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Subaru Impreza, Mazda MAZDA3
#28 of 41 Both good cars - hard to go wrong.
Nov 18, 2004 (12:09 pm)
The Impreza RS Wagon and Mazda3 were both on my list recently. I went with the Mazda3.
Mazda6s had a good comment: if you want/need AWD, then the comparison is moot, the Subaru is the only way to go. Unless you routinely drive offroad in the back of beyond, the Subaru is a superior choice to most any SUV if you want AWD.
Relative to the Mazda3 I think the Subaru had marginally better visibility, better cargo space, a roof rack and excellent ergonomics. Drawbacks included a very grabby clutch, noisy powertrain, and poor mileage.
The Mazda was the hands-down winner for quiet and comfort. Get them both on the highway at 100 km/h and the predominant noise in the Mazda is the road and the radio whereas in the Subaru the engine drowns out almost everything. The Mazda also holds the edge in economy, with about 20% better mileage ratings. Drawbacks to the Mazda are smaller trunk/hatch (than a Subaru wagon, anyway), eye-straining red gauges, and inferior visibility.
I found rear seat accomodations in the two vehicles to be more-or less equivalent. The Mazda is better for two with more deeply countoured seating, but the Subaru had the edge in seatbelt placement and with three occupants. In front, the Mazda actually feels a little less roomy to me because of the very wide center stack. It was easy to get comfortable though with the telescoping adjustement on the steering wheel. All the controls are placed just right in the Mazda so they're easy to reach and easy to read. No complaints with the Impreza, I just felt the Mazda was better.
In driving, the Mazda3 was easily the more tossable of the two, but it also had a slightly stiffer ride, basically a case of you give a little, you get a little.
A note about red gauges. Lots of people, including those in the car journalism business, seem to think that red is a good color for gauges. I couldn't disagree more. If you've seen the lavender colour used in a Passat or the blue colour in a 1998 Windstar, then you'd have a better idea of what colour gauges should be. I don't care how sporty you may think red is - try driving for twelve hours straight after dark and then tell me how cool the red looks. That said, the red colour wasn't enough to stop me from buying a Mazda3 and, although I'll never love the red, you do get used to it.
The Subaru should win in the bad weather, but more important than the AWD is a good set of rubber. AWD is of limited value if you don't have good contact with the road. I'll find out the wisdom (or lack thereof) of that statement when the winter weather arrives.
Ultimately, the noise and the mileage are what disqualified the Subaru for me. If the mileage had been comparable to what I could expect from the Mazda3, then it would have been a much tougher decision. It just comes down to my not wanting to pay the gas premium 365 days a year for the added security the AWD would deliver on the half dozen days a year when it really matters.
As for the WRX, the insurance cost would be the killer there! The Mazda3 and Impreza were similarly weighted, but the WRX is in a league beyond them.
My thoughts (and lots of them). Your mileage my vary.
Nov 18, 2004 (1:03 pm)
The MazdaSpeed version of the 6 will get AWD, so perhaps this feature will come to future versions of the 3?
Imagine that 276hp turbo 2.3l with AWD coupled to the lighter 3...mmmm.
I'm surprised that Mazda chose the bigger 6 to go EVO and STi hunting, actually. The 3 might have been a better choice.
Nov 19, 2004 (7:18 am)
great post, crowcanada - lots of food for thought. while i won't be driving through blizzard conditions 365 days a year (though montreal can get pretty gnarly), i am curious enough about the awd experience that i'd like to own a car with it at least once. i'm surprised you found the handling to be noticeably tighter in the mazda, as i found the subaru RS to be just as tossable and nimble as the 3, if not more so. the guages in the mazda didn't bother me too much, but you're right, you always hear journalists raving about the bmw and older audi red guages, but i couldn't think of a more unpleasant color to have shining in front of me over a prolonged period.
Nov 19, 2004 (7:19 am)
The RS has the same suspension as the WRX, FWIW.
The tires stink, though.
Nov 19, 2004 (8:29 am)
I have not seen anything definite...but I have a feeling we will see AWD in MZ3. Not right away but maybe with the first 'refresh'...
Dec 06, 2004 (9:17 am)
hope this conversation can be resurrected. i tested the 3 and the matrix xrs this weekend, and the maz blew the doors off the trix in every aspect. i'm now going to try an impreza rs (the wrx is out of my range $$-wise) to see what that feels like. my main concerns in comparing these two are:
reliability--did the 3 work out the kinks from the first model year yet?
gas mileage--have read varying thing on the difference between these two cars.
parts replacements--somebody said earlier that dealers overcharge for maz parts...what if i don't get them from the dealer? are these cars comperable in routine maint/wear and tear costs?
Dec 06, 2004 (9:36 am)
A/C was the biggest issue for the first model year of the Mazda3. The Mazda faithful say they've worked it out.
When I go to a dealer parts prices I'm quoted are astronomical. A wheel bearing cost us $900, an O2 sensor, part only, cost $220. My Miata's gas cap was $28 and oil filters are $8.
So plan on going to wholesalers. I've used Roebuck Mazda with some luck, but haven't ordered anything in a long time.
We dumped our 626 when it became a money pit. My Miata is fine, as are our 2 Subies.
Subaru parts prices have been lower, in my experience, with or without a wholesaler. Service can still be pricey, though.
Dec 06, 2004 (9:50 am)
how about service charges on a mazda? cheaper? more costly? i don't plan on having a dealer work on my car for anything that isn't warranty-related, since this issue isn't unique to mazda in experience. i drive a 92 saab 900 now, and the dealer prices on stuff are rediculous. and the labor is rediculous no matter where i take it. are mazda parts just generally expensive, even if i'm going through a local mechanic?
Dec 06, 2004 (10:00 am)
I did the service myself. It was my wife's car, the 626.
But when it broke down we'd go to the dealer for repairs, and it just seemed like we could not walk out of there without spending $500-900 or so every time.
In contrast my Miata's been excellent.
#37 of 41 Domestic-built Mazda's...
Dec 06, 2004 (11:39 am)
The Consumer Reports 2005 future car issue shows the Mazda6 having a "below average rating" in reliability history, while the reliability history of the domestic-built '03-04 Focus, which a portion of them come w/ Mazda 2.3 engine, is "above average". Imagine how reliable the Focus is when all '05's come w/ Mazda engines!
Also, the Miata is reliable, unlike the rotary RX-8.