2012 Mazda 3: Driven Back-To-Back
September 21, 2012
I've driven our Mazda 3 quite a bit in the past six months. Now I've driven our Subaru Impreza for the first time. Coming out of the Mazda and going into the Subaru does present the opportunity to notice some differences. Thoughts on driving the cars back-to-back follow.
One of the first things I noticed between these two cars is the steering. Through the wheel, the 3 feels nimble, light and eager to turn in compared to the Impreza, which feels heavier and more resistant. It sort of like the 3 says "Hey, let's go party!" while the Impreza says "I think I'm going to stay in and watch Homeland."
But there's some latent capability in the Subaru. I've only driven it around town, but it does seem to offer more grip around corners. As we've covered previously, the 3's tires are rock hard and not big on grip. Test track numbers are also in the Subaru's favor (66.2 mph in the slalom compared to the 3's 63.7 mph).
The situation is reversed when it comes to throttle response. The Impreza, through its CVT, revs up fairly quickly when accelerating from a stop, whereas the Mazda can feel sluggish. This gives the impression that the Impreza is the quicker of the two. But in terms of numbers, the 3 is actually quicker, with a 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds versus the Impreza's 9.7 seconds. And while I need to spend more time with the Subaru and its CVT, so far I prefer the Mazda's traditional six-speed as it seems calmer around town.
In terms of ride quality and road noise, the Subaru is the smoother and quieter of the two cars.
Both cars have great fuel range. The Mazda's doing a lot better in terms of fuel economy, though.
As for the interiors, the Mazda is certainly more stylish to my eyes thanks to its two-tone design. The Impreza comes off as being rather drab in comparison. But the Subaru has superior interior storage (more places to put your cell phone, wallet, etc) and, for me, a more comfortable driving position. I prefer the Mazda for outward visibility, though this runs counter to what Michael Jordan wrote earlier. The Subaru has more rear legroom. Both cars have easy-to-fold rear seats.
I'll withhold judgment on which car I like more since I've spent a lot more time with the Mazda than the Subaru. But overall I'm glad we have the two cars in the fleet at the same time.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor