Road trips are the best way to discover new destinations while making the journey part of the adventure. On our recent Mazda3 road trip to Thousand Oaks, thanks to Mazda USA, we hiked to a waterfall and rode horses to majestic peaks. We did it in style and on the cheap with the Mazda3. As a small family, we don’t need a ton of storage space or extra seating. In the Mazda3, I could park on a dime, the mileage was fantastic, and the comfort was exceptional. The 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring is a great option for small families or singles.
We started our journey in Playa Del Rey and took the 405 freeway to the 101. It’s about a 50-mile drive but traffic can be stop-and-go if you leave at the wrong time and I worried about tirelessly shifting the 6-speed manual transmission. It’s such a smooth shift, though, that I almost welcomed the task to keep me alert.
The Mazda3 is one of my favorite compact cars due to its comfy seats and quiet ride. I didn’t feel like I was low to the ground and even after an hour of driving, my legs weren’t sore from being cramped. Athena was in her booster seat and she was sleeping within the first ten minutes of the drive. She could rest her head against the seat and it cradled her better than any other vehicle. Her head wasn’t bobbing or falling low against the door. When she was awake, she pulled down the arm rest with cup holders and played with her toys. It was the perfect spot for a bottle of water as well. In her booster seat, there are no cup holders. It’s ideal to have them in the back seat. With that in mind, it’s also helpful to have leather seats. They can get hot in the California sunshine but they are easy to wipe off. Athena’s feet were dusty and it got on the back of the seat. It came off with one swipe of a wet cloth because of the leather. Kids, even princesses like Athena, like to snack and they get dirty. Leather seats are a necessity for us.
We arrived at our hotel, The Courtyard Marriott, in Thousand Oaks. Although there were plenty of parking spaces, they were made for compact cars. With the help of the backup cameras and the size of the car, I easily backed into a spot with minimal effort. I noticed a few larger vehicles had to park at the end of the lot where the spaces were bigger, but we parked with ease.
The next morning, we put the sunroof back and the windows down as we rode toward our hike to Paradise Falls. The Mazda3 handled like a high-end sports car, yet it’s fuel efficient. It has G-Vectoring Control, which helps improve handling and reduces driver fatigue. It made driving on the winding back roads fun. I would never drive recklessly, but it’s nice to have a smooth ride with precise handling and quick acceleration.
We left two big glasses filled with iced water in the center console for our return from Paradise Falls. The mechanical handbrake has been replaced in the Mazda3 with an electronic parking brake that takes up much less space in the center console, leaving you with room for what’s important.
Our last Mazda3 road trip stop in Thousand Oaks was at Rocking K Horse Rentals. After horseback riding, we were heading home so we already had the car packed with our suitcases and backpacks as well as a cooler full of food and drinks for an afternoon picnic. The 60/40 split fold-down rear seatbacks allowed us to fold down one section, leaving room for Athena in the back while giving us plenty of storage space for all of our stuff.
In the Mazda3, we got fuel-efficiency without sacrificing performance and style.We drove over 40 miles from Playa Del Rey to Thousand Oaks, another 40 miles diving around Thousand Oaks from waterfalls to horseback riding, and 40 more miles to make it home. Once you account for California stop-and-go traffic and multiple stops, you’d think we burned at least a tank of gas but we were still above half.
The 2016 Mazda3 is powerful yet fuel-efficient, sporty yet safe, and comfortable yet stylish. It’s a good fit for small families or singles and it made me see the benefits of driving a smaller vehicle.