August 26, 2010
Suffering from big city burnout (chronic crowds and traffic), my girlfriend and I decided to take a little road trip. The destination? Solvang, CA, which is about 130 miles up the coast (and about 15 miles inland) from Santa Monica. A quaint Danish town located in Santa Ynez wine country, Solvang makes for a nice one-nighter get-away. We sampled Danish pastry, visited the Solvang motorcycle museum and checked out the Gainey vineyard. The long-term car choice was between our two Mazdas; I opted for the MS3.
Follow the jump for notes and pics of the trip.
The 'speed 3 had most of my basic requirements for a road trip vehicle -- firmly supportive seats (especially for my lower back), navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth, generous cargo capacity, effortless power and a decent ride. Although its display is rather small, the navi worked fine with clear visual and auditory prompts. We left L.A. at 10 am to minimize traffic and were able to cruise at 70-75 for most of the way up there on the 101. My only notable gripe with the MS3 was the abundance of road noise that had me cranking the stereo's volume to 30 (forget "11"). To be fair, said noise was/is "optimized" via the grooved concrete superslab that makes up much of the freeways around these parts.
The MS3 averaged 24 mpg for the trip, not too bad considering ambient temps were 90 to 105 degrees, the A/C was on if the car was, I enjoyed the curvy parts of the 154 and the EPA highway estimate is 25 mpg.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 16,978 miles
March 02, 2010
Like the completely real and in no way photoshopped picture above illustrates, our Mazdaspeed 3 is pretty much the Swiss Army knife of compact cars. Not only does it possess terrific handling but it's also fast, comfortable, gets decent fuel economy, has useable back seats, can hold a ton of stuff and it's under 30 grand to boot!
I'm beginning to wonder if this car can float, or if there might be a secret button to unfurl hidden wings and a jet engine because this car seems capable of doing damn near everything else.
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 8,634 miles
February 24, 2010
Although I mostly stuck to interstates on my 28-hour road trip in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, all cruise and no play would have made Erin a very dull car-journalist-person indeed. But I had my California Thomas guide, so I plotted out on a detour on California's Highway 16.
I picked up 16 at Interstate 5, but it doesn't start to get good until after you pass through the town of Esparto just past the 505 interchange. I already had the Mazda's navigation system programmed for my eventual destination, and it became quite alarmed when I left the interstate. It refused to recalculate the route on back roads, so I ignored it for the next 45 miles until it finally came to its senses. (Bottom line: Any nav system is better than no nav system, but this one is about 5 years behind the times, and apart from the tidy packaging, not a great buy over a portable.)
Now Highway 16 is not a highly technical road, but for a car-person already in that part of NorCal who just wants a nice series of high-speed turns, it delivers. You get to appreciate the turbocharged engine's big torque, and the road tightens up enough to justify a few heel-and-toe downshifts.
December 18, 2009
I'm a little surprised to see that our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 is maintaining a 21.2 mpg lifetime fuel economy average so far. Normally, the performance cars in our fleet take a dive due to our heavy right feet. But as of our last Big List of Fuel Economy, we're matching the EPA's combined estimate of 21 mpg. Fuel range is fair, with about 300 miles being the most we've managed to squeeze from a tank of gas.
One other thing: the MS3 has an instant fuel economy readout. In general, this feature's value is debatable as average economy is more useful. Plus, most cars with instant economy show it via a silly bar-graph display or a readout number that bounces around constantly.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor