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Review: 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on April 19, 2019 by itnerd

I’ve come to the end of my review of the 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD and this is a car that I had to try hard to find things that were wrong with it. Mazda clearly put a lot of time and effort to come up with a compact car that will rise up the sales charts. The interior is next level. Actually, it’s beyond next level as it impressed everyone who saw it. The exterior is a head turner, the tech on board is impressive, and will stand out in a crowded field of compact cars. The engine is a willing partner to the all wheel drive system and the latter makes the Mazda3 almost unique in the compact car segment. I say almost unique because the Subaru Impreza is the only compact car that I can think of that comes with all wheel drive. But the Impreza doesn’t match the interior of the Mazda3, nor does it match the engine and transmission combo. And when it comes to the usual suspects in the compact car space like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, and the like, it’s simply heads and shoulders above those vehicles and everything else in the segment.

My final fuel economy was 9 L/100KM’s which I got in a mix of city roads and highways, not to mention a lot of rush hour traffic. That’s pretty good given that there’s all wheel drive on board which usually impacts fuel economy. Not to mention that I wasn’t exactly driving in a fuel efficient manner. Clearly Mazda has got that part nailed.

The Mazda3 GT AWD goes for $32,395 including freight and taxes. But you can get a Mazda3 for $18,000 without all wheel drive with lots of options all the way up to the GT AWD trim level. Quite frankly, Mazda has a winner on its hands here. If you’re in the market for a compact car, you should consider Mazda3 a must test drive.

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Review: 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on April 18, 2019 by itnerd

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.

Review: 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD – Part 3

Posted in Products with tags on April 17, 2019 by itnerd

The interior of the Mazda3 GT AWD is a class above with a few minor issues that don’t detract from that class above feeling. Let me walk you through it and you’ll see why I feel that way.

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The drivers seat is a comfortable place to be. It’s leather, power adjustable in ten ways with two memory settings. While it could have a bit more bolstering in the lower part of the seat and be slightly wider, you’ll find no issues with it.

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The mirror, door locks, and window controls are lit and easy to reach. There’s a leather and piano black finish along with silver trim around the speakers that gives the interior an upscale feel.

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Here you can see the buttons for the electronic overseers as well as the driver seat memory settings. You can also see the pedals and the dead pedals.

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There’s also this storage area for coins under the buttons for the seat settings as well as the button to pop the trunk.

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Here’s a shot of the dash which when you look at it, you really get the feeling that this is a very modern, clean and upscale design.

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The steering wheel is on the thick side. I have to admit that even though I have large hands, it didn’t really feel comfortable to me for most of the week that I had it. I did eventually get used to it though. It is heated and has all the controls that you need to use the infotainment system and cruise control. There are also paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

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The gauge cluster is made up of two real gauges on the outside, and a TFT screen in the middle which you can flip through a series of screens that allow you to get the information that you need. It’s generally bright and easy to read, though I did note that it is sometimes prone to glare.

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Moving to the center of the dash, there’s a 8.8″ widescreen for the infotainment system. The screen is bright and very, very sharp. I’ll have more on this and the whole infotainment system tomorrow.

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Below the screen are the controls for the dual zone HVAC system which includes the controls for the heated front seats and the heated steering wheel. Right below that is a USB port to plug your phone into.

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Right under the HVAC controls is a cubby that also contains a pair of cupholders. I have to admit that when I first saw this, I was dubious that it would pass my Venti Starbucks drink test. But….

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….. It passed that test with ease.

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Here you can see the leather wrapped gear shift, the redesigned HMI Commander Switch, as well as the parking brake, auto hold switch and the sport switch on the left. You can also see the fingerprints that tend to get left behind on a piano black finish like this.

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The armrest as a storage area that contains a USB port and a 12V outlet.

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There’s a decent sized glovebox.

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You also get a decent sized powered moonroof.

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The back seats are a decent place to be for two adults as I tested that with two six foot tall adults during the week I had the Mazda3. Three adults back here is a non-starter because of the tunnel in middle of the floor.

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There’s a pair of cupholders in an armrest that flips down from middle of the back seats.

