For 2020 I have decided to take a new approach to my car reviews. Here, I will not be spouting jargon or spewing quotes from car manufacturers. You don’t need another blog reviewing specs you may know nothing about, nor know what they mean anyways.
Instead, I will use my experience in critical writing to give you the ins and outs for the latest models and everyday rides (with a few luxury labels sprinkled in between). Details on the the look, feel, and drivability during my every day, hour long commute. A daily drive that takes me across bridges, over bumpy terrain, on the highway, then back again.
And what better way to review my latest weekly ride than during 2020’s “Snowmageddon”. 10 days in January where the white stuff dumped, and as per history past, the Lower Mainland knew not what to do with itself. Roads weren’t salted in preparation, despite the weather warnings, and the lack of plows in local areas meant side streets became treacherous. And then there were the drivers without snow tires and the know-how to transverse in snow. They created unnecessary accidents: an abundance of collisions, impeding traffic that was already slowed to a halt.
But I digress, all that can be a post all on its own. This week I had the 2020 Mazda CX-3, and what better time to put it through its paces, and write a thorough review of the experience, than today. A morning where I found myself parked on the highway, inching ever so slowly along the chalky streets, stuck in gridlock. And given all my time sitting and idling, I made plenty of observations, and have plenty of insight to give.
But let’s rewind a little, and start with first impressions. This is a really compact car, waking up to it, it looked a little on the small side; like a baby sedan. There isn’t a lot of room in the back for passengers. Seat belts for three, but only enough room for two small adults. In fact, I would suggest using the back seat to transport groceries and goods, rather than any one with legs. I do push my seat up fairly close to the wheel, but for those who don’t, and need the leg room up front; those in the back will definitely suffer. Stepping in, the front cabin was just as tight. I had to adjust the driver seat, as they felt very sunken into the floor, giving me less visibility out the front window.
And speaking of windshields, the one at the back is very limited. When the back seat passenger head rests are lifted up and the single blade wiper is going, you lose a lot of your visibility. You get a similar experience while left shoulder checking, (at least the way I am seated, I did). The panel that separates the front and rear side windows obstructs your view, so a body twerk is necessary to get it back.
But at least with the Mazda CX-3 being a hatchback, you know where it ends, and you don’t have a lot to worry about bumpers that jut out while reversing. A fact, further helped along with its back up camera. This comes standard for most modern vehicles, but with this week’s extra challenging drive, any little convenience helped. Just like how I really appreciated having heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Both helped to warm me up quickly. And because the cabin is so small, the entire vehicle heats up relatively quick as well. Meaning everything I cranked up, I soon turned down and off, and the temperature remained. I imagine that this is also the case with warmer weather and air-conditioning as well. (But today, summer and the sun feels so far away).
But back to the heated steering wheel, it actually encourages proper hand to wheel placement. You find yourself holding steady at 10 and 2, as the sensors only heat the side of the wheel. Helpful for learners, but not great for drivers like me: those who hold their wheel lower, with their hand resting on their lap.
As a whole, I would classify the Mazda CX-3 as a more simple car. It isn’t too busy visually, there isn’t more than what is necessary in terms of buttons and their functions. A single cluster, a display for your mode, speed gage, temperature reading, and fuel consumption metre. Even the pulldown mirror from the back of the sun shade doesn’t have a light to it. This does make your face check harder in the dark. Although the cabin lights work just fine, albeit harsh.
But despite the simplicity of the vehicle, it does still come with many modern conveniences. Little perks like lumbar support, lane assist tracking, jacks for multiple USB cables, satellite radio, and a touchscreen infotainment system. There is even a small clear screen that pops up when you turn on the car. It broadcasts your speed limit and the speed in which you are traveling, discretely. It does not obstruct your peripheral, you only need to look down slightly to notice it. Therefore it is just as easy to ignore, should you choose to.
As for the way the Mazda CX-3 drove.. because of its narrower framework, it didn’t give me the same fear I usually get when travelling across narrow bridges and lanes. And I imagine in better weather conditions, when the roads aren’t icy, it would be fun to zip around. It is agile and nimble, given its size and lack of weight to maneuver. Similarly, it is extremely easy to park, even for those who fear the dreaded parallel. Although I did have to use quite a bit of a muscle in order to accelerate as fast as I wanted it to go, and even at a faster speed it did not feel like I had any power beneath my feet.
Although as a whole, the Mazda CX-3 has the smooth driving and easy feel that I know Mazda vehicles for. Great as a daily driver, when you want no fuss or muss, getting from “A” to “B”. Especially nice in rush hour and snow driven gridlock. When you find yourself starting and stopping regularly, the last thing you want is the additional movement of a clutch or anything remotely intricate. Today, I was literally moving half a car’s length forward every minute; pushing the shifter up to park, then down when I had drive an inch more. And thankfully this was a hassle free motion in the CX-3. (I wasn’t keen on keeping my foot down on the brake for two hours.)
Given the size and lack of space in the cabin, I wouldn’t recommend it for a road trip. There isn’t a lot of sprawling room; and you can feel quite claustrophobic, if stuck in the car for 4+ hours. I mean on this snowy day I found myself, alone, trapped in it for 5 and felt like I need to stretch after 2. I am not very big, but even I found myself cramped in terms of elbow placement. I had to make myself more narrow, in order to fit both elbows between the door handle and the middle console.
Not to mention, the car is so low to the ground and intentionally light, that you hear and feel everything from the road. There is little insolation blocking out the noise of the world around you. You hear everything: like all the debris that gets caught up in the under carriage. Every speck of sand or gravel gives off a little rustling noise. Un-nerving in general, but made much worse on snow laden streets. The clumps of gathered ice scraped the bottom, like the car was lowered and you were going over a speed bump. However, if you turn your music up loud enough, you can tune out most of it.
But when the roads were relatively clear the CX-3 drove steady. I had no issues skidding with the all season tires. There was no swerving, it just felt like normal driving, but in snow. Thus, making it a great vehicle for learners or novice drivers, (during dry weather conditions). There are less features, less buttons, less dials, and less options to get distracted with. And the inability to speed up quick means that they are safer behind the wheel.
In short, I felt much closer to the Mazda CX-3 after today. It kept me warm, comfortable, and safe during my 5 hour commute. A commute that had me making it half way to work, only to have to turn back when a jack knifed semi prevented me from going any further. I felt in control behind the wheel and proud of the little car that could. Although I would love to get a redo on spring or summer when I can fully appreciate it for what it was built for, and when. Thank you Mazda Canada for this week’s wheels!
Scroll down for some photo highlights of today’s 10-15cm snow drive. Including a lone plow, halted traffic, accidents, and bridges.