Review: 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD – Part 4

If you’re looking for technology in the Mazda3 GT AWD, there’s a lot of it. Some of it which is really different. And some of it is new for 2019.

First let’s start with the driving experience. You get a proximity key with push button start. Thus all you have to do is press a button on the driver’s door handle. Well, it’s not a button. It’s more like a touch sensitive indent on the front door handle. And it took me a while to figure out how to use it because I didn’t read the manual. Specifically:

  • If the car is locked, grabbing the door handle will unlock the door.
  • If the car is unlocked, touching the indent will lock the door.

My challenge came when locking the door as grabbing the handle and touching the indent would not lock the door. Once I figured that out, it became second nature to me.

Once you get in, hit the start/stop button and drive away. When you’ve reached your destination, press the start/stop button to turn off the car. Then get out of the car, touch the indent on the door and walk away. You never need to pull out the key fob to do any of this. But the key fob does have the ability to lock and unlock the doors and it has the ever useful panic button. As an added bonus, it has a backup key inside the key fob should you need it. And you can set the car to auto lock if you so desire which will allow you to just walk away from the Mazda3.

Let’s go to the safety technology:

  • Blind Spot Monitoring: This system keeps an eye out for cars in your blind spots so that you don’t hit them when changing lanes. It works well as the area of detection was large enough to keep me safe, but not so large that it created false positives. One cool thing is that unlike a lot of systems which only work when the car is above a certain speed, this system seems to work all the time for an extra level of safety.
  • Lane Departure Warning With Lane Keep Assist: If you cross over into another lane, this system will buzz you on either the right or the left side. The buzz really gets your attention I must say. You can also set it to vibrate the steering wheel.
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert: If you back out of a parking space in a busy shopping mall and you have limited visibility to your left and right, you’ll love this system as you will be warned of any cars that cross into your path.
  • Rear Backup Sensors: The Mazda3 has sensors that help you to revers into a spot without hitting anything. And the Mazda3 is capable of stopping itself if you are about to revers into something.
  • Adaptive Front Lighting System and High Beam Control: I wrote about this previously and I have to admit that on some of the back roads that I drive at night, this feature comes in handy. I was always able to see what was in front of me clearly. One thing that I really appreciated was the fact that the LED headlights were very bright.
  • Radar Based Cruise Control: I really liked this feature as you can set the speed you want and the distance that you want to have between yourself and the car in front of you, and you can pretty much let it slow down and speed up depending on the conditions. It’s very handy on long highway drives.
  • Smart City Brake Support: Let’s say that you you do not react in time to a car that panic stops in front of you. This Mazda is capable of coming to a stop on it’s own, or slowing down to make the impact less severe. You can get more details on this system here.
  • Rear Backup Camera: The camera is a fisheye camera that has an impressive degree of clarity. You can see anything and everything that is behind you when you’re backing up and the camera is insanely clear. One thing to note is that the camera is exposed so that the potential exists for dirt to obscure the camera.
  • You get anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, and electronic brake force distribution. Plus you get hill launch assist which keeps you from rolling backwards when you’re on a hill.
  • Finally, you get dual front air bags, dual front side air bags, dual side air curtains and knee air bags.

The next piece of technology that stood out was this:

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The Mazda Active Driving Display is a heads up display that places everything from speed and blind spot monitoring info, to navigation and warning for the lane monitoring, and how close you are to the car in front of you. On top of that, the car is capable of reading speed limit and stop signs so that it can display them on this heads up display in color. It works very well with the only thing that I should mention is that polarized driving sunglasses will filter the display out. Thus choose your sunglasses carefully.

But Mazda has a new feature for 2019. Mazda has a new version of Mazda Connect. Here’s a look at the screen which is an all new 8.8″ super sharp widescreen, which for the record is not a touch screen. More on that in a second:

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The interface is clean and easy to understand. As you can see there’s a list of functions that you can scroll through. And it takes one only minutes to figure out. The screen is not touch sensitive so to interact with Mazda Connect, you have to use this:

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This is the HMI (Human Machine Interface) Commander Switch. It’s been redesigned and feels a lot better in the hand and becomes second nature to use after only a few uses. The logic behind forcing you to use the HMI Commander Switch rather than a touch screen is that it is way safer than a touch screen. And I would agree with that as I didn’t realize how distracting a touchscreen in a car is until I started using Mazda Connect. I say that because touchscreen usage while driving takes my attention from the road. But using the HMI Commander Switch for me is far less distracting.

Another feature is that you can set up either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to pop up automatically when a phone is plugged into the system. That’s a very cool feature as there are some who will just want to use either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto instead of Mazda Connect. And Mazda has fully leveraged the screen real estate for both Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Since I am typically on team iPhone, here’s what Apple CarPlay looks like:

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One other thing. this new version of Mazda Connect is fast. It’s fast on startup, it’s fast in terms of navigating it, it’s fast in terms of how the screen responds. It’s just plain fast. I was impressed as it was one of the fastest car infotainment systems that I have ever seen.

Mazda Connect comes with SiriusXM which include the following:

  • More room for song/artist/genre metadata.
  • Album art display.
  • Channel logos on Now Playing and Station List screens.
  • New SiriusXM features: TuneStart, TuneScan, and TuneMix.

On top of that, SiriusXM Traffic Plus is now onboard and it includes the following features:

  • Live Traffic: View traffic flow and incident information directly on the Mazda Navigation map. This feature is available in 20 different Canadian communities. It ties into the on board navigation system to allow it to better route you.
  • Weather: View Forecasts, Radar Maps, and Severe Weather Alerts.
  • Fuel Prices: Find the lowest fuel prices or the closest fuel stations and see the available fuel types.
  • Parking Information: Find parking locations, pricing, and hours of operation.
  • Sports: Follow your favorite teams sports with play-by-play details and game/event schedules.

SiriusXM Traffic Plus is free for five years. This is separate from the three month trial SiriusXM audio subscription.

The only hiccup that I noted with this new version of Mazda Connect was that if I used Apple CarPlay, it would disable the ability fo the Mazda3 to display traffic signs either on the Mazda Active Driving Display or in the instrument cluster. I am not sure if that is a bug or by design. But other than that, I couldn’t find any other oddities. I will be doing a separate story on the new Mazda Connect so that you can see how much it has changed.

A 12 speaker Bose audio system is on board. It impressed my wife who usually isn’t impressed by many car stereo systems as she is a classically trained pianist and takes audio seriously. My wife compared this sound system to one that was a $4000 option in a $75000 SUV we recently spent time in which is great company for Mazda to be in. My new audio torture playlist which includes LookLA, Ruelle, Snoh Aalegra, SAHED, Astrud Gilberto, Jorja Smith, Kali Uchis, 10,000 Maniacs, Death Cab For Cutie, Chicago, Röyksopp, and Thutmose & NoMBe sounded amazing on this system and the one thing that stood out was that Blue Lights by Jorja Smith sounded amazing as the stereo separation that the song has was next level on this audio system.

The final part of this review will tie up some loose ends and I’ll give you my final verdict. Watch for it tomorrow.

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