Mazda 3 vs. The Rest
July 12, 2014 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to pull the trigger on a new 2014 compact car. I've done my research and driven almost everything in the segment in the last year as a rental. It's come down to a Mazda 3 i Touring hatchback with the full tech package. Looking for input based on experience.

Tell me how much you love (or regret buying) your late model compact and why (especially if it's a Mazda 3, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, or Hyundai Elantra). Any options you wish you'd sprung for? Any unpleasant surprises at 5000 miles?

My order of desiderata: good fuel economy without sacrificing handling, road feel, and responsiveness; safety; build quality; comfort; usable tech.

Seems like the major complaints about the Mazda 3 are road noise and tight space inside, neither of which strike me as problems.

Is there a car I'm not considering? Seems like the Civic is the safest long-term bet based on the historical record, but it drives squishy to me (not a fan of CVT). Focus has a ton going for it but . . . It's a Ford. I don't have good experience with Fords. Elantra (limited) surprised me with its comfort and road feel, but has nowhere near the zip of the Mazda or the Ford and lower gas mileage. Mazda has the best mileage of the class (non-hybrid) but the sportiest handling and -- surprisingly -- the best crash safety ratings.

I don't want a Toyota (it leads in no category!), and hate the look of the Corolla anyway and it has relatively bad safety stats, amazingly. I've driven a few Jettas and like the bigger car feel and ride, but hate the handling (and rear drum brakes, pfffft). Also, it's fugly.

I've heard good things about Kia Forte but see few on the road.

I'm tempted by the 2.5l 184hp motor in the S series model Mazdas, but the sacrifice in fuel economy seems significant compared to 2.0l 155hp i series motors. If you decided otherwise, I'd like to hear about that too.

Max $25k is my budget. I'm definitely buying new, even though I know the economic arguments for late model used. In this segment, the cars seem significantly better now than even 2-3 years ago, with better gas mileage especially making the price premium less drastic over time, and better safety stats being worth money to me, as is peace of mind. A two year old Mazda 3 with low miles is only 3-4k less than a new one anyway, and the model was completely redesigned for 2014, with much better mileage (from 33 on the 2012 to 40 for the 2014 on the highway -- with the amount I expect to drive that closes a lot of the price gap over 5 years).

Finally, if you've bought a Mazda in the New York area in the last 5 years and either liked or hated your dealer, that's welcome info. Prices really don't vary much in this segment so a dealer with better service is a consideration.

I know the decision is subjective and I'm almost there. I'm looking for opinions from people I trust who have worked through this very common shopping scenario.
posted by spitbull to Shopping (43 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Hi! I have a 2013 Mazda3 5-door hatchback. I think my model is the S Touring instead of the I Touring, but close enough. I LOVE this car. It's zippy and fun to drive, the sound system and connection with Pandora/bluetooth is nice (not sure if the model you're looking at has these things), and super easy to park.

I do not find road noise problematic at all - I mean, it's kind of designed to look and feel like a sporty car, which are never super quiet. There is some noise but it's not loud, and it doesn't overpower my stereo by any means.

The backseat is pretty cramped, but no worse than any other compact car. But then again, I can only think of one instance where I've needed to drive with someone in the backseat in the past 1.5 years I've had it. The trunk has ample storage for me - which means big trips to Target and/or weekend camping excursion equipment.

The fuel economy is maybe the only thing that disappointed me a little. I drive about 25 miles a day, mostly on highway, and my average fuel economy is 27 MPG. I mean, it's not awful, but I was hoping for 30.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:42 AM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I just traded in a 2005 Mazda 6 with 150K miles on it for a 2015 Mazda 6.

While not the 3 model, I test drove just about every car in the segment, both compact and midsized, before I bought my car.

My old car never cost me a dime other than tires and light bulbs. It was reliable and just an awesome car. For this reason, Mazda was my first choice going in but I wanted to see what else was out there as it's a big financial decision. The 6 beat everything I tried against it.

The 6 and 3 are 2 of the top 10 in almost every car and driver type list out there.
Great fuel economy and good resale value, great crash ratings.

The Kia Forte is the only car I drove that was a runner up. It ultimately came down to it felt "cheap" against the Mazda and had no where close to the driving fun factor. I did like the hatchback though.

The Nissan Juke was an interesting little car.

I went with a 6 again because I needed a bigger back seat, but if I didn't have two preteens I'd have bought the 3.

