MAZDA's new GDI 3i caught my eye on the Hyundai/Mazda lot as I was checking out their lone Touring wagon from Hyundai.
Just getting dark isn't always the best time to go for test spins. It does let you know about headlights, lit interior amenities, and other features not apparent in the light of day.
First came the Touring. This was an optioned-up GLS (base), stickering at 19 grand+. A dark Indigo Night with musky-grey 16" alloy wheels, it's a different looking car. It's a station wagon, about 176 inches long.
Cabin space is OK, about what you'd expect of something with these dimensions. Perhaps a tad more space than my Spectra, but not a breakthrough.
Driving is nicer than the Spectra, this car benefits from a few years of evolution and its Euro-driving roots. It leans minimally, has better isolation, and the suspension feels more mature and compliant. Controls are easy to find, important things are lit up.
It runs well, it's not a dragster given its same-drivetrain as my Spectra (1975 cc, 138HP 136 lb-ft, 4-speed auto) but with probably a slightly tighter final drive. MPH/1000 RPM shows about 24, so 72 MPH=3,000 RPM.
Trunk is big, they claim near 20 cu ft. under the cover. Back seats fold per today's standard.
Headlights are good, probably comparable to my Spectra which has very good beams. There's a lot of rear seat foot room.
Mazda 3i 5-door. The 28/39 MPG on the window sticker caught my eye. This is the new 1998cc GDI with 155 HP and 39 highway EPA rating, with a 6-speed auto. MPH/1000 RPM in top gear appears to be [EDIT/CORRECTION] 32.5.
This car sits lower, like cars used to sit before everybody wanted a tall wagon. Interior is more cramped than the Touring, numerous items like windows and mirror controls are not lighted so it's fumble. Keyhole is oddly stuffed up in the column where it's hard to get at.
Headlights look weak. The dash is two-tiered, with MPG toys and radio readout up there near the windshield and the other stuff in its standard spot.
This car gits around corners, I love the feel of this suspension. Snubbed, controlled, almost no body roll. Another comfy cruiser. But what isn't, these days?
This car, too, stickered at about 20 grand.
So...good space with good handling and a two-generations-behind drivetrain? Or...more cramped, tighter handling, with a TODAY! engine...which is better?
If you like this class car, I urge you to drive these examples. I don't hear much about the Touring, but it's got much space for its footprint. And the 3i is very sporty and if it gets near its published highway MPG, with a 14 gallon tank it will take you places.
Sorry this is brief, these were brief drives.