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Auto Review: A tale of three Mazdas

  • Written by Julie Boselly, Publisher

We had the opportunity to test out three different Mazdas. It felt like a Goldilocks story. Which one was “just right?”

If you’re set on a Mazda, deciding comes down to how much space do you need for you or your family, what will you use your vehicle for the most, and what’s your budget? The three models we tested were all Grand Touring, aka, top of the price chart models. Don’t fret, each has a base model with fewer bells and whistles and a price drop.

The Mazda3 was manual shift. It made for a sporty and zippy drive over the mountains. I had it for a weekend getaway and it easily fit my single-person belongings. For our normal family of three, I feel less certain all of our items would fit on camping and road trips. Once you add some luggage and a small cooler, there isn’t much room for the passenger sitting in the back seat.

The 7-passenger CX-9 is much larger and comes with a convertible 3rd row. This model easily fits a larger need. It has towing capacity of 3,500 lbs so you’re set for hauling a camper or trailer. This model was definitely comfortable and if it fit my budget, it would be at the top of the list. Note: the angle of the front end of a CX-9 looks like a shark, much more prominent than the bass-mouth front end look of the other Mazdas.

The CX-5 is somewhere in-between in size. It doesn’t look much larger than the Mazda3, other than the SUV style of sitting up higher off the ground.  

The CX-5 dashboard felt very compact. The arm for the windshield wipers almost meets the push-start ignition button.

According to Mazda, the CX-5 design was “Inspired by the predatory stance of an animal…”

Active-lifestyle exterior accessories include:
• Trailer hitch (Class 1)
• Kayak Carrier
• Ski/Snowboard Carrier
• Surfboard Carrier
• Bike Carrier, Roof Rack
• Bike Carrier, Trailer Hitch Mount

Mazda’s navigation system, from TomTom, was fun for my kids. The system has a 3-D image if you wish to view it that way. We drove through a tunnel in Seattle and the screen mimicked being in a tunnel.

Speed limit signs have found their way onto many navigation screens. Mazda’s turns red if you go above the posted speed limit. This has definitely turned my 11-year-old into a backseat driver. It seems as though it turns red at .5 MPH over. “Mom, the speed limit is…,” was repeated a few times. I am now working on driving one MPH slower than the posted limit. Read more about the navigation system here: mazdanav.com.

Many features are the same across the lineup, but a couple of the differences that stood out include:

• Heads up display. The Mazda3 has a flip up screen showing your speed. The CX-5 does not have a heads-up display and the CX-9 has a projected speedometer on the windshield. In this case, the projected screen was a clear winner.

• Navigation/Audio screen. The Mazda3’s screen sits up on the console so you feel like you don’t take your eyes off the road as much as you would with screens sitting lower.
In the end, the CX-5 was closest to our family-size needs. The fully-loaded CX-9 was by far the favorite for comfort and gadgets and if I had no children, the Mazda3 would be the winner, as it was the most fun to drive.

For more information and to build your own Mazda, visit: www.mazdausa.com.

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2016 Mazda3 S 5-Door Grand Touring: $26,580 as tested
26 city / 35 hwy

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2016 CX-5 Grand Touring AWD: $34,485 as tested
24 city / 30 hwy

2016-cx9-gt-soulred-frontangle-global

2016 CX-9 Signature All Wheel Drive: $45,215 as tested
21 city / 27 hwy

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