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A winding two-lane road through a forest that first curves to the right and then to the left.
July 3, 2021
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Stick With Mazda or Go To Hyundai?

Posted on July 3, 2021  •  6 minutes  • 1226 words

Recognizing wants versus needs is an important part of making decisions. But it also takes privilege to be able to even consider wants over needs. I’m very privileged in many areas of my life, and I’m very thankful for that. I’ve been getting the new car itch for awhile now, and while I absolutely need a car, I kinda want a new car.

I definitely don’t need a new car though. I love my current 2016 Mazda3 Sport GS, and truthfully the only things I would change about it if I could would be more power and a six-speed manual transmission.

For what it is though, the 2.0L 155HP/155lb-ft SKYACTIV-G engine is peppy, though you don’t really feel it until 15 KM/h when second gear and the torque kicks in. That’s when you get a surge of power that is even capable of knocking you back into your seat. Not hard mind you, but enough to put a little grin on your face and make you remember why you choose this econobox over the others on the market at the time.

Zoom-Zoom isn't just about going fast, it's the total experience while driving. That slide to the left as you're taking a hard right on a back road

While it isn’t a proper manual, the six speed automatic driven in manual-mode is really fun, and is the only way I drive it to be honest. Mazda kept with what feels natural: push the gear lever forward to downshift and pull backward to upshift. Switching to manual-mode for full time driving took a little while to get used to; mainly in figuring out where I want the gears to change versus where the car would ordinarily auto change (which is too early IMHO). After a week or so it became second nature and I fell in love with driving my Mazda this way.

I also feel that the 2016 Mazda3 was the last Mazda3 to retain most of the “Zoom-Zoom” DNA that in my opinion has been slowly eaten away with Mazda’s “Driving Matters” tagline and desire to push upmarket. The 2017 model introduced G-Vectoring Control (Mazda’s fancy name for torque vectoring) in an effort to reduce the number of small movements a driver has to make, resulting in a smoother ride.

“Zoom-Zoom” isn’t just about going fast, it’s the total experience while driving. That slide to the left as you’re taking a hard right on a back road; admittedly probably faster than you should but you know the car will come through for you anyway. The feedback in your hands from the tires and suspension as you make a correction to avoid a pothole and you just know that the car is going to go where you’re asking it too.

It’s said that it’s often more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow. Our 1993 Mazda Miata MX-5 is an absolute blast, having just 115HP when it was new. But in that car you can push it to its limits and feel like you’re in a road legal go cart. More power doesn’t necessarily equal better; for me I want the whole package of driving dynamics, looks, and practicality. I’ve had my car for 4 years now, and every single time I walk away I still look back at it.

The "Zoom-Zoom" that I loved about my 2016 was gone... I wanted to get down from my mother's arms and feel the ground beneath my feet, not experience the world being carried above it.

I was excited by the redesign of the 2019 Mazda3 Sport. The exterior seems to be either a “you love it or you hate it” kind of thing. I’m in the camp that loves the look of the new 3 Sport, but I admit there are some biases at play here. The interior is also gorgeous, and really demonstrates Mazda’s desire to push upmarket. Aside from badge, why would you go with an entry level base model Mercedes or Audi when you can get a fully loaded Mazda3 Sport that feels very “premium” for the same price?

I could not wait to test drive the 2019 model after it was announced. I had my sales rep at my local Mazda dealership on standby to let me know as soon as they got one in. I test drove one the same week it arrived… and I was sooooo disappointed. The “Zoom-Zoom” that I loved about my 2016 was gone, even though it had the beefier 2.5L 185HP/185lb-ft torque engine. Dave Coleman said that they retained the sporty feeling, even after the switch to a rear torsion beam suspension over the multi-link of cars past, but I didn’t feel that on my drive.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a very nice car, but for me it was too soft, too refined, too… gentle. I felt more like I was floating above corners instead of hugging them. I was being cradled when I wanted to be set free. I wanted to get down from my mother’s arms and feel the ground beneath my feet, not experience the world being carried above it.

I've been putting off test driving until I felt somewhat comfortable venturing forth into public again.

Between the softer suspension and the G-Vectoring Control, I didn’t really slide in my seat going around corners anymore. For non-car people, I’m sure that’s fantastic because it makes the car far more comfortable. I’d trade being comfortable though for the feeling that I was missing in a heartbeat.

With the 2021 model, Mazda has brought the 2.5L Turbo engine from the CX-9 to the smaller vehicle platform and paired it with All Wheel Drive. Alas you can’t get the GT Turbo AWD with a manual transmission, but it does still have the same manual-mode that I’m used too so that’s… something I guess. The engine is also the beefed up engine I’ve been waiting for; producing 227HP/310lb-ft on regular 87 octane or 250HP/320lb-ft on premium 93. But is it enough to bring back that “oomph” and “sportiness” that I’m looking for?

I’ve been putting off test driving until I felt somewhat comfortable venturing forth into public again. As things have eased a bit with Covid, the new car itch has grown stronger. I have three test drives lined up in the coming days: the 2021 Mazda3 Sport GT Turbo AWD, the 2021 Mazda CX-30 GT Turbo AWD, and the 2022 Hyundai Veloster N DCT. I’m looking forward to each for different reasons, and excited to experience these fantastic vehicles firsthand.

I absolutely don’t need a new car, but I might want one, and that’s OK. But I’m a Mazda girl, and there are four Mazda’s in our little household. So I’m faced with a decision that I didn’t think I would have to make: stick with Mazda, or go to Hyundai?

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