If you are wondering why exactly you’re reading a car review on a frugal living blog, let me back up a bit (or should I say, “pull into reverse?”). I was recently contacted to see if I’d be interested in periodically reviewing vehicles. It’s a pretty simple exchange: my husband and I get sent a vehicle (complete with a full tank o’ gas) in exchange for sharing my honest-to-goodness feelings about the car with you.
The result is you get an average Jane’s and Joe’s take on cars that are budget-minded and family-friendly. I won’t go into details about specs, horsepower, or any of the other technical mumbo jumbo I know nothing about (though my husband may chime in at times on those pieces). What I will talk about is did it hold my groceries well, did it pass my daughter’s motion sickness test, did I like it. I hope that if you are in the market for a car, or may be soon, that these reviews will be a place you can come back to for some advice!
Last week, we were sent this sporty Mazda 3 with SkyActiv to drive. I must say, it looked super cute coming up into our driveaway and my husband (Terry) couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. He told me right away that it just looked plain fun to drive. Now a very important caveat here – this is a manual (AKA stick shift) car. And I’m going to be very honest: I hate driving manual cars. Loathe actually. Terry has spent many a’ time trying to teach me how to drive one, and I once drove a manual car most of the way across southern Idaho, but I really prefer my automatics. (I also had a terribly embarrassing episode driving a stick up the hills of downtown Tacoma a few years back that I’ll spare you the details about.)
However, I should point out that this car is available as an automatic.
The inside of this car is pretty straightforward – not a lot of bells and whistles as we saw with our recent Kia Soul review. But, this car did have satellite radio and bluetooth access and a pretty great sound system! The seats were also very supportive and comfortable. The following features may be available on some models (but weren’t on ours): push start button, adaptive front lighting system (where the lights follow the steering wheel), blind spot monitoring, and navigation system.
This, however, was my favorite feature inside the car:
So as you’re driving along, you can gauge how many miles-per-gallon you’re averaging. Which brings me to my next point. What the heck is SkyActiv?
At first, I was wondering if the car would do something fancy…like maybe you press a button and secret wings pop out. (I have a very vivid imagination.)
After I got over my disappointment that we’re not Back to the Future just yet, I realized that it’s actually a pretty awesome feature if you’re looking to save money on fuel costs. Basically, SkyActiv is the technology that makes the car very fuel efficient. In my mind, it’s also the primary selling point of this vehicle. SkyActiv gives you a very fuel efficient car, without losing the power. Perfect for those who commute over mountain passes!
Terry and I have decided that if you want a car that’s better for the environment and easier on your gas budget, but you don’t have the money to shell out for a hybrid, the Mazda 3 is not a bad alternative. According to the Mazda website, the 4-door car (getting up to an amazing 40 mpg) starts at $15K, compared to say the same year Toyota Prius, which starts at $24K (source: Toyota’s website).
But how did it drive?
Terry LOVED driving this car. He said it’s a car he wouldn’t have thought to have ever owned previously, but after driving it for a week, he would now! It’s got a lot of “kick” to it and we didn’t even use the tank of gas the car came with! Terry drove it to work and back (which is a good hour’s drive one way) as well as way out to Remlinger Farms in Carnation. (Hence the car in the corn photo shot above.) Terry’s recommended Mazda 3 driving music? Jeremy Enigk. (Yeah, Terry sometimes has an Emo Tim side that comes out.)
Bottom line, it’s every bit as fun to drive as it looks.
My kiddos enjoyed this car too (pay no mind to the Frankenstein impression). It seems like a really well-designed, safe car for the family. We would not hesitate to recommend this car!
If you have this vehicle, what are your thoughts? What qualities matter most to you in a car?
PS in case you missed it, check out our Kia Soul review.
Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this review, nor was I encouraged to write anything particular in this review. I truly was given free reign, so all opinions and concepts are 100% my own. I was provided with a 2012 Mazda 3 with SkyActiv to drive at no cost to me for a full week. For more information on how this site makes or does not make money, please check out my Disclosure Policy.