As I continue with my “regular girl car reviews”, this week I was seen “sporting” around in the Mazda 3 Sport. But to be honest I didn’t drive it as I did my usual loans. That’s because the Mazda 3 Sport is a manual vehicle.
I know how to drive manual, but let’s be honest, not well enough to take my regular 45-60 minutes commute in the dark, through pounding rain, and over the high way. I have enough danger to worry about, I don’t need the added pressure of remembering to clutch and shift for myself. Not to mention the roll backs on hills, and the possibility of stalling after every full stop I make.
The reality is manual vehicles are not created for most, or to be your daily ride, although they can be. They are designed with a certain driver in mind. Those, who understand the inner workings of an engine, and how one part moves after another, coming together to propel you forward. Behind the wheel and gear shift of such a vehicle you have full control. If and when you shift, and how you choose to dole out your fuel intake (and therefore consumption).
And you might ask, how do I know this? My partner is such an enthusiast and is the one who taught me how to “drive stick”. When we first met his only vehicle was the Honda S2K. And there was always the fear that if I needed to take control of the wheel, I would not be able to. So I learned (and believe me it was just as difficult learning from him and it was learning how to drive automatic from my father all those years ago, before). The result, one of my first trips driving the “S” was down a mountain, with low visibility and in the pelting rain. Since then, learning and perfecting my skill on dry days has been a cake walk.
So from that experience, I can say with much confidence that it is way easier learning how to shift in the Mazda 3 Sport. In fact, due to a few of its features, if you are wanting to learn how to drive manual yourself, this is a great set of “training wheels, so to speak.
The Mazda 3 Sport has an anti-stall mode. So basically instead of turning off and having to restart when you don’t let go of the clutch with your left and add enough gas with your right; the car remains idle, waiting for you to do it right and move along. But be warned if the vehicle does end up stopping, the emergency break will automatically turn on; and you won’t be able to start again without turning it off. An easy motion, but one that might be hard to miss if you aren’t aware, are just learning, or are not watching the light come on, on the centre console.
As for appearances the Mazda 3 looked the park, sleek and lean with its hatchback. And inside, I liked the burgundy leather finishes. They stood out in the compact, yet spacious cabin. There was plenty of room, especially with the seat sinking down and back, giving you the option to be lower to the ground; much like it would be for a race car driver.
However, I personally like a clear view around my vehicle. I want to be raised high above it all, to the point that the crown of my head ends up being inches away from the roof of the car. So because of my own preference, and the fact that my legs are shorter than my torso, I couldn’t get comfortable in the driver’s seat. I kept having to overextended myself when pushing down on the clutch, a position and motion that had my leg growing tired and cramping quick. That and with the wheel at the highest set position, it was still low enough to keep obstructing my leg. I honestly couldn’t see myself driving this for an extended period. Although this is probably a commentary on my relationships with all manual vehicles.
Worth noting is how good on gas it was. You got the agility and control you want in a sport car; but with the easy handing you know Mazda to be. Especially when across the dash splashes alerts, signalling you when to shift. Numbers and arrows and the direction to shift up or down based on the speed at which are going, and the projected speed at which you will be taking. Helpful, when you can’t just “feel it” yet. (Those better experienced can feel a stopping point within the car, and the need to shift or downshift.) And this is another friendly feature that makes the Mazda 3 Sport a great manual car to start off with.
Although with the lack of overall visibility, and smaller rear view window, it does make it challenging to see out of. Which in turn might provide another hurdle to over come for new manual drivers. Though when reversing, the Sport is equipped with back up cameras for easier parking. The appearance choices for the above, does gives the Mazda its sports appeal. When driving it feels like you are going a lot faster than you actually are, because you can feel everything on the road and within the car, thanks to its stiff suspension hugging the road.
As an overall conclusion, the Mazda 3 Sport doesn’t have the juice to compare with more sport car-like sedans. The transmission feels good, but it isn’t as smooth as the Mazda Miata, comparatively. And manual is fun for those who know how to handle their clutch. But admittedly, I am not one of those people. Being a connivence, “make my life easier” sort of driver I don’t normally gravitate towards manual cars, although I do and see the market for them. After all, if you shift and clutch hard and quick, you can make believe and pretend like you are driving “Fast and Furious” style. Though ironically, this never happens in real life, as shifting, stepping, and releasing the clutch should actually be a very smooth motion.
In short, this is the right car built for a specific driver in mind, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to practice my manual driving, with as much ease and comfort as it allowed. Thank Mazda Canada.