Good luck!
posted by mazienh at 11:48 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks Joan. That is actually sort of in range with estimates for the '13 S touring (which has the bigger motor), which rated 28mpg combined (and only 30 highway). Those numbers are improved for 2014 but there is still a penalty for the 2.5. Sigh.

mazie nah, thank you also. I love love the look of the 6 but really don't need a bigger car. Sigh again. Did you drive a 3 and a 6 close together? I'm almost afraid to do that.
posted by spitbull at 11:52 AM on July 12, 2014

It's a 2005, but I *LOVE* my 5 door 3. Maintenance has been great, only a few wear and tear type things, and gas mileage is still great too (but it's a manual-ymm literally v)
posted by PaulaSchultz at 11:56 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have an older model Mazda3 (2007, I think, maybe later). Quibbles which may or may not apply:

- "Requires" highest octane gasoline, so fuel economy is maybe not as good as I'd hoped;

- Does get lower mpg than I'd hoped even with the higher octane fuel;

- I like to run the AC (and heat) on the most-frontal / windshield / defogger position, since it distributes the air best and I don't do well with air blowing directly into my face. However, the climate system in this car requires that recirculate be OFF when the air blows on the windshield. I get that this often makes sense if I'm actually trying to defog the window, but since I'm not, and since I live in the south and need to run the AC a lot when first starting the car, it's pretty bad if I'm in slow traffic or on the interstate behind a bunch of other cars. This actually _really_ annoys me, and if I'd noticed in advance I wouldn't have bought the car.

- Also with the AC - the range of angles at which one can aim the vents is very small. Also problematic if one doesn't like air blowing in one's face (but one can't reasonably use the windshield setting).

Other than that, drives well.
posted by amtho at 12:01 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Here's a weird thing: Mazda fuel economy is better with their 6 speed auto than with their rather famously good manual transmissions; also, all but the 3Speed now use 87 octane fuel).
posted by spitbull at 12:03 PM on July 12, 2014

I also have a 2007 Mazda3. Of all the cars I have owned (5?) it is my favorite. If I get another car after this one, it would be a Mazda2 or a Mazda3.

I got a 2.0 engine because of fuel economy. I don't regret it.

Maintenance-wise, it has been great, but the front end is heavy, so I replace tires more quickly than I have on other cars.

Road noise: no more than other small cars.

Squishy: not that bad. 6'+ men have sat it the front seat and been fine. The back seat - that's what happens in this size class.
posted by jilloftrades at 12:11 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Forte or Forte Koup is worth considering.

I've driven several Mazda 3s as rentals, and they are very good. But (last time I checked) the Forte came with lots more features for the money.

My 2010 Koup has over 50,000 miles, has done numerous several-thousand-mile road trips, and I have had zero issues so far.

I won't say the Kia is better than the Mazda, but it's definitely in the same league and worth a test-drive. The 100,000 mile warranty is nice too.
posted by The Deej at 12:18 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mr. Darling had a 2003 3 hatchback (the first model year IIRC) and drove the hell out of it for 10 years, loving every minute. He got a stick shift rather than an automatic - his preference when driving a 4 cylinder - and only gave it up when his middle-aged knees gave in. We had very few maintenance issues over and would definitely buy a Mazda again.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:33 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

The car that seems like it is missing from your list is the VW Golf.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:38 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The features for money contrast between Japanese and Korean compacts appears to have eased, as I guess the Koreans were making a real challenge. The features I want bring most of these cars to within $1000 of each other. (The Mazda has a ton of bells and whistles, and with the $1600 technology pack it still comes at at $23-24k. The 2015 Elantra is out, so I could save an extra 2000 or so on a close out 2014 (currently around 21K for the Limited package, which is nicely tricked out), but there's that pesky lower gas mileage and safety ratings. I went into this search thinking you'd get much more for the money from a Hyundai or Kia but now I don't think it's that much different.

The 10 year warranty on the Korean cars, however, is the single biggest attraction of the Elantra or the Forte.

