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View Full Version : A Pair of 3's - X3 versus Mazda3 (long post)


Martlet66
01-13-2008, 06:44 PM
I now own a 2007 X3 with 7,000 miles on it and a new 2008 Mazda3 GT and drive both often. For what itís worth, here is my comparison of the two cars:

The two are surprisingly very closely optioned. Each has a sunroof, leather, high quality stereo, four doors & hatchback, HID lamps, and automatic transmission with manumatic shifting.

Driving Experience: The two are completely different. The X3 is obviously the heavier car, the noise isolation is far better, the steering precision is outstanding. The only downside to driving the X3 is the hobbyhorsing and/or harsh ride on certain pavement types. The X3 feels refined, nearly silent and luxurious. I love the sound of the 6 cylinder when you step into the throttle.

The Mazda3, on the other hand, is so lightweight it feels like a toy. Itís a blast to rail around on highway ramps. Steering feedback is immediate and precise. There is no body roll at all, and while it has a firm ride, itís actually somewhat smoother riding than the X3. The engine noise is ok unless you nail the throttle, then itís a bit harsh sounding.

In snow, itís no contest. The X3 is a champ. The Mazda3 is a chump (on stock tires).

In gas mileage, the Mazda3 obviously wins. About 24 MPG versus the X3ís 19 MPG in the same driving conditions.

Thereís no contest on the interior finishes. The X3 exudes quality and luxury. The Mazda3 quality of construction is fine; while the materials arenít up to luxury standards, itís no stripper, either. Even though it may have approximately the same options, you can tell where the money was saved on the Mazda. For example, only the driverís window has one-touch operation, and only to lower the window. And only the low beams are HID. (huh?)

So, in what ways does a $22,000 car beat a $45,000 car? Interestingly, there are a couple of things that the Mazda3 does better than the BMW. Most obvious would have to be the automatic transmission. Not to beat on that poor dead horse any more, it is truly a shame that a 5 speed AT in a cheap Japanese car outperforms a 6 peed AT in a BMW costing TWICE as much. The tranny in the Mazda is simply transparent. You donít notice it shifting, yet the power seems to be exactly where you need it.

Even with the latest update, the X3 transmission seems to run too high on the revs while upshifting. I havenít had the hesitation issue that others have complained about.

The trip computer/stereo ergonomics in the Mazda3 are better. Iím sorry, but the engineers who designed the BMW computer/nav/stereo system should be shown out the back door, never to return. The Mazda3 gives you instantaneous gas consumption figures and two trip odometers. The stereo just makes sense.

At the same time, a $300 Garmin has far, far better nav ergonomics than the BMW nav system. If you are thinking about buying a BMW, DONíT PAY FOR THE GPS NAV. It is a waste of money. I canít tell you how many times I have ended up cursing the Teutonic torture device that is the BMW nav/computer/stereo system while simply trying to find an address that I know exists. And Iím tech savvy. I pity the poor folks who donít ďgetĒ the logic behind tech systems. The BMW nav/computer/stereo must be simply baffling to them.

So, you may ask, which car do I like better? Of course, it's the X3. But do keep in mind that these are different tools for different jobs. The Mazda3 really is more of a toy. Fun to play with, great gas mileage, perfect for short trips around town, but not the tool for three or four adults to travel in.

If the BMW X3 transmission issues were resolved, I would almost call it the perfect car for my needs, even with its ergonomic quirks. It is bigger, faster, smoother (mostly), relatively efficient, and an enjoyable experience every time I get in it.

Except for the over-revving transmission, which is more of an annoyance than a hazard, so far...

bmwadam
01-13-2008, 07:24 PM
Mazda3 is a blast! Great car for the money. So in this respect it will always "beat" the BMW in overall value. 20k v. 40??? Plus a cool driving exp.? C'mon! But it is apples to oranges when compared with the X3. Now if you compare it to the e90, well that is when the BMW really stands out... but again at a much higher price point, so it should.

The X3 feels dated b/c it is built off of the e46 chasis (Still after all this time one of the bests in the buisness, but interior styling does feel dated) which dates back to 99. Your problems with the interface and Nav are not going to be fixed untill about 2010 or so when the second gen X3 is released. But I bought nearly a 4 year old e83 for a great price as a CPO car with a 6spd (I have no use for autos). And it does not have nav, my garmin takes care of me just fine.

AzNMpower32
01-13-2008, 07:42 PM
I couldn't agree with you less on the Mazda3. I had a better comparison to do when we had the Honda Civic EX and I got a Mazda3 as a loaner (X3 in for service) for a weekend.

Clearly, the Mazda3 was built for kids who have spiky product in their hair, listen to loud music, and wear their hats backwards.

