For a long time, I’ve been carrying a torch for a car that I loved and lost. It was a tomato red 1992 Mazda Precidia GS, and it instilled in me an endless affection for all things hatchback. How many vehicles can not only accommodate a loveseat in the back, deliver many delicious thrills per kilometre while quaffing hardly any fuel? It’s a wonder everyone isn’t driving one.
Oh, it was a sad day when my beloved Precidia failed the accursed DriveClean in 2004, and we had to part ways. By then, Mazda had already come out with the Mazda3, but I only dared to admire it from afar. Although it was touted as a replacement for the Protégé and Mazda323, I also saw an uncanny resemblance to my Precidia. Everything I saw and heard about it – the brash look, the generous hatch, the exuberant performance – reminded me of my dear departed ride.
But now that ten years had gone by – and this was the third generation Mazda3 – I was ready to sweep in behind the wheel. And from the instant I laid eyes on the dazzling Soul Red Mica model, I knew we were in for an enchanting week. I eased myself into the leather driver’s seat, and stretched out. Although I’m not a tall person, I like to pretend I am – you know, have my reach extend beyond my grasp. And the Mazda co-operated nicely. In fact, as soon as I turned it on, the Mazda seemed happy to see me – a small screen arose under my nose, a heads-up display that announced “Mazda 3”, in case I had any doubt. The heads-up display also displayed the speed, navigational directions and let me know if I was drifting from the lane.
It was like the Precidia was all grown up. The signet was now a swan, brandishing an array of special features. A large analogue tach was front and centre, with nary a speedometer in sight, with the speed digitally displayed, both on the dash as well as the afore-mentioned heads-up display. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to get used to.
And oh, those good folks at Mazda were catering to my knob fetish – a large cockpit controller knob handily managed all the navi, bluetooth and entertainment components. And when I wanted to search around the dial, there was even a virtual knob to twirl on the easy-to-see seven-inch LCD screen!
It was all rather sophisticated, where the Precidia had been somewhat louche. And so I whisked my cousin out for afternoon tea at the Robinson Bray tea room in Streetsville, and here’s where I could really see the difference between this Mazda and my Precidia. It was so much cushier and luxe inside – as smooth and quiet on the highway as the ‘burbs. And of course, my Precidia didn’t have bluetooth or navi – I easily paired up my phone to listen to my library of tunes, which I like to think of as the soundtrack of my life. Good thing that by then, I’d become accustomed to watching the digital readout, as the Mazda liked to sprint ahead.
After stuffing ourselves with sandwiches, scones and oolong tea, we cruised around the curves through the hoity toity hoods along Mississauga Road. The hoity toity love to make it hard to speed, hence the sharp angles in the road. We didn’t mind, admiring the stately mansions, swanning around the corners.
So the Mazda3 is a more genteel ride than the Precidia, which was lower, stiffer and liked to snarl out of the gate. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s that much more civilized. Even with an automatic, the 2.5 litre engine is rowdy and reprobate, and needs to be reined in. But thanks to the Skyactiv technology, it’s a miser on fuel, which is especially welcome at this time of record setting gas prices.
I still miss my Precidia, and always will. But it’s nice to know the spirit lives on in the Mazda3.