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Old 06-12-2018, 05:57 AM
Location: NW PA
401 posts, read 942,888 times
Reputation: 401


I hear ya OP; I'm too in the hate CVT camp, along with start-stop engine tech, laggy, rev-hanging fly-by-wire throttles, and all of the other tech stuff that I find make driving less enjoyable. Also, being from a professional automotive repair background, I miss the 'golden era' of late 80's/till around mid 90's Honda and Toyota vehicles, especially being able to get a Camry or Accord station wagon, with a MT! (Mazda 6 wagon was sweet too).

As for hatch-backs, I took my drivers test in super hilly Beaver Co. PA, in a manual trans 79 Honda Civic wagon in 1983, and since then have owned more manual trans Japanese HB's than I can recall, including a 1987 Mazda 323 I bought new (LOVED it). My brother recently bought a new AT Mazda3 sedan, and adores the thing. I too have been considering buying a new Mazda3 hatch, but find it frustrating... Why did they have to chop so much off of the overall length vs the sedan, and the hood proportions to the body look off to me. Boy do I wish we got the 6 wagon in the US, but that seems it will never come.

Currently I'm driving an 06 Toyota Matrix, manual transmission, and it can swallow a ton of stuff in a smallish package. Reliability is excellent, but power from the 1.8L engine, and how it applies it is no so great. Have you ever considered a low mileage used Matrix/Pontiac Vibe, that has a conventional auto transmission, and the available larger 2.4L engine? Another I kinda like is the discontinued Scion xB... Yeah, it's a rolling box, and fuel mileage is not so great, but it is extremely reliable, has the peppy 2.4L engine, and conventional auto transmission. Hauling capacity is great, size is nice for city use, and visibility seems pretty good from my driving experience. Good luck OP, and hope you find what you seek.
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:00 AM
4,409 posts, read 7,075,996 times
Reputation: 13208
We just swapped a 2001 Jetta for an '18 Mazda 3 hatch (GT with manual). Doing the test-drive rounds, ALL newer cars have dismal visibility. The belt-line (how high the body rises before the windows start) is Vastly higher, less total glass to see out of and thicker pillars all around. It absolutely sucks. But what are the options? Stick with driving cars no newer than the mid 2000's for the rest of your life? On the plus side, the backup camera does a reasonably good job, mine has Blind Spot/Cross Traffic monitoring which works well, and you can get "parking assist" radar too. Sucks that technology has to be a crutch for vastly reduced visibility, but cars are made for the lowest common denominator ~ meaning those who Can't drive and tend to crash, lots, and then sue the car company for their inability to drive (or have family sue when someone gets hurt/dies).

I'm exceedingly particular when it comes to vehicles, my demands are pretty high. The Mazda was the only real option for us, with VW being in second place (I know, VW gets a terrible rap, but nearly 2 decades with one showed me the exact opposite). Who knows how reliability will shape up, but the web forums have pretty much ZERO threads on problems. Overwhelmingly, it's posts on modifications, talking about fuel economy, and the infotainment system (can be hacked, soon to have Carplay and Android Auto). The few problem threads seem to be tied to those who "mod" their car (same was true with the VW's ~ I stopped using those forums after ~6 years because it was just endlessly the same, people who took care of their vehicles had no issues and those who made changes were constantly complaining).

If you Want a manual, the M3 does come with "hill assist", when if you stop on a hill, it will hold the brakes for you until the clutch starts to disengage. Nice feature. Cruise works well, though I'm used to the clutch disengaging cruise (the Mazda allows you to shift down/up and have the cruise automatically resume), and the Radar cruise on our car is fantastic... it'll maintain a specific following distance without your needing to do anything. Invaluable for long 2-lane highway trips where passing opportunities are few and far between.

Generally speaking, we're happy with the M3 but miss the Jetta. We bought with the expectation of keeping the car for 15~20 years (like the Jetta before it), but it's hard to talk too much about it with a whopping 6 weeks and ~1200 miles of experience. It DOES look like 2019 will be a "new model", if you can hold out till then you might find some great deals on the current model.
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:18 AM
288 posts, read 153,376 times
Reputation: 249
Bought a newish 2015 3 hatchback in 2015.
2.0 Liter / Automatic.
Recommendations: get the 2.5 Liter, go for the redesigned 2018 the interior and exterior look nicer, get at least the touring or sport with the tech package, If you live some where with bad roads don't bother with the 18" rims/low profile tires.
On the hatchback: remove the central headrest before even test driving the car (it takes up a lot of the rear visibility), no matter how good your depth perception is. It's hard to tell where the rear bumper is, luckily the rear camera takes care of most of that problem, remove the hatch cover thingy the small rubber cushions on the back of the cover rub against the rear window and leave marks that are hard to remove when it's slightly lifted up.
Would recommend trying the CX-5, but not the CX-3
So far I haven't had any mechanical issues why the car just a couple of recalls. Mazda should have taking care of these by 2018.
I actually have a ford focus hatch (Rental) right now and wouldn't recommend it.
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Old 06-12-2018, 11:57 AM
Location: North Carolina
430 posts, read 241,578 times
Reputation: 653
I'd say get a beater car with a manual (a cheap Civic or something like that) and practice driving it around for a bit. You can only improve your comfort level with manual transmissions by driving them. If you drive a stick regularly, you'll get used to everything and hills and other drivers will become a non-issue. Mazda makes a great manual transmission, and it just takes the car to another level imo.
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Old 06-12-2018, 12:16 PM
Location: NNV
1,424 posts, read 912,711 times
Reputation: 2848
Mazda 3 is a good car. Buy it.
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Old 06-12-2018, 06:43 PM
219 posts, read 88,006 times
Reputation: 612
Thank you to all of you for your helpful suggestions and advice. A sedan or hatch it must be as nothing much wider than a Ford Fusion will easily fit into my garage. (I know this for a fact as I park my mother's 2012 Fusion in the garage when she's here for a visit. :-) ) The drop into the below grade garage is rather steep and I have a strong dislike for boxy vehicles so that's an additional push towards a lower profile vehicle. The roads in the city in the wintertime can be like playing a game of Dodge 'Em when it comes to avoiding the massive potholes, so there's no way that I'd choose to roll with low-profile tires. When the time comes, I'll also be buying winter tires for my next car. I don't care what anyone says, I notice a significant difference when I have them on the car and won't roll without them--especially as I'm driving on the winding, hilly roads of West Virginia and East Central Ohio fairly often--not just navigating the hills of western PA.

