Needs Paddles - 2012 Mazda Mazda3 Long-Term Road Test

2012 Mazda Mazda3 Long Term Road Test

2012 Mazda Mazda3: Needs Paddles

October 3, 2012

2012 Mazda Mazda3

I recently got seat time in both the Impreza and Mazda 3. Brent already covered several bases here, and I don't have much to add. But a colleague said something recently that got me thinking. I mentioned that the Impreza seemed somewhat unloved around here, that no one takes it home much, even for one-night stands.

"Why would you if the Mazda 3 is still available?" this colleague asked.

Fair question, I thought.

So I had to get back in the Mazda 3 to see how it was better than the Impreza. Now, I like the Impreza. I road-tripped it nearly 1,000 miles and find it an easy car to slot through urban traffic and strip mall parking lots. Plenty of room. It does a lot and asks little.  

The Mazda 3 is just as eager to please. Dynamically, the Mazda feels tighter. Feels more poised to respond, feels like there's a little more under you. It wants more steering effort. But the tires suck and undermine the Three's best intentions. On the other hand, the Impreza feels better than you'd expect when transferring weight.

One thing the Impreza has that the Maz3 doesn't: paddle shifters. As stretchy as the Impreza's CVT is, the paddles make driving more palatable for those less concerned with EPA ratings. But the Mazda's transmission programming is also pretty lazy, and I find I just prefer riding the manual shift mode. Paddles would definitely give the Three an edge here.

Then again, if we brought you this fine, free blog (did I mention free? You mopey guys in the back there, moaning your disappointment with Mike and Kurt's Alaska blogs, you caught the free part, right?) from New England or Colorado, then maybe the Impreza takes the lead. Both nice cars, both with deserving fanbases.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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