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Mami is back! She was at the smash repair place from last Tuesday, and after ten long days is back home. In Mami’s place was a rental car from Hertz. I chose the Mazda 3 as Misa-chan has her eyes set on the CX5 (I’d probably prefer the CX30 as it looks better and is a wee smaller) and we thought it’d be a good idea to try out a Mazda for real world testing, not a 20 minute drive around the block.

Now I don’t know if this car had been parked under a tree for a week, but it was filthy. Absolutely coated in water spots, with handfuls of dead leaves and twigs under the bonnet, around the windscreen wipers, the roof rack strips and whatnot. The windows were hard to see through as they were also covered in water spots. The interior was clean, so that’s a bit better. I don’t think the Hertz washed it before I picked it up. It was their only Mazda 3 as well, but a dirty 3 was still a better choice than a clean Hyundai or Kia (I’m such a brand snob!).

Mazda 3 as delivered
Dirty, water spots were hard to remove. This is how the car was delivered.

The car is about 3 inches lower than my car. It’s also an inch wider, and the doors feel longer. Getting inside was difficult, and I’m not an old fart. The interior was nice, it feels like you’re in a cocoon and most buttons and knobs are within easy reach.

So here’s the good and the bad with the Mazda 3. Can I start with the bad things, the bits I didn’t like? There were a few things I couldn’t get used to after 10 days of driving. Okay…

The alerts. My god, shut up already! And be consistent. The alerts were frustrating as they’d sound and nudge the steering wheel when avoiding the cyclist riding on the shoulder, but when driving over the line without a cyclist I’d get nothing. Other times there were alerts when I was in the middle of the lane. The worst alert was BRAKE! which come on for no reason when passing parked cars. Also, when washing the car we’d get some stupid alert about the battery.

Mazda 3 Alert
This is because the doors weren’t locked when washing the car.

The mirror system sucks. The passenger side has everything far away, the driver’s side has everything too close. When reverse parking it was hard to judge where the concrete posts and wall was because the posts weren’t visible in the mirror. Also, the reverse parking camera doesn’t have a line in the centre, making it a little difficult to judge the centre (in my car the centre line matches up to the shed doors in my garage for perfect parking).

Engine stop start. This is meant to save fuel when stuck at traffic lights, but when it kicks in it feels like the car has stalled. Sometimes the car started up again after 10 seconds (the brake was still pressed, too), other times the traffic light would go green half a second after the engine turned off, and the car would hesitate to start again. Arrgghhh! Thankfully I was able to turn this setting off each time I drove.

The radio would suddenly change from 90.3 ABC Sunshine Coast to Hot 91.1 for no reason, and it’d take an effort to scroll through the stations to get back to ABC.

The headlights come on automatically in dark settings (garage, shaded areas) when set to the AUTO mode. The OFF setting did nothing as the knob wouldn’t twist to OFF. If you turned the headlights to ON (as opposed to AUTO) there’d be another alert when you opened the doors saying to turn the lights off. Mami’s headlights turn off when the key has been removed and the door is opened.

Automatic transmission. Ugh, give me the CVT any day! It’s not a Mazda 3 problem, it’s just my personal preference.

Blind spots. The pillars are so thick and windows so short (height-wise) that it’s hard to see outside. There’s the light in the mirror which turns on when someone is beside you, but that’s it. I like being aware of my surroundings when driving, and the too far/too close views of the mirrors (mentioned earlier) made it difficult to merge, change lanes with confidence (I don’t care about the orange triangle light in the mirror).

Now for the good stuff about the Mazda 3.

Mazda 3
We gave it a clean, polish & wax.

CarPlay. I got to experience CarPlay and it worked a treat. I’m looking to get a new head unit for Mami. And speakers.

The fuel economy stats after each drive were good. When I got the car it was averaging about 9L per 100km. I reset that and 10 days later got 6.6L out of it. That was a combination of city traffic, highway and a drive to Flaxton (Sunshine Coast hinterland). Also, there’s a fuel usage meter which changes as you’re driving, so I’m guessing it wants you to drive smoother, easier, and with petrol now at $2 per litre, save cash.

The cabin. The 3 is only an inch wider than Mami, but inside it feels 3 inches wider. The centre console, while fiddly to open/close, was deep with USB charging available, and both Misa-chan and I could comfortably rest our elbows on the console lid at the same time. The seating position was low, but the pedal placement perfect. All the necessary knobs and buttons were within reach, and the plastics of good quality. I couldn’t get the head up display to work, but only found out last night that someone had pushed the screen in, bending it, so it’s not a Mazda problem but a jerkwad car renter problem.

The ride was smooth, and the car felt solid. I think it’s because Mami is turning 9 this year and has loosened up a bit. The 3 was maybe 3-4 months old, it had just under 14,000km when I got it, so it hasn’t had time for things to get loose.

And that’s about it. We had ten days with the 3, and gave it a much-needed wash and detail. The windscreen was so hard to see through as the water spots couldn’t be removed with the window washer. I ended up cleaning it up with the help of vinegar, metho, and a clay bar.

The paint after the wash felt crap and the water was sitting on it. We dried it, gave it a once over with clay bar, polished out the water spots with Auto-Glym’s finest, and finished off with a coast of Bowden’s Own Fully Slick wax. The wheels were given a good clean, and tyres given a shine with Meguiars Insane Shine. We didn’t need to do this, but the car was practically new, coated in scratches and water spots which would kill the paint. A lot of the scratches have been buffed out, and the water spots will no longer be etched into the paint. It’s a nice way to show our appreciation to the car for being our transport while Mami was away.

Now, would I buy a Mazda 3? No. Would I buy a Mazda CX5 (or CX30)? Hmmm. It will ultimately come down to getting in and out of the car, and getting used to the stupid alerts, stupid rear view mirrors, and stupid stop-start. And I don’t think I could get used to those. Looks like it’s going to be another Toyota for Misa-chan and I.