Thanks everyone so far. I guess I'm arguing the case for the Mazda (which I guess means my heart has decided) but only as devil's advocate. One thing I've observed is that people who love their Mazdas *really* love them! I've never met anyone who *loved* their Hyundai, so far.
posted by spitbull at 12:39 PM on July 12, 2014

Response by poster: Dip Flash, the Golf only competes in the domain of my primary concern with fuel economy in the TDi version, which surprises me. I drove one as a rental and liked its handling and pep, but it felt small in stature to me (like I was in a subcompact) I'm wary of diesel engines (although I note Mazda is introducing one on the 3 and 6 next year), although I know some car guys who say the VW TDI is excellent.

23/30mpg just wasn't competitive for me.

I see the 2015 Golf is out. I'll look at that.
posted by spitbull at 12:49 PM on July 12, 2014

What about the 2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv? That is rated 28/40 mpg. I *really* love mine and it's very fun to drive.
posted by acidic at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't owned a car since 2008 but I have been a car sharing member and of all the cars that I've driver over the years, in that size class, I love the Mazda3. If I were to need to buy a car, I'd get one. I can't vouch for long-term reliability (but I have read up about it on Consumer Reports), but they're fun to drive, I find the interior ergonomics to be pretty good, they get good gas mileage, and the hatchbacks have a ton of room. I absolutely love the styling of the new ones!

Good luck. Have fun!
posted by reddot at 1:36 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've got a 2010 Mazda 3 and love it. I drove a Mazda 6 before that and both cars were great, neither needed any major repairs while I owned them and they're both fun to drive. Plus, the 3 is great for city driving, tight parallel parking, etc. I drove it through Minnesota winters with no special tires or gear and never had trouble on the ice, but that is one of the few Mazda complaints I've heard over the years.
posted by JannaK at 2:00 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

The couple of things that I dislike about our 2013 5-door Mazda 3 are mainly ergonomic. The handbrake is placed weirdly, I can't see the speedometer with the steering wheel positioned correctly for my height, and I don't like where the main climate control panel is located and some of the ways the climate control functions.

But overall, I like it. Fuel economy isn't as good as I would like but we mainly use it for city driving and my husband tends to drive in lower gears. The Bluetooth integration is nice, it drives well, and it's comfortable.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:11 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

We love our 2014 Elantra GT (which is the hatchback). There are multiple trim levels across the Elantra line including different engines so before you dismiss it for not being peppy see if you were testing out the base model. I find it very peppy, even more so than an Accord I had years ago. Better gas mileage would have been nice but we realized what it got from the start.

We've had it for under 2 months and have not had any surprise realizations. It was 25k with the extended warranty / maintenance and a $1k trade in car.

We shopped for months for a compact and test drove many of them, did an ask meta, built spreadsheets... I can't compare to a Mazda 3 (which was on our short list) as we went to 2 dealers and they wouldn't let us test drive one.
posted by ridogi at 2:19 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you love the Mazda, remove the Kia warranty from your parameters, and go for the Mazda.

I don't think the warranty adds enough real value to your specific situation to make it a major consideration. If you think of the potential for a catastrophic expense during the time you plan to own the Mazda, what's the worst case scenario after its warranty has run out? You're out a few grand for a big repair? Unlikely given Mazda's track record, but still:

Amortized over the life of the car (its life with you, at any rate), that is peanuts compared to the daily pleasure you'll get from driving a car you truly love.

I think the Kia warranty adds more value to those who are on a tighter budget, and would truly be put out financially if their only means of transpo was the Kia, and for whom a major repair would be catastrophic (e.g., perhaps someone who buys the Soul, and plans to drive it till the wheels fall off).

I love those Mazdas, and while I'd hate to see my current trusty (non-Mazda) car bite the dust, it will be my consolation to pick up a 3 and drive the living hell out of it.
posted by nacho fries at 2:24 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I love my 2011 Mazda 2. I bought it new in late 2012 and have approximately 60000 miles on it. Runs great. But the tires. I drive chicago ridden pothole winters so I go through tires. No one carries them in stock. After the last tire incident in rural Montana we went ahead and bought a full tire for road trips This is so we don't run into the well we don't have the tire and can't get one for 3 to 5 days. O.o (another store had the tire but only because someone months earlier had ordered it and never picked it up). The Mazda 3 may have better tires .
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:07 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 2014 Mazda 3 GTi 5-door here. Great car. Keyless entry is a must-have. Averaging 37 mpg (with a lot of in-town driving). Rear-view camera is great (warns you when something is approaching). Also love the blind-side monitoring.

