New Car #3: Two Months In

new-carThis is NOT the final article in my original three-part series on my new car, since I plan to write two more articles. The other articles that from this mini-series are and will include:

  1. New Car #1: Novated Leasing
  2. New Car #2: Fuel Efficiency
  3. New Car #3: Two Months In (this article)
  4. New Car #4: Good Bye Subaru Impreza
  5. New Car #5: GPS Navigation System Comparisons

So I have been driving my new Mazda 3 SP25 now for some 2.5 months. The benefits are doubly tangible: not only do I drive a similar distance (500km) on a full tank of petrol, but refueling a full tank is now 40 litres and is thus cheaper to pay for. Even so, with the car lease, all petrol expenses are paid for by the Shell fuel card. According to this system, each time I fill up the car with petrol, as part of finalizing the transaction payment I am required to provide the odometer reading to the petrol station attendee. The transaction is then recorded against my lease account and the system helps to monitor and track fuel efficiency and monthly kilometres. The cost of fuel is debited from the lease account and the odometer readings are used to create a comparison of actual versus budgeted kilometres.

The image at the start of this article is showcasing the Fuel Efficiency app that is provided as one of the in-built applications that comes with the car.

Just last Sunday (Father’s Day) I drove the Subaru Impreza for one last time. As of Thursday just passed the Impreza has been sold! After driving my Mazda 3 for a solid 2.5 months returning to driving the Subaru helped me to fully appreciate the various differences. Reorienting myself to driving manual, with all the clutch/gear changes was a very inconsequential difference. Having driven the Subaru for almost 5 years (October 2009) I still knew the car intimately – how it would respond to turning and acceleration. I was able to discern the difference driving an all-wheel-drive vehicle versus the front-wheel-drive Mazda. It was more than just the heavier steering I believe, since the Mazda’s driving technology also enhanced the experience.

The in-car experience is the most obvious difference that hit me most. Having a tablet-sized touch screen in the Mazda is both a benefit and a disadvantage. This was a particular topic of discussion just last night when I relied on the Mazda/Tom Tom GPS navigation system to direct me up Mount Dandenong. I will detail much more about this experience in a separate article dedicated to the comparison of GPS systems/apps.

Having a large screen to present information, be it my music entertainment, navigation map or one of the three provided apps, is a subtle yet powerful lifestyle-changing innovation for an in-car experience. Use of a large visual user interface coupled with the touch screen capability really lifts a user/driver’s expectations for how to interact with the car. In one sense, the screen with its interface layout and look & feel define the car. This is arguably the influence of the smart phone industry (and ultimately Apple given their heavy design influence) on the car industry. Indeed, earlier this year we heard announcements of CarPlay and from 2015 should start to see the first in-market cars manufactured with this feature.

Importantly, for safety reasons, whilst the car is in motion, use of the touch screen is disabled and the driver has to rely on use of the physical navigation control joystick positioned next to the central hand brake area.

One of the other noticeable features that partially contributes to the fuel efficiency of the Mazda 3 is the iStop temporary engine switch off when the brakes are concretely applied. I say concretely because if the pressure applied to the brakes is not sufficient, I can intentionally prevent the iStop feature from being activated. Speaking of brakes, last night driving up to Mount Dandenong was a first time for the Mazda and wearing in the brakes resulted in quite a strong and distinctive smell of the brake fumes.

Driving through the winding roads of the hills was a simple exercise of steering and braking since gone was the whole manual transmission system of clutch and shifting up/down gears. The six-speed gear ratios also make the up-hill climb a smooth ride whilst maximizing fuel efficiency. The road gradient was not steep enough during the ascending drive to warrant the use of the tiptronic manual gear paddles.

Overall, the number of kilometres travelled so far is on budget according to my month lease expense reports. During the first month travel was heavier and I was over budget on my estimate of 1000 KM per month. Since the initial enthusiasm-driven trips, a more regular driving pattern has emerged such that my initial estimate is proving quite accurate, in part because I had used my logbook of Subaru travel to calculate the estimated annual car travel.

To date, only the first month/first 1000 KM complimentary service by the dealer is the only maintenance event for the new Mazda. During the first month, when refueling the car at Coles Express/Shell, the attendants demonstrated their amazed attitude when I disclosed the odometer reading – this is a mandatory requirement as part of using the fuel cards – “only?” or “Is that all?” Since the initial month of two refuels, there is not so much a bat of the eye to the 1000+ and now 2000+ KM readings…

Both the car and I, the driver, have now been run in thoroughly. I am much more confident and familiar with the road handling of the car. With a slightly longer and wider body frame, adjusting to the new car requirements for parking and reversing took a little time. Having the reverse camera with its set of guidance markers is particularly helpful for checking how close I am aligned to the delineated car park spaces. The convenience and comfort factors are key aspects to the overall drive experience that helped me embrace the change to a new car.