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The trunk is deeper than I expected. You could likely fit a couple of bodies back here. Not that I would advocate that.

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But I will advocate the use of the trunk for your grocery shopping as it held our shopping with ease and with space left over.

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There’s a handle on the trunk that allows you to close the trunk without getting your hands dirty.

Overall the interior is first class in every way possible. Mazda really did a great job putting the interior together as it it really impressed anyone who saw it. The interior is also very quiet. More so than I expected it to be. I should also note that there’s very good vision in every direction for the driver. No rattles, squeaks, or other annoyances were noted during my week with the Mazda3.

Tomorrow I will talk about the technology in the Mazda3 which has made a massive transformation for 2019. Stay tuned for that.

Review: 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on April 16, 2019 by itnerd

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This is the 2.5l Skyactiv-G 4 cylinder engine that powers the Mazda3 GT AWD. It puts out 186 horsepower and 186 pound feet of torque. Now this engine combined with a 6 speed automatic transmission will move this Mazda3 GT AWD with authority. It’s not head snapping fast. It’s more like the speed builds in a wave fast. Regardless of what you call it, you won’t be complaining about acceleration as you’ll have zero issues getting off the line or you need more power to pass a transport truck on the highway. And not once this week did I ever touch the sport mode switch as I had no need for it.

The six speed transmission that’s mated to this engine is well sorted and always seems to be in the right gear to power all four wheels. In fact the iActiv AWD system is one reason in my opinion that the Mazda3 GT AWD is able to get the power to the road. It constantly monitors the road and shunts power to where it is needed. Not to mention it will assist in keeping you shiny side up when driving in inclement weather. The system worked transparently and without drama during the week that I had the Mazda3.

As for handling, I’ll deal with the elephant in the room. Mazda swapped out the independent rear suspension for a torsion beam suspension in this iteration of the Mazda3. That’s caused the Internet to explode with rage because the belief was a torsion beam suspension was going to make this new Mazda3 handle poorly. And as a result, the Internet thought that Mazda had lost the plot when it came to making cars that handle exceptionally well.

The Internet was wrong.

This Mazda3 carves corners, is extremely agile, and generally handles insanely well. It’s everything that you expect a Mazda when it comes to handling. In fact I seriously doubt that anyone who test drives it could tell that it didn’t have an independent rear suspension, But in typical Mazda fashion, they didn’t stop there. Mazda brings G-Vectoring Control Plus to the party as it helps you to carve corners like you’re on rails. The ride is solid without beating you up. And the steering is sharp and direct. I will also give Mazda credit retaining a lot of road feel in the Mazda3 so that I could feel what the car was doing. The only catch to that is that on rougher roads, the Mazda3 might not be your cup of tea as the vibrations from hard bumps may turn you off a bit. You might want to include some rough roads on your test drive to see if you find this to be an issue.

The brake pedal is firm but easy to modulate. The accelerator pedal is easy to modulate as well. In terms of fuel economy, I am currently getting 8.5 L per 100 KMs which is great as I am driving in city and highway traffic, most of which is in rush hour, and I am making no attempt to drive in any way that saves fuel.

Tomorrow I will discuss the interior which can be described in two words: Class Above. Tune in tomorrow to find out why.

Review: 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on April 15, 2019 by itnerd

I usually don’t start a car review with a conclusion. But for one I will. The 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD is going to turn heads, generate lots of traffic into Mazda dealerships, and move a lot of copies of this car for Mazda. Thus this review will cover why all of that is very likely to happen. But let’s start with the looks of the Mazda3 first:

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The look of the Mazda3 is just head turning regardless of what angle you look at it from. The Kodo design language clearly works here and you’ll be getting a lot of attention wherever you drive.

My review of the 2019 Mazda3 GT AWD is made up of five parts:

  • Exterior
  • Engine, transmission, handling, fuel economy, and driving comfort
  • Interior
  • Technology in the vehicle
  • Wrap up

The next part of this review will cover the engine, transmission and driving comfort. Seeing as this is a compact car with all wheel drive, there will be a lot to cover. Tune in tomorrow to see what’s on tap.