The only let-down is the navigation system. Entering addresses with voice is wonky (but works great changing the radio station!). Also, even if you mute the GPS voice, the music on the driver's side still cuts out (???). It's fine as a map, but we don't usually use it for giving us routes. In theory they could update the software to improve it, though.

Feel free to MeMail me with any questions...
posted by starman at 3:10 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

2011 Mazda 3 5 door here. I bought it after my first Mazda 3 was totaled in a terrible accident for which I walked away with only minor whiplash. The only caveat was that Mazda was very unhelpful in getting the AC fixed when it was broken. But that was with my first one, and I felt so strongly about the M3 after the accident that I bought another. My next car likely will be another one. (Though for various personal reasons, I'll try a Ford first.)

I rented an Elantra a couple years back. It made me appreciate how much car for the money the M3 is. The M3 is simply a better car.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:18 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have the 2014 Focus SFE (~42 mpg highway, which is mainly how I drive it). Although I was interested in the Mazda 3, I got the Focus a bit cheaper and liked how it looked a little better. Also, I really just liked how it drove. Previously, I've only owned older Japanese cars, so this has been something new for me.

The car has 4000 miles on it, and I've had no real issues except a windshield chip (stone came out of nowhere) and incessant interior rattles. I had the instrument panel taped up under the bumper to bumper warranty to get rid of the annoying rattle, but since then, I've noticed probably about 6 or so other unique "hotspots." Granted, I think maybe some of the nuts and bolts got to where they wanted to go because, knock on wood, it seems better lately. On the one hand, I understand these cars are light (and I also understand I may be nitpicky precisely since it is a new car), but I never had any interior rattle problems with my 20 year old Toyotas. Needless to say, I will not be giving up on getting these rattles fixed under warranty because I find it totally unacceptable for a new car interior to rattle and creak so much.

Those issues aside, I actually love the car. I haven't had any problems with the DCT (I really like how the car shifts and feels, but you have to get used to it). It's got decent leg room up front and a lot of storage space in back. I hope to get 100,000 miles out of it at least, so wish me luck.
posted by heycoder at 3:24 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hi again - you asked if I drove the 3 and 6 close together as comparison. I did, actually, and the tipping point for me was only back seat space. If I have this car as long as my last, my kids will be full size/high school age in it, so that made the difference.

The only other thing I liked better about the 6 was I didn't like the "pop up" info console on the dash of the 3. I liked the integrated console of the 6 better, to the point that I looked at 2013 Skyactiv 3's because they didn't have the same console.

This is my 3rd Mazda, I also had a Nissan and a Subaru and my husband drives Chevy. My first Mazda (Protégé, I think 1998?) was totaled in a bad accident from which I walked away without a scratch. My second never had a single stutter in performance. I adore my current one. I don't think you'll regret the choice.
posted by mazienh at 3:25 PM on July 12, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks y'all. Élantras apparently got way better in the 2012 redesign. I wouldn't even have considered one a few years ago. But I rented one recently (and ridogi, you're right, it was a base model) and was quite impressed over a long period of time with the put-together feel of the ride. (I have to add that the 2014 Hyundai Sonata I am currently renting is damn impressive, too.)

Loving the stories of folks walking away from accidents unscathed.

All these opinions are very much appreciated! Thanks a ton.

My heart is with Mazda too. My favorite bestest most loved vehicle ever was a 1990 B2300 pickup. Damn thing went 180k on the original clutch, tuneups, brakes, tires, and fluids, although it drove like a sled. Only way it could have died was how it did, when a 60 foot tree fell on it and crushed it (and a vintage Twin Reverb) flat. Ever since then I've had designs on another Hiroshima-designed car.
posted by spitbull at 3:38 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have a 2010 3 w/ the 2.5l, and like it a lot. The only negatives I can think of are that the turning radius is wide and that the big low profile tires it takes are expensive.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:22 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a 2010 Mazda 3 hatchback 5-speed -- fully loaded except without the navigation system. I love it. I don't have all that many miles on it -- my commute is only 5 miles or so. But it is a fun little car. My only complaint is that when we did have a snowstorm hit here in Portland, I was very stuck. I plan on getting snow tires next year -- traction was just awful. That seems to be a fairly common complaint with this vehicle and the stock tires.

