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Just drove a 2007 Mazda 3i Touring - Auto Trans. - and came away with mixed impressions. I'll probably wait for the new Opel/Saturn Astra to arrive this fall before making a move. My impressions:

+ Handling, seating and ergonomics were generally good. See exceptions.

- Did not like the deep-set gauges. In daylight the speedo and tach. were hard to see - like looking down a well (and I have good eyesight).

- The center display was hard to read. I tried adjusting the rheostat to the left of the steering wheel but it didn't seem to have any effect. The salesman was clueless.

- Brake and gas Pedals seemed too close together for me and my right knee had to rest (bumping into the center console) in an uncomfortable way. Moving the seat back helped a bit with this - to the detriment of the backseat passenger. I'm 5'11" tall, by the way.

+ Acceleration was fine. Engine is quiet and responsive.

+ Glove box is enormous. Trivia: My current car doesn't have a glove box. Can you name the car?

- Trunk is a bit smaller than I expected but decent size.

+ Rear seat is comfortable and folds flat. Center arm rest is nice. Rear vision was just okay.

- Dealership (Stealership?) had a "bump" sticker on the car with $2,000. dealer markups on it. I walked.

- I don't think the key fob had a button to open the trunk. HUH?

? I wish I had taken my iPod with me to test the AUX input. Again the salesman was clueless about the interface capability with the HU.

! Afterthought. I drove a Nissan Versa (smaller car, I know) after the 3 and found it quite nice to drive. The CVT tranny is very nice. Overall ride is a bit rougher than the 3. Seating height, leg room, pedal placement and console controls were better than those on the 3.


Comments?
 

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Yes, the bling-bling gauges are silly. You get used to them, eventually. More or less. The bottom-of-the-line model has acceptable white-on-black gauges; I suppose Mazda thought only teenagers would want an upscale 3, so they made it look like a video game. And why are the tach and speedo rotated 90 degrees too far counterclockwise?

When the headlights are off, the gauge brightness is adjusted by a button over the tach, not the dash dimmer. No, it makes no sense at all. There are five preset levels, and the brightest is the only one you'll ever use.

It's still the stupidest gauge cluster on the planet.
 

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I have the same exact car, and had some of the same reservations as you mentioned.

Brake/gas pedals - they seemed very close together to me at first, but I was used to driving a minivan before. You definitely get used to it over time, I never notice it now and it seems very natural/intuitive. Also, I'm about the same height, and I fit comfortably in the seats with adequate leg room (with some room in the back for passengers too, but who cares about them)

Trunk space in my opinion is amazing, especially considering the size of the car overall. I'm in college and it fits so much of my stuff it's really unbelievable to me.

Remote trunk release (or lack thereof) on key fob - :(

I don't have any problems with the displays (on the dash or center display) during the day, they are especially well-lit and easy to see at night

I think the biggest things you should be concerned about with regards to this car is fuel efficiency (some get great gas mileage, others awful, I'm somewhere in between), and road noise from the tires (I find it pretty loud at higher speeds)

You really must be the same person as me, because I initially put a deposit down for a Versa with CVT a few months ago, but I never took delivery of the car because Nissan and the dealership messed up my order (they were backed up with orders for the car but it's still no excuse). Nissan quality to me is a question mark too. and the 3 is much more fun to drive, and not fugly like the versa.

Whatever you choose, best of luck!
 

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The top reason to choose a Mazda3 over the Versa is because it probably is a lot more fun to drive.

When you nit pick like you're doing, of course you'll come up with a list of negatives with any car... However you can't overlook the fact that you're going to be DRIVING the car 99% of the time. This involves your hands on the steering wheel and you looking out the glass and interacting with the road.

If you don't care about how the steering feels, how the suspension responds, and how the car accelerates off the line, then you should get the Versa and save yourself some money.

As for appearance... I have to say the Versa doesn't portray sexiness like the Mazda3. :)

For economy, the Versa wins in fuel, price, and stuff like that...

I don't know much about the Astra, but I do know it has less power and a smaller 1.8L engine than a 3. It's also gonna be a new model which has it's pros and cons.
 

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I own a 3 and test drove the Versa and I'd much rather have the 3. I thought the Versa was a good car, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't near as fun to drive as my 3.

The gauges don't bother me. I actually like their design and the red lighting. I think the trunk space is plenty large as I have moved twice in my car and filled up the trunk with suitcases, laundry hamper, Rubbermaid container and a few misellaneous things.

The pedals are close, but I like it like that because it makes hell-toe shifting much easier.

I do agree with the leg room and the missing trunk release. I know cars that are much cheaper and they have that little button on their key chains.
 