 

Review: top4cus Genuine Leather Apple Watch Band

Posted in Products with tags on March 15, 2019 by itnerd

I am always on the lookout for Apple Watch bands of different sorts so that I can always have the look regardless of the situation. The band that I am going to talk about today is one that I got from Amazon called the top4cus Genuine Leather Band. I got mine in brown as illustrated by this picture:

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An examination of the band revealed no quality issues. It was well stitched and well put together. There is a faint leather smell and it felt like a quality product. The lugs do have a bit more play than I am used when they are slid into your Apple Watch. But it isn’t objectionable. The clasp doesn’t feel cheap either and it all adds up to give you a very upscale look.

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It looks good with business casual clothing, suits and ties and even stuff that’s more causal. In short, it fits a number of use cases. When I first got it, it was pretty stiff. But that is typical of leather bands as you have to wear them for anything from a few days to a couple of weeks before they break in and it becomes comfortable to wear. And that was the case here.

People who see this band will think you spent the sort of insane money that Apple wants for their Apple Watch bands. But in reality, you will have only spent $20.99 CDN on Amazon for one. It you want to up your Apple Watch band game, the top4cus Genuine Leather Apple Watch Band is very much worth a look.

 

Review: Linksys Shield

Posted in Products with tags on March 12, 2019 by itnerd

Having WiFi everywhere is a great thing. It allows you to surf for all sorts of information wherever you are in your home. Except if you have kids. Or anyone else who really should not be surfing for anything that they want as it is easy to get in trouble by surfing the Internet. However Linksys can help you with that. Assuming that you have a Linksys Tri-Band Velop mesh WiFi system which I have previously reviewed, they can hook you up Linksys Shield to keep those who use the Internet in your home from going to places that they shouldn’t.

So what is Linksys Shield? Linksys Shield is a premium subscription software service for users to block unwanted content and provide an additional layer of digital protection for your connected devices and family. It’s powered by anti-virus company Trend Micro which means that it will always be up to date.

Key features include:

  • Content filtering flags sites that contain adult, violent or unwanted content and allows you to choose which types of sites your kids can visit.
  • Advanced browsing protection by checking the sites you visit against a database of millions of known threats, can help prevent you and your family from unsuspectingly visiting malicious sites.
  • Age-based content filtering, ability to schedule screen time and pause the Internet on specific devices.

Now the thing to keep in mind that you have to be running the Velop Tri-Band mesh WiFi system. And Linksys Shield is enabled via a software update that you should already have. If you don’t have this functionality, do a software update and see if it pops up. If you own any other Linksys gear, you need not apply. At least not yet one but one would hope that this functionality comes to other Linksys products in the future.

So, how well does Linksys Shield work? Well, I got some help from some single male friends, and some other friends in the tech industry who helped me to compile a list of adult sites and “grey” sites like sites with questionable content like illegal downloads. I then set up a pair  of Linksys Tri-Band Velop nodes and made sure that they had up to date software installed on them. Setting up Linksys Shield is child’s play using the Linksys app. And one thing that I noticed immediately was that you could set up restrictions based on age. Specifically:

  • 0-8 years
  • 9-12 years
  • 13-17 years
  • 18+

The 18+ setting permits all content to come through, except malicious websites. Which in my testing included some of the adult websites on my test list. Everything else gets progressively more restrictive blocking items such as politics, social media, adult sites, etc as the age group gets younger. You can also personalize things by blocking indvidual types of content within those categories, or even specific websites that you deem inappropriate for your family. I then threw the list that I compiled at Linksys Shield and nothing made it through on any setting except the 18+ setting where some things that should have been blocked like sites with malicious content were blocked. Also I noted no false positives when I tried to go to sites that I was hoping that would be mistakenly flagged as being as forbidden by Linksys Shield. That’s more important as a content filtering system that generates false positives is going to get turned off eventually.

The bottom line is that Linksys Shield works and works well. A parental Control Subscription is $4.99 USD per month or one year for $49.99 USD. If your Velop Tri-Band units are up to date, you will have this functionality today. If you have a Linksys Velop Tri-Band mesh WiFi system and you have kids, consider this a must get.