The other cars I would consider are the Honda Fit (amazing interior room, but just wasn't as "cute" or "fun" as the Mazda) or the Kia Soul (drove one of these as a rental and liked it).
posted by elmay at 5:48 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you owe it to yourself to at least drive a Ford FUSION. Can be bought below 25k. A bit nicer than any of the cars you mentioned, though not as fast. Some compare the styling to Maserati, and it really is quite nice looking. You might also want to drive a Subaru Legacy as well (also can be bought below 25k). The cars you cited above are ALL good cars, you likely would be pretty happy with any of them.
posted by jcworth at 6:04 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a 2014 Mazda 3i hatchback. It's a phenomenal car, gas mileage as advertised, not too loud, even with sunroof open. II had a few issues with the early versions of the firmware on the display, but they updated and I haven't had a problem since. I love this car.
posted by one_bean at 7:57 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

On paper, the only real choices are the Mazda3, the Civic, and maybe the Focus.


+1 You clearly want it
+1 It's a well made car with a great recent redesign
+/- Middle-of-the-road resale value
- New design could by buggy

+1 Best resale value
+1 Easy parts / easy to find mechanic
- Less than exciting to drive
+/- "Meh" design.

- You don't want a Ford
+ It's about to get redesigned, so a '14 will be cheaper
- The auto isn't the most reliable, so you're stuck with the stick
+ Probably the cheapest of the bunch.

It looks like you're in the New York area. If you stay in the city proper, you'll be fine with any of these. If, however, you travel NJ / Westchester (and North), or LI -at all - you may want to consider a Subaru. You'll take a mileage hit though. The entry level Crosstrek gets 33/25 and is roughly 23k.

Whatever you do, don't get the VW or Hyundai.

I was in your situation several years ago and ended up going with a used CRV despite not even being on my radar. I had a job where I *had* to be at work despite snow / ice / blackout / armageddon though. Also, I had free parking.
posted by NYC-BB at 8:23 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Still reading? I very recently upgraded from an 07 Mazda 3 to a 2011 Speed3. I love these cars. Don't get a MazdaSpeed if gas mileage is a priority, otherwise (and many car publications agree) there's no better bang for your buck. My 07 was a blast as well and was bristling with creature comforts. I could go on all day.
posted by firemouth at 9:04 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I went from a 2006 Mazda3 hatch to a 2012 Ford Focus hatch 3 years ago (though not entirely willingly: the Mazda was a total loss from a flooded engine... long story). I like the Focus - it's got more creature comforts and tech, decent handling and much better mileage. With a light tailwind I've had several long road trips averaging comfortably over 40mpg.

That said, I still miss my Mazda. In terms of driving enjoyment it's not even close, the Mazda was so much more involving and fun to drive. The only reason I didn't replace the Mazda with another Mazda is because I wanted something with better mileage, and the SkyActiv engines hadn't come out yet, plus I thought the previous generation of 3s were pretty ugly. If I were looking for a new car today, the new Mazda3 would absolutely be at the top of my list.
posted by adamp88 at 10:28 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, I'm still reading.

I do not need AWD and am not willing to take a mileage hit for it. Ditto a Mazdaspeed, sigh.

The Fusion is a nice car, which I've driven several times lately, but bigger than I want and still not quite as good on gas. Plus, Ford. Bad experiences die hard.

I think it is down to sensible Honda Civic vs. sexy Mazda 3.
posted by spitbull at 3:30 AM on July 13, 2014

Response by poster: Also wanted to add thanks to mazienh for popping back in about the 6/3 comparison.

Funny thing, I actually like the pop up display better than one integrated into the console. To me (with my aging eyes and reflexes) it seems better to have my eyes stay above the dashboard when I'm looking at it. My vision adjustments shift less dramatically. I've got mixed feelings about the whole screen-in-the-car thing, but I like keeping my eyes on the road and the 3's pop up display, while fugly, actually seems ergonomically right to me.
posted by spitbull at 3:47 AM on July 13, 2014

Focus has a ton going for it but . . . It's a Ford

If all you have against Ford is a prejudice, you might want to look at the Focus again. I love love love my Focus, I find it much more comfy than the Mazdas I've driven. I've had it for 12 years and have had zero problems with it aside from normal wear. I rear ended someone in it 4 years ago and the front end had to be rebuilt, and it's still a totally reliable car.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:08 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have had the car you're contemplating for about 5,000 miles -- I got it after my 2012 Mazda 3 hatch with the 2.5 engine was totaled -- and I love both, but the new safety features in the 2014 (running lights, backup cameras, blind spot sensors) are on par with a much more expensive car. They really improved the gas mileage with the 2014, but it's just as fun to drive as the 2012. The one thing I wish is that the touch screen folded down and they kept the cool blue dash display and interior lights from the 2012, but these are pretty minor complaints.

