2011 Mazda 3 – Test Drive

Its rather bitter sweet this one. Sweet because, well lets face it, a little Zoom Zoom in your life is always a good thing. Bitter in that it wasnt quite the zoom I was expecting.

Let me save you some worry right up front. The 2011 3 is a worthy vehicle. It has everything one looks for in a fun and sporty compact. Whats more is, on the visual side of it all, it deliveres the total package quite impresivly.

After the redesign of the 2009 car everyone can finally stop making fun of the smiley face. To tell you the truth though, it grows on you. Especially after spending a little time behind the wheel and learning that the 3 isnt just another pretty face.

It didnt take too long to fall in love with the styling on the 5 door we drove. I often found myself leaving somewhere not all that pleased with wherever I had just come from only to be greated by its atractive body lines. Instantly my mood changed for the better. Then there were two smiles. ::wink::

The interior continued the them as it is quite the comfort zone. What once was a sea of amber washed instrumentation is now a crisp and contrasting aray of guages and available selections. Most notible is the replacement of said amber explosion with the warmest and richest glow of blue you have ever seen. It surrounds the tach and speedometer and is also present in the center console as a text only information display as well as around the volume control and continues to devide the remainder of the audio controls as in previous models.

The look and feel of every button was quite solid. Which is something you grow to expext from Mazda. Its been noted that they are quite possibly the only car companies that make cars with a European style feel of solidness. This is also true in the ride quality.

Once on the streets the Sport model we tested had a very comfortable way of getting us back and forth but with enough feedback thru the steering and seat to keep you “connected” to the road. This however eventually became the 2011 models downside.

As I stated before, it is indeed a very worthy and capable vehicle. Its my opinion though that the addition of a larger, heavier 2.5L 4 cylinder helping to increase this models curb weight has given rise to the need of a stronger and softer suspension.

Cornering in the ’11 was no where near as impressive as in my own ’04 model. Which would lead you again to assume that it doesnt handle as well as the previous generations also. Again, you would find something other than what you expected. While not as nimble as I would like to have experienced the steering and tracking ability of this current generation is rock solid. With the older car you find yourself constantly correcting to hold a constant smooth turn. Not at all the case with the ’11 Sport. You can almost “set it and forget it”.

The relativlely new 2.5 – liter is also a bit of a lier. In a good way. The larger displacement brings power on alot smoother and sooner than the 2.3 – liter you really dont feel as if your accelerating quickly. Something I rather enjoy in a sport compact. Yet when you check to see if your in danger of catching the attention of Johnny Law you quickly realize your lack of attention to this engines abilities.

When you think about the niche that the 2011 Mazda 3 Sport GT fits in though, all of these points make sense. Its a grand tourer. Not a corner carver. Its meant to be a bit softer, a bit more comfortable. To keep your rear from falling asleep after the first 150 miles or so. To be able to get out of its own way and the way of merging highway motorists who have no clue how to do so, yet think that your the best person to practice it in front of…while on the breaks. And it does it all without waking (or scaring) the misses or little ones.

I love the feel of something a bit tighter. The kind of feedback thats enough to give most drivers sensory overload. As time progresses though I am learning to enjoy the more docile and comforting appeal of cars like this one. Knowing that I can relax and enjoy the journey while still having a capable go getteer when the need arises.

One of these days I may even have to conceed and pick up a car like the 2011 Mazda 3 Sport GT that will pamper me back and forth. But that might have to wait until im IN pampers…

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