A Tale of 3 Mazdas: Mazda3 S 5-Door Grand Touring, CX-3 AWD Grand Touring, Mazda6 – Review

By Jonathan Spira on 21 January 2016
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It’s hard to instill a particular set of attributes – a car’s soul if you would – across a range of cars. Some automakers, most notably BMW, do it well. As for others, in some cases you’d think each car model came from a completely different parent.

After driving three Mazdas, a CX-3 Grand Touring subcompact-crossover, a Mazda3 compact sedan, and a Mazda6 mid-sized sedan, my takeaway wasn’t just a “zoom zoom zoom,” but the feeling that Mazda had really created its own DNA that is present in its vehicles, one that imbues the cars with peppy performance, responsiveness reserved for autocross, great ride quality, and high quality interiors. The most expensive car on my list has a suggested retail price of under $22,000, making Mazdas both fun and engaging to drive while providing drivers and occupants with affordable albeit not opulent surroundings, yet affording a modicum of luxury.

The look Mazda has achieved with its Kodo design language – first introduced on the Shinari concept car in 2010 – is something the automaker says is intended to serve as expression of natural energy,. Mazda’s head of design, Ikuo Maeda, said at the time that Kodo was intended to give the small carmaker’s cars “a new sense of presence and purpose.”

The look is intended to evoke a feeling of motion even when the car is standing still, and the design’s signature wing grille, prominent fenders, and low, somewhat rear-leaning cabin do accomplish this to a great extent.

Another area where I found that Mazda does really well is in keeping controls from cluttering up the cabin. This is due in large part to the human-machine interface Mazda created and uses in its cars with an easy-to-use cockpit controller that is placed – at least in most cases – in a very comfortable position for the driver to operate and putting different types of information in what the automaker refers to as different “zones.” Mazda places a 7” central display atop the center stack that is used for secondary information such as phone and entertainment.

A head-up display positioned above the dashboard cluster’s hood puts key driving information, such as vehicle speed and turn-by-turn navigation instructions, directly in the driver’s line of sight. The HUD worked fine with polarized sunglasses, unlike what we’ve found in virtually every other car with a HUD (unlike other HUDs, this display does not project an image beyond the windshield, but is on a small screen that rises from the dashboard’s upper surface when the car is turned on). The cockpit controller is easy to use without having to look down (other automakers, please take note) and there are several shortcut buttons for audio and navi to speed things along.

The Mazda Connect system had no trouble with my iPhone 6s Plus (something I can’t say about another Bluetooth system in another Japanese car we recently had in the fleet) and supports streaming music, text messages, Facebook and Twitter updates, and music services such as Aha and Pandora. I was particularly impressed by the Pandora streaming music integration, which allowed me to give a song a thumbs up or skip it, change channels, and view album info all via the car’s interface.

Finally, Mazda offers a variety of useful driver assistance technologies as either standard or optional equipment, depending on the model. This includes blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alerts, forward collision warning with pre-crash braking, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, and (my all-time favorite in this category), radar cruise control.

The only area that I felt was not up to par was navigation. Entering a destination seemed overly complicated compared to other systems and the system itself sometimes seemed to lose track of where the car was. On the plus side, displaying turn-by-turn directions on the HUD once you were underway made it very easy to follow directions.

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