Automatic for the people

Four by four for four

DAVID HASSALL

Went out to dinner with friends and of course I drove. They were disappointed I didnít still have the Genesis Iíd been driving the previous week, but that was nothing compared with the disappointment they felt squeezed into the back seat of the CX-3.

For the return trip my tall mate moved into the front, but the girls said they still had to angle sideways to fit their legs in. Not what youíd expect of a high-riding SUV, even one as small as this.

Perhaps they should just take it like a man and spread Ďem!

Declaration of support for the auto-loving public

ONE topic that seems to separate me from my colleagues is the subject of manual gearboxes. While my fellow scribes wax lyrical about self-shifters and bemoan any new model that arrives without one, Iím a huge fan of modern automatics and actually prefer them by and large.

Donít get me wrong; give me a race circuit or the opportunity for a quick fang on a challenging road and Iím all for a manual, but for regular driving on our increasingly clogged and overly regulated roads, I just donít see the point of working a clutch and gearbox when an electronically controlled auto does it so well. Theyíre simply more efficient.

Recently I was lucky enough to spend a night with the editorís MX-5 and, while the commute home did little to reveal its COTY-winning delights, an hour cruising (and cutting loose for a while) around the largely deserted and twisty mountain roads where I live showed what a joy such a pure sports car can be. And part of that joy was certainly snicking through the gears, reminding myself of the challenge and satisfaction that comes from a bit of heel-andtoe and double-declutching, even if itís hardly necessary these days.

Nevertheless, Iím happy enough to be back in my CX-3 for the daily grind, appreciative of the clever electronics that seem to know exactly what gear it needs for any given situation. Thereís rarely a moment I question its choices, and on those occasions a quick prod of the throttle is generally enough to rouse the little SUV from its slumber and quickly snap down a cog or two.

I remain constantly in awe of the computer logic that takes so much information Ė your driving style, throttle inputs, braking, lateral body movement, inclines and declines Ė and selects the gear you would have if it was a manual. How can you argue with that?

Whatís more, it frees my left foot to use on the brake, so I can balance the brake and throttle, making progress smooth and jerk-free (though Ponch and co are probably calling me exactly that right now). Some cars donít like you using the brake and throttle at the same time and will almost shut down to ponder it, but the Mazda doesnít mind at all.

About the only thing I donít appreciate with the Mazdaís six-speed auto is the Sport function, which I find too aggressive.

It holds the gears too long, so the willing engine revs its head off while you wait for it to just calm down. Itís probably ideal for a fang in the mountains, but who wants to do that in a little SUV?

MAZDA CX-3 S-TOURING AWD

Date acquired: November 2015 Price as tested: $31,324 This month: 1721km @ 8.5L/100km Overall: 4653km @ 8.5L/100km a m Overa