I recently spent a week in Florida visiting family, and I needed to rent a car. Long time followers of my blog know that I tend to prefer rental cars more on the fun side of the spectrum, but the purpose of this trip was to see family and there would be no time to be spent mucking around with a car. All I needed was something small, comfortable, and reliable – a sporty car such as a Corvette or Camaro was completely out of the question this time. Besides, what would my family think of me if I pulled up in a shiny new Corvette? Trust me, I’d never hear the end of that one…
Thankfully, Avis came through for me at the West Palm Beach International Airport with a nice little 2017 Mazda 3 hatchback. Quite frankly, I didn’t really care what they gave me, which is admittedly a very bad attitude to have when walking into a rental car place. I’m really lucky I didn’t walk out of there with a clapped out old Ford Cargo van. But then again, that might have been kind of cool because…well…how exactly is it possible to stay out of trouble with a cargo van at your disposal? I can think of all kinds of fun shenanigans that I could get up to in a cargo van.
I’m going to start this by saying that I have very little experience with modern day Mazda’s, so this introduction to the Mazda 3 was interesting to say the least. First and foremost, I actually thought it looked pretty cool as I was walking up to it, and it seemed to be a lot more sporty then I would have imagined. Of course I’ve seen a bunch of these things on the road over the years, but I’ve never seen one up close like this and right away I was liking the overall size and proportion. Never mind that it had a big scratch on the rear quarter panel, and the front bumper was slightly out of alignment – this is a good looking car!
Opening the door and sitting down in the driver seat for the first time wasn’t as good as an experience due to the fact that the seat was pushed far too forward for my liking. My knees protested immediately, and it was a struggle to find the controls to move the seat back to a more comfortable position. Keep in mind that I’m not that tall (5′-10″), so any car that I get into that feels a bit tight throws up some red flags in my book.
Thankfully things felt darn near perfect once I got everything adjusted to my liking. The interior of the Mazda 3 is definitely on the sporty side, even in the base model like this. The steering wheel is small and thick, and the seats are quite snug in a way that made me blush – but only slightly. Seriously, the seats will poke and prod into all parts of your body in a comfortably aggressive manner, so be prepared for that. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing necessarily, because the drivers seat felt very good and I wasn’t complaining at all as I drove out of the rental car lot.
After making triple sure that the agent at the gate knew that there was already a scratch and a misaligned front bumper, I set off in search of I-95 north towards Orlando. The two massive U-turns I had to pull within the first five minutes of the drive led me to believe that the Mazda 3 is quite a handler. It’s a good thing that I was lost AF, because if I hadn’t had the chance to execute those aggressive U-turns in the middle of a busy four-lane highway, I never would’ve known this. It pays to be lost and confused sometimes right?
Merging onto the freeway was a major disappointment. As a matter fact, the power of this base model Mazda 3 is by far the weakest link (155hp from a 2.0L I-4), and I was yelling obscenities into the dashboard of this thing as my foot was on the floor and I was trying to merge into heavy traffic. Keep in mind that I daily drive a 2010 Honda Fit with and anemic 117hp, and this Mazda 3 felt slower than that. Thankfully, things seemed to get better once I was cruising along at highway speed and getting more comfortable with the car. It cruised along quite nicely actually, and I discovered that putting it into sport mode opened her up quite a bit and throttle response was much better.
I’ve already mentioned how much I liked the driving position of the Mazda 3, but I think it’s important to note that this is not the best car for hauling a lot of people around.
I took my family out to dinner twice while it was in my possession, and all I heard was complaining from everybody trying to get in and out of it. Especially my 90 year old grandfather (who has difficulty bending his knees).
Even trying to get out of the front passenger seat with it pushed all the way back was extremely difficult for grandpa. This is a very small car, make no mistake about it.
I put over 150 miles on this car over the course of four days, which wasn’t a whole lot, but I walked away from it feeling as if it could be a great replacement for my Honda Fit – especially if I chose the bigger engine option, which produces 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. That extra power combined with the sports car like driving experience would really make this a perfect daily driver for me.
My name is Scott, and I drove a base model 2017 Mazda 3 and I liked it. There. I said it.