First off, the gauges were illegible. I never liked recessed gauges nor downward pointing needles, and this has both. And its bathed in an absurd mix of blue and orange at night. One color please! Oh, and the fuel gauge isn't linear.

Then there's the controls. The steering's good, I'll say that. But the throttle and brakes feel like an on/off switch. I guess this must be a Mazda thing, since my dad's MX-5 has poor throttle calibration as well. At least the ABS doesn't kick in too early (like it does on the Civic).

And then there's the rear suspension. God knows who designed it, but please, better grip would be appreciated. It only takes a mid-corner liftoff on a fast sweeper to lose the rear end. There's no finesse to it at all. Hit the brake pedal mid corner, and you WILL slide sideways into the guardrail. Sure, it may be really cool to show off "hey I can drift in a front-drive car" or perhaps improve track times on the auto-x event, but this behaviour can get hairy if it's snowing or wet. I had an S-curve on-ramp and I had to slow down for the final bend before the actual merge; when I hit the switch called a brake pedal, I slid sideways and had to seriously countersteer to stay in line. Thank god there was no one around. Plus, it feels unsettled on backroads, where broken pavement and undulations make you slow down due to fear of oversteer. And should you be brave enough to mash the go pedal around a slow corner, there's a bit of torque steer.

Now you might say "well, hitting the brakes while cornering is a no-no anyways because it shifts the weight forward, causing the rear end to lose traction". And you're right. But the Civic doesn't do this, and nor does any other BMW or Lexus. A good chassis can hide minor mistakes. Combined with the useless brake pedal, the Mazda3's handling is great, but a bit immature. Some negative camber in the rear might help too.

The engine and drivetrain are acceptable. The 2.3 litre is fairly powerful, but keep in mind, this pushes it into the realm of midsize family sedan engines like the Accord, Camry, etc.. And as a result, fuel consumption is as high, if not higher, than the 4 cyl engines from those larger cars. The Aisin automatic gearbox works well, though geared a tad tall.

Overall, I give it a B. If the Honda Civic is the best overall vehicle, then the Mazda3 is definitely the most exciting for 4 door compact sedans.

UncleJ
01-14-2008, 12:48 PM
In my view a better comp would be the CX7, similar size to the X3. Going the spiked hair route it would be hard to beat a WRXsti, literally! There are a lot of capable machines out there in the X3 size and performance range now. I would be looking at the Nissan Rogue, the Infinity EX35, the new Forester turbo, and yes, even the WRXsti, if only to take it for a long test run. IMHO the best choice is a base Cayenne. Lots of great standard features and a very strong 290 hp V6 with bigger brakes. Even a stick if you want one.

Kzang
01-14-2008, 12:59 PM
In my view a better comp would be the CX7, similar size to the X3. Going the spiked hair route it would be hard to beat a WRXsti, literally! There are a lot of capable machines out there in the X3 size and performance range now. I would be looking at the Nissan Rogue, the Infinity EX35, the new Forester turbo, and yes, even the WRXsti, if only to take it for a long test run. IMHO the best choice is a base Cayenne. Lots of great standard features and a very strong 290 hp V6 with bigger brakes. Even a stick if you want one.

Uhh he doesn't have the cx7, he has the mazda 3 which is why he compared it since he drove both cars.
:)

UncleJ
01-14-2008, 01:08 PM
Hey, you're right! My bad. Sorry about that. I guess I should have said that IMHO the CX7 would probably be a better comp than the Mazda3 since it was closer to the X3 in size. Thanks for catching that.

Andrewinla
01-14-2008, 07:59 PM
Nice to see comparisons even if they are apples to oranges.
I bet with snow tires the Mazda may be ok, clearance would be the only issue.

Maybe I'll do a comparison of the X3 vs the M Coupe.

Martlet66
01-14-2008, 08:30 PM
Interesting points, all. My point wasn't really to compare the two vehicles against each other. I did say in my original post that they were two very different cars with two very different target audiences. My main point was that I found it surprising that the Mazda did a couple of things much better than the BMW, at half the price. Which is not to say that I prefer the Mazda. The X3 is a much better car in so many ways and definitely my favorite.

Andrewinla
01-15-2008, 12:12 AM
To me the Mazda 3 looks very much like the BMW 1 series hatchback.
The Mazdaspeed3 is an amazing deall though!

snb3
01-15-2008, 03:52 AM
my cats faster than my turtle

snb3
01-15-2008, 03:56 AM
My Garmin 370 got me lost on my way from Munich to a small city in Northern Italy 3 days ago.
As I type this in Florence (on ED right now), Garmin (maybe other GPS) has trouble finding addresses not on major hwys or streets. My hotel in Kastleruth, Italy was on a pedestrian street & Garmin had us driving around in circles for 2 hrs. I eventually found my way using posted signs.

The mileage on the trip computer was pretty accurate.