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Rides: Rockin the Road in the 2013 Mazda3 (Auto Review)

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Rock Father Rides is a new section of The Rock Father that’s devoted to Automotive Coverage for the Octane-Obsessed Family… from toy cars to real rides.

While I’d like to think that I’ve always had a penchant for cars with a bit of style, speed, and perhaps a dash of the sly and sinister, the reality is that function and dependability has always reigned supreme when my final buying decision was made. After all, back in ’97, I bought a new Ford wagon (and slapped a “bra” and sport wheels on it to make it look “cooler”) because it got good mileage and was able to perfectly fit my Peavey Half-Stack in the back, along with room for my guitars when I was still in a band on a regular basis. Now, as a parent, my vehicular needs have to account for other factors that accommodate a family of four. Earlier this month, the crew over at Mazda USA asked if I’d take their new Mazda3 for a spin and put it to The Rock Father test. And test it, I did… but I might not be the most important reviewer…

“Mazda for me! I have the Mazda now, and I’m gonna drive it all by myself!”Adalyn, age 3.5

addieseatYes, my daughter, Adalyn – who I’ve long mentioned as having a serious love for cars – is reviewing some rides as well. She’ll be four this summer. Yeah, four… show some respect.

When the Mazda3 arrived here at Rock Father HQ, the first thing that struck me was the color – Velocity Red. This 4-Door, Grand Touring Edition has a stylish exterior, and one that I could see lending itself to further customization. We were in the midst of a garage sale at the time, so while the little ones were occupied (after Addie hopped in and tried staking claim to the back seat – pictured left), I hopped in and took it around the block for a quick spin after pairing my Windows Phone to the car via Bluetooth. Complete with SiriusXM (I also have it in one of my daily drivers), I immediately tuned into Liquid Metal and Christened my drive with the sound of “The Diplomat” by PIG DESTROYER ripping through the 265-watt Bose Centerpoint 10 Speaker Surround Audio System. Nothing like a little metal before getting the car seats strapped in.

To properly experience the Mazda3, it would be assimilated into our daily routine here at Rock Father HQ and beyond…

The Late-Night Trip to Walmart:


It’s a staple of life as The Rock Father – doing the grocery shopping and collecting assorted supplies from the local 24-hour supercenter. It just happened that the day the Mazda arrive also happened to be the day that I needed to pick up an extra baby gate for the bottom of a small, two-step thing we have in our family room. It was the biggest Evenflo gate they carry, and it fit perfectly into the trunk of the Mazda3 with room to spare. Trunk space is important for a family, and the Mazda3 delivers on that front. 


As for night-driving, the Mazda3 is fun. I opened up the sunroof and cranked some tunes while cruising back home from the ‘Mart. I have this thing for red and black – something I’ve mentioned before that is connected to my love for KNIGHT RIDER. I usually prefer black cars with red accents, and I dig interior lighting. While the color scheme of the Mazda3 was flipped (red exterior, black interior), the lighting at night is to my liking. Blue LED’s illuminate the floor, while the dashboard and controls beam with life. I think I should just call night-driving “Night Riding” from now on.


Daily Running with the Kids:

We’re a two car seat family, and strapping them in can often be a pain. I appreciate the fact that the Mazda3 has the LATCH system clearly-labeled and easy to use. I had both car seats (two different stages) locked and ready to roll in just minutes. The back seat is tight, however, and that’s something I’ll discuss in further detail shortly.


We’ve got activities galore – trips to preschool, gymnastics, the store, you name it. I’m very active with the girls, so there’s a lot of in-and-out with the car. I need my mobile command center to be convenient as well, and with easy hookups for my phone, my music, and my drink (usually coffee or Diet Mountain Dew). My red, AUTOSEAL Madison bottle from Contigo (disclosure: I blog for them) fit well, and matched the color scheme of the car.


The daily drive was comfortable from the driver’s seat, and Addie was digging the sunroof (when weather permitted). Neither of our normal rides has one, so this was a treat. 

