According to the latest news headlines, summer gas prices are expected to be the lowest in two years. The reason? Reduced consumption. With a flotilla worth of newer, 40-MPG models on dealer lots, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The upscale features to be had on these middle class staples does surprise me, however. Milk and bread money for quality lobster? Yes, kids — it’s possible. Read on about the 2013 Mazda 3i Grand Touring sedan to see just what I mean.
|STATS||Starting Retail Price||As Tested Price||HP / Lb-Ft|
|2013 Mazda3i Grand Touring||$23,650||$26,620||155/148|
|EPA Rating MPG||As Tested MPG|
|Rating: BUY IT!||28/40 Combined 33||Combined 32.1|
At first presentation of the vehicle, its sporty lines and athletic stance made me wonder how fun this thing could possibly be to drive.
Taking a walk around the car, I started liking more of the standard, Grand Touring features, including 16-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, polished exhaust and push button handle access.
Inside, the smell of leather started to kick in, and I noticed it was on everything – almost. The leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob felt good in my hands. The sporty seats with aggressive side bolstering felt darn near BMW 3-Series-like. If it weren’t for the strips of imitation leather on areas that don’t touch your back or hindquarters, I’d say these seats were stolen out of a 3-Series.
If you’re a passenger just along for the ride, the three person rear seat features a folding center armrest, and 36.2-inches of leg room. If you’ve got a child riding in a carseat, the included LATCH tethering system is handy, however rear-facing seats for infants will compromise driver or front passenger comfort as they tend to require a lot of room. In my experience, this is true for all cars in this class, unfortunately.
This particular Grand Touring model had the optional Technology Package installed. For the extra $1,500 I could see better at night with the Bi-Xenon headlights and fog lamps, hear better with the SiriusXM satellite radio that pumps out tunes via a 265-watt Bose audio system, and stay a little drier with the rain-sensing windshield wipers. My bum was even toasty on a cool Spring evening as I made a couple of work-related calls via the Bluetooth phone system. Later, I switched from listening to Real Jazz on satellite radio to Pandora via audio streaming. It all paired and worked flawlessly. I wish I could say the same about the touchscreen navigation system.
For some reason, the GPS developed by Tom Tom kept trying to send me back to a destination I had already been, even after I had selected a new one. That nuisance coupled with a small, 5.8-inch screen got old, quick. I’ve forgiven those sins as Mazda’s brilliant Blind Spot Monitoring system prevented me from trading paint with a Mini Cooper during a rush hour milk run. Thank you, Mazda engineers for actually making this feature affordable.
The two-liter, direct injected four-cylinder engine delivers 155-HP with aplomb. It’s not going to pin you to the back of your seat like a Porsche, but it’s definitely confidence inspiring when you need to pass the jerk gabbing on his cell phone in the middle lane. Gas-wise, SkyActiv technology might be the reason fuel prices are dropping this summer (OK, at least a contributing factor). With 40 MPG on the highway, you should see around 500 miles on the odometer before you have to fill up again.
The Mazda3 is in a competitive segment. Sparring with the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Lancer, and Hyundai Elantra — just to name a few — might make you wonder what makes this compact four door different. The answer? Handling.
If you’re a driver — you know, the kind of person who goes out for a jaunt when you want to relax — then this is the car to consider. I was impressed with the way the Mazda3 negotiated S-turns in the Virginia mountains. It soaked up the bumps, whipped around bends and stopped shorter than I had anticipated. It does it all with not two, but four doors and 11.8-cubic feet of room in the trunk.
On the TFLcar scale of:
▪ Buy it!
▪ Lease it!
▪ Rent it!
▪ … or Forget it!
I give the 2013 Mazda3i Grand Touring a Buy It!
My test car stickered at $26,620 after adding the Technology Package, Pearl paint, Homelink Mirror System, and destination charge. Other cars in this competitive compact car segment can be optioned similarly, for roughly the same price, however, none of them drive quite like this Mazda3. I guess that is what the real value of this car is over the competition: sporty handling. Those words rarely find their way into middle class family garages these days, it seems.
Luckily, having middle class money, but upper class taste doesn’t mean you can’t have both when it comes to price, features and performance of the 2013 Mazda 3i Grand Touring.