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2020 Mazda 3 AWD – PRactical doesn’t have to Mean boring

2020 Mazda 3 AWD – PRactical doesn’t have to Mean boring

I’ll admit it. I’m typically sweet on Mazdas. I don’t own one and nobody’s paying me to say that, I just like the down to earth functionality designed into them. I also like that you can push them a little carder than comparable cars before they cry uncle. In a word, they’re fun. How does the Mazda 3 AWD stack up?

A-number-one, I dig the aesthetic. Angry headlight and nose-down posture lend an air of aggression to the relatively mild Mazda. I even think its little overbite is dreadfully charming. The black 18″ alloy wheels go wonderfully with the “polymetal gray metallic” paint. Some may find the proportions of this hatch a little unusual; perhaps a little rump heavy. But they work for me. Of course, I think the second gen Cadillac CTS Coupes are among the most gorgeous cars designed in the 21st century, so consider that when weighing my opinions on a car’s good or bad looks.


The deep red leather seats, which Mazda refers to in their build sheet as simply “red”, look stunning in both quality and color. The dash is wrapped in the same “red” and features laser straight French seams. In fact, all the upholstery in the car is above average, especially when you consider this is not a luxury car. I’m a fan of the way Mazda puts their media controls in the console. There’s a learning curve, but they’re logically laid out and above all you can use them without taking your eyes off the road. Bluetooth connectivity is remarkably fast, like instant, and there’s a handy dandy QI charger for all your resonant inductive coupling needs.

Laying the rear seats down pinches front seat leg room a little, and you’re going to have trouble operating the console lid. However, it does open up the back end to haul a surprising amount of junk. Or just one old dirty compressor.
This is not an easy car to see out of. The back window looks tiny from the drivers seat and the blind spots created by the c pillars are some of the biggest I’ve seen. This car might be more fun with a manual shift rather than the six speed “sport mode” automatic, but I don’t know if it would be better per se.

Under the hood, a 2.5 liter naturally aspirated four banger churns out 186 horsepower and equally as many torques. An electric emergency brake will prevent you and your no account buddies from sliding around the parking lot behind the movie theater. Mazda does a good job of prioritizing the driving experience of their cars. Even the humble 3 has above average feedback from the brakes and steering. It’s fun to push the car through curves. One issue I noticed is that the A/C struggled a little on warmer days. It made me wonder how it would do during the Texas summers

It could be a little more fun, and at $31,470 it could be a little less expensive. Of course you could save some scratch if you elected to forego the 425 dollar illuminated sill plates. There’s nothing wrong with the car though, and this AWD model is sure to be a hit with folks that experience snow and ice each year. The Mazda 3 delivers a typically Mazda experience. Maybe not the fastest, but great feedback from the brakes and steering wheel and enough zip from under the hood to keep us engaged.


2020 Mazda MX-5 GT RF – The Perfect Tool For The Job

2020 Mazda MX-5 GT RF – The Perfect Tool For The Job

What praises can I sing for the MX-5 that haven’t already been sung from the rooftops? It’s been around over three decades getting progressively better with each iteration. It’s precise and poised. It feels great to the touch.  Some jobs are impossible without the right tool.  But with that tool in hand, the job becomes a pleasure. For the “job” of sports car driving, there’s no better tool.


The RF model features fastback styling. MX-5’s B-pillars actually lift off the car when the power convertible top is let down. It’s not a true convertible, but you get the convenience of a power top, and it only adds about 115 pounds to the car. Visibility is slightly limited relative to the soft top version. The Soul Red Crystal paint looks like custom candy paint straight from the factory, and it’s accented beautifully by the gray on the 17″ alloy wheels.


The Mx-5 makes the best use of the modest interior space. Even six-footers can find a comfortable driving position in the heated seats. A telescoping tilt steering column, now a standard feature, lets you put the wheel exactly where it ought to be. I love the way Mazda brings the body color in on the top of the door sills. I also love the Sport Tan leather covered seats.

The interior looks basic, but has amenities like speakers in the headrests that pipe in phone calls. There are also classy touches like an upholstered dash, stainless door sill plates and alloy pedals. Plunked down onto the dash is a 7 inch touch screen to control the Bose 9 speaker stereo which is plenty loud even with the top down on the highway. It offers all the convenience we’ve become accustomed to; Bluetooth, navigation, etc. The car even comes standard with a backup camera.