To Grandmother’s House We Go (life on the highway):

gma1We don’t live close to most of our family. In fact, my Mom lives about 100 miles away, so going to Grandma’s is a road trip. Addie and I took a morning ride while baby Finley stayed home with Mom for a bit. I removed the infant seat and reconfigured to place Addie’s seat in the middle – a safer spot – of the back seat.

gma2The blind spot monitoring system is a feature that I’ve never experienced before, and one that surprised me at first – a special icon lighting on the side mirrors whenever another vehicle enters the blind spot. Rain-sensing, automatic windshield wipers were another unexpected touch.

The Mazda3 lives up to the old “Zoom Zoom” tagline, accelerating remarkably smooth as we’d rip down the ramps going 0-60 in mere seconds. Addie was digging the acceleration – like take off. She’s actually got this little Hot Wheels’ Steering Wheel that she “drives” with from the back seat. Zoom Zoom, indeed.


I Bought a Rug for My Deck:

rugWhile Addie and I were our on our own, I bought one of those outdoor rugs for our deck. Honestly, I was a little worried that it wouldn’t fit. I moved her car seat over again and flipped the smaller rear seat down. Problem solved. Through the trunk and into the passenger cabin it went. Oddly enough, it was in the parking lot after loading the rug that I went to use the CD player for the first time… and something was in it already.

hueyI don’t know if it was just some weird coincidence (a CD left by a previous driver) or if it was intentional since I’d just written a feature on the 30th Anniversary of the SPORTS album by HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS, but there was a copy of HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS – GREATEST HITS in the player already. I CRANKED those jams. Addie scolded me for the beginning of “Back in Time” scaring her when it kicked in. Sorry about that, I know it’s not a DeLorean Time Machine, but I needed to get my BACK TO THE FUTURE groove on.


WP 20130606 013Impressive. Most Impressive. Did you just read that in Darth Vader’s voice? I hope so. In fact, the Mazda3 is a gas sipper, powered by their SKYACTIV technology – which is appreciated with the terrible cost of gas these days, and we live smack-dab in the middle of some of the worst prices in the country. The sticker advertises 28MPG City/40MPG Highway, and we were averaging 36-37 MPG for most of the week. With two cars running daily and a commute for my wife, MPG is key – and I’m digging what we witnessed here. Has nothing to do with the Mazda3, but I did shave this week, too (pictured, above right).

WP 20130606 003

Safety… and the Back Seat:

backThe NHTSA Safety Rating for the Mazda3 is 4/5 stars overall. The front-end crash rating is five-stars for the driver, four for the passenger. The lowest rating was a mere two-stars on the back seat, and this isn’t surprising – but it’s very important. As a parent, this is where I’m putting my children, and the back seat of the Mazda3 is a tight squeeze (as I mentioned above). The back seat is also a big pet peeve of mine, and something you’ll see noted in all of my car reviews going forward. While the Mazda3 is a great car overall, the back seat is just not a place for adults. Even with two kids in car seats, my oldest found her feet in there tight behind the driver’s seat, and my infant had the handle of her carrier firmly placed against the front passenger seat – which was pushed up significantly. The back seat is workable for younger kids, but with bigger ones it would become a major consideration.

Mazda3 Overall:

mazdalogoBased on our experience with the Mazda3 as tested here at Rock Father HQ and beyond, the 2013 Mazda3 is a fun car that proves you don’t have to sacrifice style for function. A fine mix of performance and technology make for a comfortable ride, with ample space in the cockpit and trunk. A good family car for some, the backseat and sticker price may be a deterrent for others.

The Mazda3 as-driven by The Rock Father carries a sticker price of $26,420 MSRP. Base models start at $16,700.


The Rock Father Rating: 4/5 Possible Stars

Full Details at MazdaUSA.com

Further Disclosure: Obviously (as noted in the opening of this article), Mazda USA provided The Rock Father with a Mazda3 to facilitate this review. All opinions are that of James Zahn, with influence from his daughter. Yep, he gets to drive around in new cars and share his thoughts on them for you. Pretty sweet, right?  James doesn’t accept cash for reviews – not how he rolls – but makes things very simple for all involved: Great Product = Great Review. Terrible Product = Terrible Review. Horns Up! \m/ \m/

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