I guess the only thing left to check on the Mazda 3 is to see if the spare tire cubby can accommodate a full-size spare. That my Nissan's cubby can do so was a happy surprise for me. I know that it's a minor thing, but in the fourteen years that I've owned this car, there have been a few times when a can of fix a flat just wasn't going to cut it and I was too far from home to roll on the donut.

With any luck (and continued good maintenance, of course), this purchase will be a few years away. But at least I know am fairly certain that should something tragic happen to the Sentra, I can buy a Mazda 3 with confidence!
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:42 PM
Location: Olympus Mons, Mars
5,574 posts, read 8,514,908 times
Reputation: 5630
I own a 2017 3GT 6MT hatchback, I absolutely love it. To answer your questions:

a.) Is this a car that can and will easily "go the distance" both inside and out if I care for it as well as I've cared for my current car?
Yes, Mazda reliability is solid, not exactly Toyota level but good enough. I would not worry about reliability.

b.) Are general maintenance items and typical repairs (exhaust system, brakes, etc.) of a reasonable cost?
Yes, the 3 is a less expensive car to maintain and operate. It also takes regular gas.

c.) For those of you who actually own hatchbacks, if not a Mazda 3, is visibility an issue for you? The Sentra has very few, if any blind spots. While I've driven cars with the rear cameras in the past (a Mazda CX7, to be exact), I never quite trusted it and always used it in addition to using all mirrors and my own eyes.
bit of an issue but that's what you get for style.. most cars have backup cams anyway so it's not a problem when backing out slowly and I have the heads up display with cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring so it's not really an issue while driving.

the car does have a few negatives but don't all cars? Road noise is a bit excessive but I can live with it... infotainment system is just ok, stereo is good but no Android Auto or Carplay (but Toyota does not have it either). USB port is 500mA which these days can't charge anything...geez!

I cross shopped the new Civic and Golf GTI. Golf was a bit better all round but it was way more expensive and the reliability is a huge question mark, Civic interior was way worse so went with the 3.

I would wait for the new 2019 3 which is a brand new redesign and with the HCCI and based on some interior leaked pics I have seen will blow everything away... it has a full digital dash which looked awesome in the leaked pics. It may also have the 250hp Turbo from the CX-9 so that would rock! The current 184hp motor is ok, it's a light car and it is not sluggish but more power is always better
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Old 06-13-2018, 07:12 PM
Location: Vallejo
13,944 posts, read 15,931,629 times
Reputation: 12563
I had an '08. Probably the best mix of practical, economical and fun to drive I've had in any car.

It wasn't without its flaws though. The first generation wasn't as refined as the newer ones are. Minimal noise dampening and I had two sets of tires (OEM and one of the replacements) that developed an absolutely horrendous resonance thing when they were about 60% worn. That drove me absolutely nuts and I ended up tossing out two sets of tires that had plenty of life just to get it to shut up.

Visibility was pretty good. You've got some issue with the C pillars as they're honkers and pushed further back. In that respect the Prius with its out-sized dumbo mirrors is better. Also the hatch on the Prius is excellent at being at exactly the right height to block tailgating SUVs or pickups headlights from being annoying.

Overall though I miss it. Gas mileage is nice and the Prius is softer and quieter until you get to broken pavement where it's more of a tin can drum than the Mazda3 was. Trade-off. Prius gets way better mileage. The 3 is much, much more fun to drive. I might wait for 2019. Supposedly it will get the HCCI engine. Might. I'm still waiting for my diesel Mazda3/Mazda6 that was supposed to replace my '08. And then it also violates the never buy the first model rule of thumb egregiously as not only is it a first model with a brand-new engine. Alternatively, I'd just get the 2.5. The difference in mileage between the 2.0 and 2.5 is very minimal. It's mostly just the extra cost, which is pretty minimal as well.
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Old 07-29-2018, 06:13 PM
219 posts, read 88,006 times
Reputation: 612
It's go time on the new car, folks! If I can get the price down to where I want it, tomorrow I will be the proud owner of a 2018 Mazda hatchback (Sport) in that lovely red that Mazda offers. If I cannot get to my desired price point, I'll be rolling in the Sentra for a bit longer. Thanks for all of the helpful advice!
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Old 07-31-2018, 09:05 AM
Location: Austin
904 posts, read 393,350 times
Reputation: 1111
Buy a base Golf TSI. It's better than the Mazda
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