I Under the hood is Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.0 liter four cylinder that churns out 181 horsepower. Power is pushed through a sublime little six-speed manual to a limited-slip differential. The last time I drove this car I had this to say, “This car was fun with 155 horsepower, it was balanced and always under control. To make it misbehave you had to wring it out a bit. With the added power it’s easier than ever to get this little two-seater to step out of line. But it’s still so well mannered to whip it back into shape when things get too slidey.” That rings as true now as it did then. In the turns the MX-5 is about as predictable and poised as a car can get.

The sounds of the engine and the gearbox one inches from your right thigh keep you intimately connected with the car. Even with the top up, you don’t necessarily feel isolated in this car. It’s a treat for all five senses. It’s hard not to use the same beat down clichés that writers have used since Mazda brought the MX-5 Miata stateside in 1989.


When I reviewed the 2019 version of this car, the top creaked and rattled a bit. Who knows why, another journalist may have tried to shut it on their child. I didn’t have that experience this time. Driving this car is good for your soul. It’s like using a Snap-on ratchet handle after a cheap chinese one. It feels good. It doesn’t just do the job. It makes it a real pleasure. The RF starts at $34,425 and as tested this car cost $35,965. 60 bucks more than last year. You get what you pay for though. An investment in this car will make the job of driving a pleasure.



After receiving a heavily revised engine with more horsepower along with a list of other changes for the 2019 model year that were significant enough to justify a change in the model designation to ND2, updates to the 2020 model are relatively few.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support

Previously, these features could be added using a $199 kit plus installation labor. For 2020, the necessary software and hardware for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come pre-installed. You no longer have to disassemble the dash on your brand new Miata.

Key fob

For 2020, the Miata gets Mazda’s new key fob design. It is thicker and wider than the old key fob and the buttons move from the front to the side where they may be less prone to accidental presses. The physical key has a much smaller head than the old key which provides less leverage. Fortunately, it’s rarely used except to lock and unlock the storage compartment between the seats

Perforated leather seats

Perforated leather is newly available on the 2020 MX-5 Miata and provides natural ventilation which can make for a cooler experience on warm days. While perforated leather may require a little more care to avoid liquid and dirt from falling down into the holes, I think it looks a lot nicer in addition to the functional advantage. Thankfully, all of this soothing and understated gray is offset by a new, dynamic (again, Mazda’s description) red leather interior.



All interior stitching is now gray. Mazda uses the words soothing, calm, and premium to describe it. I’m tempted to use the words boring, cost-cutting, and consolidation. To me, the MX-5 Miata is a sporty car that deserves a more sporty stitch color than soothing gray – leave that one to the sedans and SUV’s!

Polymetal Gray

Continuing the monochrome theme, Polymetal Gray is a new color shade of gray for the 2020 MX-5 Miata. Mazda describes the color shade of gray as understated and beautiful. I’ll just say that it looks like they forgot to paint the car and sprayed clear coat over the primer, but, hey – lots of folks aren’t happy with only 49 shades of gray!

Door sills

Wrapping up the changes to the 2020 MX-5 Miata are the availability of stainless steel door sills.

There is no official word just yet on pricing, availability, or other changes.

Photos from Mazda

2019 Mazda 3 Premium AWD – An efficient Commuter That’s Fun to Drive

2019 Mazda 3 Premium AWD – An efficient Commuter That’s Fun to Drive

The 2019 Mazda 3 is a slick and comfortable small sedan with good options. In Mazda fashion, the 3 gets incrementally better with each passing year. The last one I drove was in 2017, how does the new one compare?



Outside, the Mazda 3 looks good. I like the uncluttered nature of its styling. The long low hood, raked C-pillars and stubby trunk all add up to give the Mazda 3 a sporty profile. The chunky 18-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights and taillights have an upmarket look. I especially like the front grille treatment. The Soul Red Crystal metallic paint has to be one of the most appealing factory colors on any car.



Inside this press car was outfitted with white leather wrapped seats and dash. I can’t say I’d like to be accountable for keeping it clean over the life of the car, be for the week I had it, it presented no issues. The seats are comfortable and there’s room enough in the back seat for grown ups.

The premium trim gets you a Bluetooth capable, 12 speakers Bose stereo. Android Auto and Apple Carplay make connecting your phone to the car seamless.  A moonroof with one-touch open lets the light in and the Active Driving Display projects vehicle information like speed, cruise control settings and even navigation aids onto an area in the driver’s line of sight to keep eyes safely on the road. Mazda has integrated the 3’s infotainment screen into the dash more and it looks good. It’s a subtle change that indicates they’re still improving the car little by little.


