2012 Mazda 3: Is It Still Fun To Drive?
May 03, 2012
We've written some previous posts about our Mazda 3's tires. Specifically, how they're not very grippy. Mike wrote that the Mazda's chassis "writes checks the tires can't cash." Objectively, our Mazda 3 posted up mediocre handling numbers and worse than average braking numbers. But we've still been praising the 3 for its steering, transmission and fundamental goodness.
So I began to wonder: is our 3 still fun to drive or do the tires suck the life out of it? I decided to head out to one of my favored roads to find out.
I had already noticed that you don't need a test track to realize that the tires don't have performance as their first priority. Even around town, they'll squeal when going around a city street corner at low -- but enthusiastic -- speed. Honestly, I was expecting the 3 to be disappointing on the drive.
Well, I was wrong. True enough, the tires aren't very grippy. But this particular road I drove on is sort of a medium pace road. And I realized that I could still drive at a quick pace and enjoy the good stuff about the car without overstepping the tires' limits.
The 3 is still fun. The steering, if not all that communicative, is quick and makes the three feel playful. Even on a bumpy road, the suspension does a nice job of being compliant without being soggy. And sure, our car has an automatic transmission, but it shifts quickly and smoothly in manual mode. And, of course, it has the proper forward/downshift backward/upshift setup for the manual mode selector.
Maybe if I drove on a tighter road or drove more aggressively, I'd be complaining more. And yeah, if this was my car, I'd still quickly swap out these tires and wheels for some grippier rubber and be fine with whatever drop in fuel economy would occur. But for the average economy car buyer, the 3 with Skyactiv is still plenty enjoyable.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor