I haven’t driven a vehicle with a manual transmission since I was a regular at a joint where beers were a quarter on Thursdays, designated drivers were chosen by rock, paper, scissors, and I spent more money replacing clutches than I did on text books. When I was offered a Mazda 3 with a 6-speed manual transmission to drive for a week, I couldn’t wait to add shifting at the proper RPM”s as another element of my driving to seriously annoy my husband.
When the Mazda 3 was delivered, I thought it was cute, in a total kid car way. Like wearing a too-short-animal-print skirt at a PTA meeting west of the Jersey Shore or trying to rock hair chalk past age 16, I totally felt like a poser behind the wheel. Seriously, if I’m going to drive an age inappropriate vehicle, it should be a motorcycle.
I label the Mazda 3 a kid car because I can totally picture myself driving this car 15 years ago. Pushing 40, however, this car would be more appropriate for my daughter.
Why I would let my teenager drive the 2012 Mazda 3
- Toggle Controls on the steering wheel make it easier to operate the stereo and take calls by feel rather than sight. She would happily crank One Direction to drown out the moderate road noise.
- It has a 5 star frontal crash driver’s side safety rating and the brakes stop on a dime. Don’t ask me how I know.
- Excellent gas mileage. I was advised by my husband as he reached over to lovingly put his hand on mine in an attempt to persuade me to shift, that the gas mileage would be even better if the vehicle were operated by someone who knew how to properly operate a manual transmission. Whatever, I stopped counting the number of times I killed the engine at 7.
- They are reasonably priced. The MSRP for the model I tested was $20,625 and that included satellite radio. By the time she is a licensed driver in 2014, I will be on the look out for a used model.
- Unless you’re Gumby, the back seat is too small for extracurricular activities.
Why I wouldn’t drive the 2012 Mazda 3 on a regular basis
- I’m 39.
- The back seat is way too small for 2 carseats and a teenager to ride comfortably.
- Like a go-kart, it was really fun to drive for the first few laps. After a while the manual transmission just got in the way of more important things like texting or putting on my make-up at stop lights.
- The cup holders are awkwardly placed too close to the gear shift. It might not matter with a regular size cup, but anything that gets in between me and a Venti is a deal breaker.
- The cargo area is fairly roomy, but stacking items from our weekly Costco trip was like playing a game of drunken Jenga. It’s all fun and games until someone spills the $10.00 peanut butter.
Mazda’s Skyactiv technology improves gas mileage without sacrificing performance. I agree this car is really responsive. It cornered well, accelerated fast and it was a lot of fun to drive. However, if this were my daily driver, I’m pretty sure any money saved on gas would go towards paying fines racked up from speeding tickets.Disclosure: Mazda allowed me to abuse their vehicle for a full week in exchange for my opinion which is often influenced by wine and whine. But not this time.
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