I test-drove all the cars mentioned here (even had an askMeta for my 2012 purchase), and the Mazda 3 was the clear winner. For what it's worth, my mechanic warned me away from Hyundais. I could not find any used Mazda 3 Tourings, so I wound up buying new too. You'll love it!
posted by *s at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again everyone. *s, I'm especially glad to have your comment, since "5000 mile regret" is what I'm trying to avoid.

rabbitrabbit, I've had lots of Fords in my life (including currently a Focus of about the same vintage as yours, which I drive every couple of months). Ironically, the Focus and the Mazda 3 are nearly the same car under the sheet metal from 2004-2013 -- the so-called "C" platform in which both companies were partner investors). SkyActiv is Mazda's departure from that program. I've driven newer Focuses (Foci?) in the last couple of years and indeed have found them comfortable and competent rides, however. I'll work on my prejudice!

And an update for anyone else reading this and shopping for a car this summer/fall: I think I'm going for Mazda 3 i *Grand* Touring, as prices have fallen below $25K for those and they have the 6-way adjustable seats with better (adjustable) lumbar support than the Touring and a nicer interior all around. By the time you price up the Touring with the full tech package, but without the nicer seats, it's very close in price.

posted by spitbull at 1:35 PM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have the 2011 Mazda 3 Touring S Hatchback. I love my little car. I had to get new tires at 30k, but it's hot here in Texas + highway driving + NTB told us that that's all you can really expect out of factory tires these days. I have not had a single problem with this car.

A couple caveats:

1) Gas mileage is a little lower than I expected. But I know they re-did the engine (skyactiv?) right after I bought mine, and I think it's better now.
2) It is a little loud with the road noise - driving on the highway + bluetooth phone conversations isn't really something I can do (this is not really an issue, I would almost never do it anyway, and it might be fixed in newer models)

It does not require premium gas, and I don't use it. I am also glad I didn't have to pay for the tech package, because I didn't care about keyless ignition and didn't want a built-in GPS that would be outdated instantly.

I drove a few Subaru wagons before switching brands to Mazda. Subaru just isn't putting anything into their interiors anymore (unless you go with the WRX or Outback, which I wasn't going to do ($$$)), and I just feel like Subaru has gone a different direction lately. I have had 4 Subarus. The Mazda interior and just bells and whistles in general blew the Subarus away.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:24 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Final and very sincere thanks to everyone who weighed in. This was really helpful in helping me get over the last few days of indecision.

I followed my heart and most of the advice in this thread, and put a deposit down on a fresh-off-the-truck meteor gray 3i Grand Touring today, at an excellent price almost 10% under MSRP.

Zoom zoom, y'all!
posted by spitbull at 4:24 PM on July 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Hey dude, that's my car!

Enjoy it!
posted by jeoc at 4:27 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I am!
posted by spitbull at 12:18 PM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: 2.5 months and 5000 miles in I am really happy with this car. The tech interface took a lot of getting used to but now I find it intuitive to use. I'm getting 37mpg average, 70/30 highway/city. I've had a few moments of wishing I'd sprung for the 184hp motor but the 155hp is still quite peppy overall, and the handling is indeed downright fun.

I'm gonna put way better tires to replace to Bridgestone LRR rubber it came with, though, sooner than later. I'd give up a couple of mpg for more road feel through the wheel.

So far would recommend to future readers of this thread.
posted by spitbull at 1:15 PM on October 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: About to hit 10K, still really enjoying it and feeling good about the choice. Mileage still 37mpg combined.
posted by spitbull at 3:03 PM on February 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just rolled past 13,000 after a 2200 mile road trip through 7 states and all kinds of nasty weather, including snow and sleet and crazy fog, the central 300 or so of it over rural mountain roads in heavy rain and low visibility. About 30 of those miles on real dirt roads that were muddy as hell. She did great. Of the various surprises about the 3, so far the handling in bad weather conditions is a good one. Averaged 38mpg on the overall drive (which was 3/4 interstate averaging 65-70mph).
posted by spitbull at 5:24 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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