Saturday, November 22, 2014

Soul Red!

When did I become a guy that drives a red car?  I've never had a red car.  The closest I've ever had was a maroon Toyota pickup.  It was a 1985 regular cab, with no A/C, and a sliding opening in the back window (which I could and did occasionally break into when I had locked my keys in the car).

But now...
I call him Carlos Danger Rohe.  He was made in Mexico, and Danger is his middle name!

That is my brand new 2015 Mazda3 iSport with dark grey alloys, tint, and added Navigation.  And it's RED!!!  Well, Soul Red with Sand cloth interior to be exact.  And I'll probably put leather in it eventually.  Manual transmission of course (anyone that knows me would simply say, "well,duh").  I'd wonder if it was a mid-life crisis, except it's too soon for that (hopefully), and wouldn't my 1994 Miata M-Edition be more mid-life crisis-y?  No sir, this beauty is actually practical! It's rated at 29 city/41 highway/33 Combined, and that's less than the 30/41/34 the automatic gets [June 2015 UPDATE - I'm getting 35 Combined!].  So, since I've gone to the trouble of buying a new car just to be informative to you, dear reader, I thought it would be a good topic for supplementing the previous SkyActiv blogs.

The SkyActiv Part
What is SkyActiv?  We've had them on the lot since 2012, and we still get asked that everyday.  Rather than go into detail here, I'll direct you to my previous post "It's SkyActiv...Wait, What?"

So what is different from before?  Well the 2012-2013 smiley-faced, SkyActiv Mazda3's only had the new engine and transmission.  That put the MPG ratings at 28/40  The new 2014 and newer have the entire suite of SkyActiv goodness.  Engine, transmission, body, chassis, suspension, etc.  Plus the new Kodo "Soul of Motion" design is more aerodynamic.  They used more high tensile steel in the frame.  They made an already efficient transmission more efficient.  The result is the increase in fuel economy.  As for how it is to row through the gears?  They based the shifter throw and shifter gates on the current 3rd Generation Mazda MX-5 Miata.  That's simply crazy!

You want specs? Mine has a 2.0L 4cylinder with 155 hp and 150 #ft of torque.  So is it fast?  No, but it is quick.  It's very Miata like in that respect.  Not particularly fast, but feels faster than it is, and it is fun to drive. [Note: Mazda also makes a 2.5L engine with 184 hp and 185 #ft of torque].  It has a 6-speed manual (or more often an automatic) transmission that will rev plenty high, though if you do some of those gas savings go out the window.  Remember the high tensile steel I mentioned?  That helps get the curb weight to 2,854 lbs.  Pretty light for a sedan.  Plus it uses regular 87 grade gasoline.

"87 grade gasoline" you say, "So what?"  Well....
A few years ago, all the car companies were shooting for the magical 40 mpg mark in their compact cars.  Some dumped some ballast (i.e. got rid of their spare tires), some used high profile tires (say goodbye to your handling), or put in a turbo-charged engine.  Now there is nothing wrong with a turbo, and they can be fuel efficient depending on how you drive them.  Get into the boost too often, and those gas savings will start to disappear.  There are even some turbos that don't require premium fuel, but they work better if you do.  Mazda was able to get the good mpg's with out sacrificing or compromising, and used none of those other little cheats to get to the numbers.  Speaking of cheating, there were two companies that actually fudged the numbers...twice.  I won't name names, but they rhyme with Tia and Blondai.

The Driving part
I've had it a few weeks now, and most of the time, I'm playing with getting better gas mileage.  That's a new phenomenon for me.  But, often enough my inner driver screams at me to have a bit more fun (within the legal limits, of course).  What I found is there isn't a big difference between my Miata and the Mazda3 when shifting.  It's a 6-speed versus a 5-speed, and reverse is in a different spot, but it's still crisp and quick.  This car actually has quite a few more horses than the Miata, though it is also heavier.  Off the line, the Miata is quicker, but the Mazda3 is faster.  Being a FWD vehicle is also a bit of an adjustment, but the car corners very well (with or without the traction control on).  The word that came to mind was composed.  I can take the Miata to the edge much easier than the Mazda3 (well, duh).  However, the Mazda3 is still a Mazda.  It has Zoom Zoom, and is a blast to drive.

The Techie Part
The new Mazda Connect system, and the Commander Control Switch are fantastic.  The 7-inch screen is nicely (and safely) placed atop a small recess on top of the dash (a bit BMW-ish).  The Bluetooth connectivity allows you to stream your music from your phone, access Pandora, Aha, and Stitcher radio.  The optional Navigation is by MapQuest and is easy, intuitive, and nice to look at.  You can voice command just about anything to do with the Mazda Connect system, but I usually find myself using the Commander Control Switch.  With dedicated Home, Music and Nav buttons, as well as Favorites and Back buttons, it is very easy to navigate.  Favorites...that's the new thing to get used to in this car.  No preset radio stations.  You have favorites for stations, favorites for contacts, and favorites for Nav destinations.  Much more computer or app-like than typical car stereo systems.  Mine doesn't have the backup camera or Blind Spot Monitoring, but those are very nice if equipped.

The You Buying One part
So despite all of the above, I'm a car salesman.  Why should you listen to me?  Well, you can go read why here, or you can realize that I decided to pay my own money for one, or you can NOT take my word for it and look at what everyone else is saying about this car.

Here is a list of Awards this car has already garnered:
  • Road & Track "Best of Everything" - Best Economy Car
  • A Car and Driver 2014 "10Best"
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick+ (With available Smart City Brake Support. Models built after Oct 2013)
  • 2014 ALG Residual Value Award - Compact Car segment
  • 2015 ALG Residual Value Award - Compact Car segment
  • One of the "2014 Most Popular on" Compact Cars
  • A 2014 "Top Rated Sedan/Hatchback"
  • A 2014 AUTOMOBILE Magazine All-Star
  • #1 on's "10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000" list for 2014
  • #1 on's "10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000" list for 2015
  • #1 on U.S. News & World Report's annual list of "Best Cars for Families"
  • #1 on U.S. News & World Report's annual list of "Best Cars for the Money" Compact Car
  • "Best Compact Car" in MotorWeek's "Drivers Choice Awards"
  • Kiplingers 2014 Best New Car under $20,000
  • On Ward's "10 Best Interiors" List
  • On AutoTraders "Must Test Drive" List
  • 2014 World Car of the Year Finalist
  • 2014 World Car Design of the Year Finalist
And I probably forgot some!

So, why not come buy one?  I did!

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