Mazda’s infotainment system controls are some of the most intuitive on the market.
There’s a multi-function control wheel and a few shortcut buttons that make navigating the menus a breeze. Within the console, there’s a Qi wireless charging pad. I like this layout because it encourages us to drop the phone in the console while we drive.

Under the hood, the 2.5L SKYACTIV-G 186 horses and 186 lb-ft torque. Not huge numbers, but the car never feels anemic. The 6-speed automatic transmission is nice and snappy.  In fact, it’s fun to goose the little 3 around and its predictable driving character inspires confidence in the bends.

Mazda says that we can expect the AWD 3 to get 25 mpg around town and 33 on the highway.  The combined mileage is 2 mpg worse than the front wheel drive version. However, if you live in a snowy climate I imagine that you’ll find the AWD a good investment. Highway driving is quiet and smooth.


The base price on the 2019 Mazda 3 is $27,900. Adding the Premium package gets you some features you might not expect in a non-luxury brand. This includes the heads up display, leather seats, moonroof, paddle shifters and adaptive lighting to name a few. Other available options featured on this car include illuminated door sills like a lexus and a frameless rearview mirror like those found in a Volvo.  All these push the price point to $30,930.

The last time I reviewed this car was in 2017, at that time I called the car a good value. I haven’t changed my mind. It’s still an efficient commuter/kid hauler that’s fun to drive and offers good amenities. I would like to see a return of the Mazdaspeed3 which had a turbo option.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD – Mazda Perfects The 5-Seater Crossover

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD – Mazda Perfects The 5-Seater Crossover

The 2019 CX-5 looks great inside and out, it’s a pleasure to drive and ride in and it will haul kids and groceries. It’s affordable, efficient and good looking. Honestly, what else is there?



The aesthetic of the CX-5 is a tidy and stylish one. It’s not pretending to look like an offroader or trying to be overly cute. Its style is compact and clean without being adorned with chintzy nonsense. 19×7 inch alloys fill out wheel wells. A wide open mouth for a grille and slits for headlights give this car a sporty look and set it apart from other things on the road.


The backend follows the same tidy and clean theme. Everything is sculpted and contoured to maintain the smooth lines. Genuine exhaust tips, not just bodywork that looks like exhaust, poke out at both bottom corners.





Rather than a cluttered and unnecessarily complicated dash/console set up, Mazda engineers elected to pursue a clean and simple dash design. The sleek symmetrical theme is soothing. The interface for the stereo and navigation system has a reasonable learning curve and quickly becomes second nature. Apple Carplay and Android Auto ensure seamless connectivity between devices, the car and its occupants.


The CX-5 Signature seats are wrapped in deep brown Nappa leather. Their design, like that of the dash, is restrained but well-executed. Front seats are heated and ventilated with power adjustment. All-weather mats go a long way toward preserving the carpets.



Rear seat passengers are treated to heated seats and can keep the batteries in their devices topped up using the charger in the fold-out armrest. The interior of this ride is a classy and comfortable space to spend a commute.



Mazda’s 250 horsepower, 2.5-liter turbocharged engine is sublime. seriously, it makes this car pleasure to operate. When lifting after acceleration there’s a little sigh from the turbo blow-off valve. This scoots the slick little crossover to 60 in just over six seconds. Unfortunately, this engine is available in the Grand Touring Reserve and Signature models only. The other trim levels have to make do with a naturally aspirated version.

Per the Mazda standard, this car handles well. It’s fun to drive and inspires confidence to attack corners that other, more wobbly crossovers don’t. The clever proximity key locks the door for drivers as they walk away from the car.


The CX-5 is a standout in a crowded market. And with five trim levels to choose from, there’s likely a CX-5 for almost any budget. The Sport model starts at $24,350, and the Signature trim, as tested here, will set buyers back $36,890. It sounds like marketing talk, but quality is what sets this car apart from other, similarly priced vehicles in its class. There’s a cohesive style that pervades each facet of the car from the inside out. This, combined with a satisfying driving experience, a decent price point and resonable fuel economy to create what must be the best bang for your five-seater crossover buck.

It does beg the question though, “what would happen if they dropped this darling little motor in an MX-5?” Maybe they’ll release a limited run insanity trim level that comes with a year’s supply of free rear tires.