 8 years old with a go-cart.  I had a dirt track in my back yard and regularly drove the go-cart in parking lots, school yards, and large pieces of private property.  Since then my automobile ownership included:
1960 T-Bird Convertible
1982 Toyota Celica GT
1986 Toyota Carolla
1980 Honda Civic
1990 Mercury Sable
1996 Mazda MPV Minivan
1997 Mercury Grand Marquis
2000 Toyota Celica GTS (6 spd manual)
2001 Toyota Celica GTS (Sport-Shift)

The Mazda 3 Skyactiv is a vehicle of special calibre simply for the technology packed into a small car.  The engine, fuel economy, electronics, and safety features make this vehicle very difficult to pass up when shopping for a new small vehicle.  Outside of the usual specifications of this vehicle such as 4 cylinder gas engine, PW, ABS,AM/FM CD Radio, PWR dual mirrors, LED Lighting, the highlights of the vehicle  truly bring this offering from Mazda up to the level of a "wish car" - "Wish I had that car?"

Engine - The Skyactiv product line whether in 4 cylinder or 6 cylinder equipped vehicles uses a high tech engine to obtain increased power, torque, and fuel economy by high compression, direct fuel delivery management, tuned exhaust, 4 valves per cylinder, and DOHC running optimally on regular 87 octane.  At a compression ratio of 13:1 one would expect this beast to run smoothly only on high octane offering of 93+.  No, the Skyactiv engine runs flawlessly smooth providing steady and ample power to accelerate the vehicle to highway speed effortlessly on low 87 octane.  Observed fuel economy around town was about 35 mpg.  Highway mpg is rated at 40+ on the sticker and by Mazda Corporation.

Safety - The Mazda 3 Skyactiv matches the wizardry of the engine with several key safety features that probably should be on all cars.  BSM - Blind Space Monitoring is a system using sensors mounted around the car to detect proximity of other vehicles in the drivers "blind-spots".  When there is a vehicle in the blind-spot, an indicator light is observed on the side view mirror of the side of the vehicle with a blind-spot detection.  If BSM is warning and the driver activates turn signal in the direction of the warning an audible signal inside the cabin alerts the driver there is a vehicle in the blind-spot.  At first the BSM warning on the mirror was good at distracting my attention but after driving the vehicle on highway roads for a few minutes the warning blends in an perfectly grabs your attention in your peripheral vision without being a distraction.  At that point the BSM system was an enhancement to my driving  experience and brought me assurance in my driving skill to know where the other vehicle were around me.
ABS, Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control were three features that you really don't detect while driving except when in an emergency braking or collision avoidance maneuver.  I did not experience any of that but you just have to trust that those safety features will be there when you need them and they will complement your driving skill to help the vehicle do and be where you want it at command.  Enough said.

The self adjusting rear view mirror was also a welcome feature when bright lights of a tail gating vehicle behind me was going to affect my vision.  The auto-dimming removed the high glare condition as expected.

The  bright white headlight which turn up to 15 degrees into the direction of a turn are a nice feature
and probably are very effective on sharp curve roads and turns.  In regular suburb and highway driving I did not experience the true benefit of such a feature.  In regular suburb driving making a turn at an intersection it was sort of strange to see the headlights suddenly and quickly shift direction. 

The Skyactiv vehicle line is also lighter and more rigid than predecessor models.  This vehicle holds Top Pick for safety by IIHS.  Multiple airbags make this vehicle a total package for the safety conscious car buyer.

Overall, the driving experience of the Mazda 3 Skyactiv brought confidence in a stable ride with great fuel economy without sacrificing needed power and acceleration for achieving highway speed.
Steering felt confident without being heavy, turning was smooth without any lapse of precise control.
Breaking was strong, super strong.  I felt at times breaking was a bit "grabby" compared to what I am used to driving.  None the less, the strong breaking ability of the vehicle enhanced my driving technique with added confidence in safety.  The manual shift automatic transmission has 6 speeds to choose from.  No wonder this total package of technology, wizardry, and power equals excellent fuel mileage.

The cabin electronics in this vehicle were complemented by a BOSE 10 speaker audio system, with Tom-Tom navigation, Pandora, SiriusXM Satellite radio, HD radio, and Bluetooth.  What more could you ask for.  Sound was rich and clean from the stereo; multiple controls on the steering wheel.  A nice touch were the blue ambient LED lighting that bathed driver and passenger floor boards and from overhead. 

The only two negatives I can sprout about this vehicle are lack of engine temperature gauge and small leg room in the back seat.  The latter maybe a minor issue with most folks but for me it is a big deal.  There are dozens of warning and indicator lights in-between and around the speedo-Tach cluster.  Being an analytical science driven type professional, I personally feel that cars have too few gauges to indicate operating conditions.  "Give me more info than I can understand; is better than not having it at all"~ I say.  At some point the info may be handy to indicate a potential problem and warn of developing issues.

The Mazda 3 Skyactiv is a solid contender in the small car market.  Packed with all kinds of safety goodies and technology this car is a real work of ingenuity.   For the price of this car there are great safety, electronic, and technological features found in upper  class luxury vehicles.  Take a test drive (an extended one if possible) in the Skyactiv and you will see how enjoyable and confident you will be driving this in vehicle.

Scott Mayorga  

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