Your ticket to rekindle an automotive romance - a compact car with luxury-grade aspirations Cliff Leppke – CleanMPG – Nov. 16, 2022 2022 Mazda 3 As with Frank Sinatra, the Mazda3 proves “Nice ‘n’ Easy” does it every time. Mazda’s force-fed compact doesn’t use its engine, six-speed automatic transmission or suspension to tear through corners and beat others at the stoplight Grand Prix. Instead, Mazda down speeded the engine (2,300 rpm at 72 mph) to a hushed murmur; rushing things would be a crime. And its developers made the necessary stops along the way toward upscale mobility. Mazda asks a modest $34,710 for this vehicle. There’s a color head up display with blind-spot warnings. The car’s chief calling card is its handsome if tight interior with a rubbery dash pad, stitched vinyl-clad fascia with soft treatments on front and rear door cards—even the armrest’s sides and bottoms are pliable. Perforated metal grilles cover door loudspeakers. The center console is padded. It has a funky center armrest. Under it are USB power points. The ”A” pillars are cloth covered. The vehicle’s ride is compliant, although you’ll notice some highway thumps. Road noise is suppressed, though. There are economies. For example, the right front throne has manual adjustments without height, tilt or lumbar—no rear seat face vents, power outlets or seat heaters either. The trunk’s rug is basic, but the rear lid’s underside is covered. Fuel economy is mediocre. I saw 25 mpg overall. The instrument panel combines analogue and digital motifs. The analogue-style gauges symmetrically flank either side of a virtual speedo with info screen. You can add economy data including average/instant mpg to the speedo’s zone. Mazda’s driver interface includes an infotainment screen with a rotary controller and four switches: back, nav, sound and home. While channel changing is tedious, I gained a newfound appreciation for slick-clicking controls after driving the Golf R, Lexus UX and Genesis GV70. These latter three use some form of touch-sensing gadgetry. In turn, routine steps, such as setting seat heat, are challenging as if you’re trying to operate a vending machine while twirling a Hula Hoop. Not so the Mazda, there’s a seat-heat button. Just press it. And Mazda’s main touchscreen controller, as with the volume knob, clicks while you twist aping a vintage Nikon lens. The climate controls, however, are small. There are driver assists. A push button turns off lane keeping. Mazda’s lane keeping mode, however, is sloppy. This car’s brakes and handling are adequate. Steering effort and chassis dynamics aren’t crisp. My avoidance maneuver, around a raccoon carcass, revealed mediocre grip—blame the tires. Mazda’s 3, nevertheless, is ideal for those who’d like a dose of luxury without broadcasting their aspirations too loudly. Like a Sinatra album, it is nicely composed.