Friday, June 27, 2008

To stick or not to stick...

I mentioned earlier this month how, in the quest for a new vehicle, how I've been looking at three cars - the Mini Cooper (which is fundamentally out of consideration now), the VW Passat Wagon and the Mazda 3.  Ever since my trip to Blankets Creek over Father's Day weekend I've been pretty excited about the Mazda 3.   There was a fellow rider with a great looking 3 (I thought it was an A3 at first!), and he gave it a glowing recommendation.

So, my wife and I took a trip to Mazda of Roswell this afternoon to check one out and try a test drive.  What impresses me about the 3 is how much car you can get for the money, especially when you compare it to the Passat.  The Grand Touring trim level has every bell and whistle I could possibly want, at a price several thousand less than the Passat, and the interior is styled just as nicely as the exterior.  We took the 3 for a test drive, and while I really enjoyed the tight steering and comfortable feel to the car, the 2.3L 156hp engine didn't give the car as much "zoom-zoom" as I'm used to with my 1.8L turbocharged Jetta. 

And then we looked at the Mazdaspeed 3... still 2.3L, still with 4 cylinders, but turbocharged with 263hp.   It's a sweet ride, with solid torque and a tighter suspension.  Oh, but it also only comes with a 6-speed manual transmission.  That's right, no automatic option on this sucker.

I haven't driven a stick since... Um... Maybe the late '90's?  It's been a while, so I was a bit nervous of making a complete ass of myself in front of Jeff, our salesman.  (I wasn't as nervous about my wife being in the car, only since I make a complete ass of myself in her presence almost weekly daily.)  Jeff started us off up Alpharetta Hwy. just so we could feel the difference between the 3 and Speed 3; he pushed the car through the first 5 gears and up to around 70 really quickly.  Then I took over and proceeded to stall out about 5 times in the next 10 minutes on the drive back to the dealership.  And - I'm not gonna lie to you - there's nothing like the smell of burnt rubber up front while your wife is trying to keep her lunch down in the back.  On the flip side, once I got used to the clutch I was able to enjoy the drive, and it certainly was more fun than the 3.  More zoom-zoom.

So assuming I decide to pull the trigger on a Mazda, to stick or not to stick?  I'm pretty confident it'll only take me a few days to get used to driving a manual transmission... But do I really want one with Atlanta traffic the way it is?  Meanwhile, my wife has *never* driven a stick before.  I'm confident she'll pick it up as well, but I know she'd also rather not have to worry about it in the first place.  But if I decide not to go with the Speed 3, will I be disappointed with the ride in the 3?  Ah... decisions, decisions... 

Any ideas? Leave 'em here or email me at

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