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I'm not a huge fan of the gauges either, but it's something you get used to. I can generally see 40+mph in my peripheral vision without too much of a problem. It would be better though if the speedo only went up to 100mph instead of 140mph.

Maybe the backlight in the radio/center display wasn't working? I have no problem seeing it in my car, even on bright cold days. I don't know if the dimmer switch does anything to it without the headlights being on.

The proximity of the brake and gas pedal does take a little bit of getting used to. During my first test drive this initially scared me as well, but again it's something that I adjusted to quite easily after a little bit of driving. If you drive around often with wide boots on then it could be a problem for you. I'm 6'3" and I fit into the car fine, albeit with the seat back pretty much to its extreme. I've never had to drive around three additional people so I'm not too concerned about the back seat behind the driver. I have tons of headroom, which is very nice.

There's no button to open the trunk on the key FOB, but there is a handle to pop the trunk from the drivers seat (it's down on the floor by the gas door release.) I'm accustomed to using the key to open the truck anyway, so this wasn't a deal breaker for me. How often do you use the trunk? I open it once a week at the grocery store with the key and then pop it with the inside handle when I get home. Size wise, the trunk seems fine to me for a car of its class. I went from a first generation Probe and I think I've got about the same amount of room in this trunk as I had in hatch of the Probe. Maybe the small opening to the trunk threw you off?
 

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[quote author=edrection link=topic=69928.msg1220808#msg1220808 date=1172069419]
want a bigger trunk? Get a hatch. DUH!
[/quote]

lol
 

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I test drove the Mazdaspeed3 and liked it so much I bought it! I was also considering the 2007 MINI Cooper S, but the MS3 was a better deal and more fun to drive.
 

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I think the gauges the are pretty sweet actually. I don't have any trouble seeing them in the daytime. Not sure what the problem is there. The center console is set up the way it should be... with dark letters on a light background.. so even if the sun is shining on it you can still see it. If you need to adjust the contrast... you do it via the radio controls. I think the trunk is actually a very good size for the car... but the trunk opening is small with can curtail it's usefulness. That's the price of a short deck and sporty lines. Pedal placement is supposed to be close to make "heel and toe" driving easier. It can be annoying at times, but you get used to it.
 

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Even at max brightness, the EL gauges can be very hard to read through sunglasses.
 

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[quote author=edrection link=topic=69928.msg1226957#msg1226957 date=1172247483]
i never have a problem. I just leave mine at max brightness day and night.
[/quote]

Neither do I... I would need some seriously dark glasses to make my gauges hard to see.
 

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[quote author=lanny link=topic=69928.msg1226916#msg1226916 date=1172246666]
Even at max brightness, the EL gauges can be very hard to read through sunglasses.
[/quote]

My sunglasses are polarized. The alignment of the poarization of the HU LCD and the polarization of my glasses make it impossible to read w/o tilting my head ~45 degrees.

Reminds me of my optical physics everytime I wear my sunglasses! Luckily I don't wear them often
 

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[quote author=MZ3FRS link=topic=69928.msg1228550#msg1228550 date=1172285596]
[quote author=lanny link=topic=69928.msg1226916#msg1226916 date=1172246666]
Even at max brightness, the EL gauges can be very hard to read through sunglasses.
[/quote]

My sunglasses are polarized. The alignment of the poarization of the HU LCD and the polarization of my glasses make it impossible to read w/o tilting my head ~45 degrees.

Reminds me of my optical physics everytime I wear my sunglasses! Luckily I don't wear them often
[/quote]

Gotcha! That should effect any car with an LCD HU though, correct?
 

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I wear polarized prescription sunglasses and find issues seeing the gauges on many newer cars. At the gas pump, I can't read the LCD screen unless I look over the glasses... The MS3 could use a little brighter gauge backlighting, perhaps my first "mod"???
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Re: Test Drive Impressions - OK. I Bought the 3i Touring Auto Trans.

Short Update: I decided to give the 3 another chance at a different (friendlier) dealer and ended up getting a 3i Touring with AT. The buying experience was great and I got a good deal on my trade-in. :)

I'm having issues with the visibility of the speedometer gauge but will tinker with it after reading the manual thoroughly. The 3i Touring does not have the "Instrument Cluster Dimmer Select Button (Black-Out Meter)," but someone mentioned that the contrast is controlled with the audio controls. Must check massive manual I guess.
 

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[quote author=MetalCord link=topic=69928.msg1231008#msg1231008 date=1172421800]

Gotcha! That should effect any car with an LCD HU though, correct?
[/quote]
Yes; any LCD at all in fact. They rely polarization filters to make the image, so they all will create difficulty with polarized eye ware. Check out wikipedia's page on LCD's, it explains them very throughly:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lcd
 
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