2012 Mazda 3: Steering Ahead Of The Rest
January 25, 2012
Our longterm 2012 Mazda 3 has electric power steering. Normally these are not words associated with good steering.
Anyone that has fiddled with racing dampers that have adjustable compression and rebound (never mind high and low speed adjustments...) knows -- the more options at your disposal, the more likely you are to find the options that suck.
And that's at the root of the problems with EPS -- it tempts engineers with its apparent vast potential. With EPS, all of sudden there is an entire open toolbox brimming with tools. Hey, we can do drift/pull compensation! Hey, we can manufacture steering feel! Hey, we can vary effort not just with speed, but with engine load, throttle angle, side view mirror position, dome light state and GPS location!
Just like that, OEM engineers become like that trackday neophyte staring at their suspension's knobs, jaw agape, shellshocked by choice and destined to make bad ones.
This is not Mazda. Somehow, this little company has figured out which things to focus on in their EPS development and which to ignore. The result is steering that feels more consistently natural than the EPS in other automaker's offerings. Mazda's been doing EPS well for years, too. For example, the RX-8 has been (rightfully) praised for its steering. It's EPS. Yes, the RX-8 had electric power steering ages ago and many people -- some of them autojournos -- didn't even know it by driving it.
--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor