Having a daily driver car can be an easy choice for some people that only want a car for driving from point A to point B and that’s it. As a Software Engineer I tend to spend more time trying to make optimal decisions tailored to my needs and after 4 months of research, I have settled on the Mazda 3.
I discuss below the reasons for my decision, this is not by any means a sponsored post, I just felt like expressing myself to the world.
Instead of diving into which is the best overall vehicle to choose as a daily driver I had to ask myself several questions that will narrow down my selection:
- What’s my budget?
- Closest service center to my home?
- Fuel Economy?
- Minimum of 150 hp?
- Sporty Handling?
- Good Looks?
I have no need for a hatchback car as I’m not going to be transferring heavy objects or space consuming luggage even though I like both hatchbacks and sedans, with that being said, hatchbacks are generally more expensive in my area.
Although I fancy manual transmission cars, my daily had to an automatic with optional manual shift mode, my plan is to have 2 cars in the future, a daily and fun weekend manual transmission car.
This is the most basic criteria that can influence your decision, answering this before diving into other aspects will severely narrow down the choices you can make, for a daily driver car with my preferred specs, a budget of 10,000 OMR ($25,972 USD) with a difference margin of 5% seems to be the average for compact sized sedans with decent specs, mind you that I did not care a lot for warranty and service packages.
This decision instantly limited me to an array of Japanese and Korean brands as well a select few German and American brands, the following cars were my most peeked for nearly having the specs that I’ve required:
Mazda 3 – 8750 OMR ($22,727 USD)
Honda Civic – 11,250 OMR ($29,221 USD)
Subaru Impreza – 11,000 OMR ($28,571 USD)
Mitsubishi Lancer – 9660 OMR ($25,090 USD)
Toyota Corolla – 9500 OMR ($24,675 USD)
Hyundai Elantra – 8800 OMR ($22,857 USD)
Kia Forte/Cerato – 8500 OMR ($22,077 USD)
Volkswagen Jetta – 9777 OMR ($25,394 USD)
Ford Focus – 9800 OMR ($25,454 USD)
Chevrolet Cruze – 8400 OMR ($21,818 USD)
According to my specs, I want a daily driver’s friendly car that cares about the driver, one that isn’t designed like a Christmas tree but sleekly designed for spirited daily driving, one that isn’t boring to look at, one that will make driving a pleasant and fun experience for every day you take it for a drive, at the same time making your journey from point A to B a joy that begs you to take it further to C, a car truly forged by the hands of experts that know what true driving is about.
Having a service center near your home can save you a great deal of time and money, the place where I live had Mazda’s service center nearby closer than any other service center within a 5 km radius.
Service costs are on par or average compared to other Japanese and Korean brands, a basic engine oil and oil filter change is within due every 10,000 km (6213 miles) costing only ~29 OMR (~$75.33 USD), Mazda also allows you to service your vehicle in any 3rd party authorized service center while retaining your warranty which will save you more money on the long run.
Since I live in Oman, the fuel prices compared to other nations are much lower therefore it is pretty much safe to go ahead and disregard this aspect, however I care about my vehicle’s emissions and I somewhat want a car that can go far whilst consuming as less fuel as possible.
The 2.0L engine combined with Skyactiv technology is lightweight and efficient, it is hardly thirsty for fuel. The car’s fuel capacity is 51 liters and with some math it can literally cross 900 km on a full tank provided that you do not go pedal to the metal, basically the car consumes fuel the way you drive it and if you want to save fuel, simply don’t change the car you like but change the way you drive.
Although the Mazda 3 performs well in this aspect, other cars have done remarkably well too which makes this almost a tie.
Engine & Horsepower
To me bigger engines that push a great amount of horsepower are simply fuel guzzlers that will empty your pocket and since you cannot drive more than 120 km (74.5 miles) where I live this means a more powerful engine is meaningless unless you’re building a car for drag racing or drifting, in my opinion it isn’t the best choice for a daily driver.
Comparatively smaller engines will save you a lot on the long run however their sluggish performance is easily noticeable on cars that weigh 1 ton, these cars are for those on extremely low budget or care more about the environment (unlikely because you would go for a Hybrid/Electric), as a programmer who loves driving a lot I have experienced smaller engine cars that push around 70 ~ 80 horsepower and I can tell you isn’t enough and it will actually consume more fuel as you’re trying to pick up speed.
Lastly we have medium sized engines, the best of both worlds, 2.0 liter engines are mostly designed to provide you with enough horsepower to defeat sluggish performance on heavy 1 ton cars as well consume less fuel on the long run depending on the way you drive it.
From my experience it is my preference that a car should have a minimum of 150 hp satisfying my need for speed without putting a hole in my wallet and most of the cars I listed above had this covered somewhat except it seems they’ve moved into incorporating a turbo in their design which translates to “more money spent on service”, although I love turbo’ed cars I gotta admit that they do not work great on daily driver economy cars, the lag is ridiculous and the overall experience is just total rubbish, turbos should be reserved for sports cars. On the other hand natural aspirated engines deliver linear power output with instant throttle response that gives you considerably better control over the vehicle.
For this criteria my choice was the Mazda 3 for satisfying my requirement boosting 155 hp with its 2.0L natural aspirated Skyactiv Engine, the Honda Civic was turbocharged and its power delivery was sluggish for my liking not to mention it being a tad more expensive, the Subaru Impreza with its AWD layout had me rooting for it until I couldn’t afford the high price tag in addition to missing nearly 50% of the features advertised so please Subaru of Oman do a better job or shut down, the Mitsubishi Lancer was simply trying too hard and unfortunately had the worst rated fuel economy, their latest “face lifted” version was absolutely a disaster, we will miss the Evo’s, the Toyota Corolla was overpriced and only delivered 132 hp with its 1.8L engine which was a definite no go for me.
The Hyundai Elantra was a decent candidate even though it had 147hp with its 2.0 Liter engine, the exact same thing can be said about the Kia forte, the VW Jetta was turbocharged, the Ford Focus dominated this segment with its natural aspirated engine pushing 160hp, as for the Chevrolet Cruze it was turbocharged so it met its demise immediately.
When it comes to handling, I’m all about precision and out of all the cars I’ve tried I found the Mazda 3 to be on par with the Ford Focus and the Subaru Impreza, despite being a front wheel drive car it had really sharp and less wobbly handling, this could be due the fact that Mazda is known to have built some great sports cars such as the Rx-7 and the MX-5 and have incorporated some of their design into economy cars.
Exterior & Interior
In this area hands down, the Mazda with its “Kodo Soul of Motion Design Language” easily wins in this area, the exterior lines and the way the Mazda 3 looks as if it is a compact luxury sports car, the front face lift for the 2017 model looks like an Owl with its LED headlights, its front big grill makes it look more ferocious and aggressive, its rear has hidden exhaust tips for a prestigious look, combined with the Machine Grey color this car is an absolute gorgeous little monster.
When compared to other cars, it is clear that non of the competition cares that much about beautiful sleek design which should be simpler to manufacture and mass produce, look at the new Civic for instance, it has become one of the ugliest cars on the road which makes me question Honda’s judgement on this one.
Subaru is still stuck to its “bug eyes”, Mitsubishi lives in the past and keeps eating itself, the Toyota Corolla now looks like an alien that has cancer that got cancered again, shame on you.
Next, you have the Hyundai Elantra which in my opinion looks good in a preservative way, followed by the Kia Forte which has the most hideous overall exterior design of the bunch, I’d hate to be seen driving it, sadly both had very cheap plastic like interior which made it questionable if they should be charging that much.
Coming to the German’s Volkswagen Jetta, a very plain and boring looking car that is also overpriced, its time for VW to reconsider its design philosophy as well market price.
Finally coming to the Americans we have the Ford Focus which to me looks like a cheap knockoff Aston Martin but in a really bad way sporting the ugliest tail lights of the bunch, to me this car is pretty much something you would find inside a cereal box, as for the Chevrolet Cruze its ugly front end wasn’t face lifted yet and the rear was outdated and just like that, the magic was gone.
Coming to interior this is pretty subjective but in my honest opinion, the Mazda 3 and Subaru Impreza have the most mature design out of the bunch, period.
Although most of the contenders had very similar features, the Mazda 3 had one feature I loved most which is the heads up display.
Let me tell you that a heads up display is a luxury feature that is almost only seen on expensive luxury cars and having it on a budget economy car such as the Mazda 3 is a strong selling point, I can’t stress how important it is having a HUD in your car, it allows you to focus on the road while feeding you with all the information you require while driving without having to look down at the instrument panel, it eliminates neck stress while keeping you safe, although the Mazda 3 HUD is cheaply designed it is still a functional tool that in my opinion beats a car that is double or triple the price.
The Mazda 3 also comes with more nifty features such as rain sensing wipers, keyless entry, push button start, moonroof, tire air pressure monitor, moving LED headlights, front camera for collision detection and auto braking, 18 inch alloy wheels, reverse camera, automatic climate control, fog lights, powered retractable side mirrors, side mirror alert (visible warning on hud as well), sports mode, traction control, smart paddle shifters, manual mode, cruise control mode, adaptive cruise control mode that uses the front camera to control your speed as well buttons to control the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, beautiful white pleather seats, driver power seat, Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, Mazda’s infotainment with a map and voice assistant, Bose Sound System (Hell Yeah!!).
Seriously, the features available in this car are elegantly designed that you barely notice any clutter when reaching out to any buttons and knobs.
Unlike the German and American manufactures, the Japanese brands are very well known for their products reliability as well reduced overall service costs.
Believe it or not I’ve been with friends that had Audi’s that had a transmission failure during a lunch control, a VW GTI with a blue screen of death during my test drive, a Mercedes-Benz CLK with oil leaking problems, Ford Focus with transmission jerking/hesitation problems, its just not worth the headache anymore.
This is not to say that the Japanese are perfect, because they aren’t as I already had my Mazda 3’s GPS not starting a few times but that was easily fixed by restarting the infotainment which is a simple procedure of holding 3 close buttons for 10 seconds, there are a couple more issues as well which I was aware of before making my purchase but they can be easily fixed with some modding work and they’re wind noise and dust entry on the side of the doors, these are easily fixed with some sound insulation material and weather strip seals, an inexpensive mod which is I’m okay with either way.
Luckily where I live there are dozens of 3rd party garages and car accessory shops that provide loads of products that can be used on Japanese cars, this creates competition and reduces the prices considerably and if you’re not in a hurry you can order parts online for a cheaper price.
Not all cars are designed perfectly, some cars have pros over other cars whilst having more cons, to make a decisive decision you should always ask yourself what kind of a daily driver car do you want to drive and tailor your choices from there until you reach a conclusive decision.
I have spent 4 months researching before I made the move and until today I’m satisfied and looking forward toward upgrading my Mazda 3, there are so many mods I want to do such as Ceramic Coating (done), Window Tinting, Sun Visor Extension, Weather Seal Strips, Sound Insulation Material, Android Auto (Possible by modding the Infotainment)…etc.
In all, the rotary folks have crafted a masterpiece that is now shaking the compact segment market for its design philosophy and expert engineering, this Mazda 3 is an absolute joy to own and drive.
I hope my post has given you some insight on my decision, if you have any questions then leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading.