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car review

2012 Mazda3 Sport

Hi guys: I'm looking into getting a new car in the next few weeks and am having a hard time finding a direction – too many different pulls. I'm an architect in my mid-30s, with no kids (yet) and have just started my own firm. So I'm drawn towards things that look reassuring and successful to prospective clients. However, since I have just started on my own, money (cash flow in particular) is a big consideration. Throw into that a need to go out to the country fairly often, some outdoor sports and the fact that I live downtown in Toronto and you end up with me – confused. I've been leaning towards compact SUVs, like the Tiguan, Outlander and Rogue, but I'm not sure if they look a little too much like grocery-getters. Any thoughts or suggestions? – Michael in Toronto

Vaughan: C'mon Mickey, get decisive. If you're going to fight it out in the tough world of architecture, with the economy turning down, you've got to get a grip on "too many different pulls."

Buying a car should be easy. Don't worry about "looking reassuring" – deal with the problem.

Cato: If Dr. Amalfi had counselled Tony Soprano like you're (amateur) psychoanalyzing poor Michael – essentially whacking him up-side the head and telling him "to buck up and get on with it" – then the Sopranos would have ended after one season, not eight. Whoa, tough.

Pep talks aside, it's substance about cars our man Mike needs. So put the 2011 Mazda3 on this shopping list – the 2011 four-door hatchback if he can find one, or move right along to the 2012s rolling into dealerships as we speak.

Vaughan: Well, a five-minute conversation with Cato would demonstrate more deep-seated psychological problems than I could imagine afflict our Mikey.

Cato: As with anyone who has studied economics, you have convinced yourself of your insights and wisdom regarding the human condition. Flawed thinking, of course.

Vaughan: You didn't let me finish. Cato, your point about the Mazda3 is, surprisingly, right on. The Mazda3 hatchback should be in the mix.

I had Mazda Canada price out three deals in the summer and one was a 48-month lease at $212.23 a month. Even an architect without much work can afford $200 a month as a business expense.

Cato: That was then. With 2012 Mazda3s being unloaded at dealers right now, any remaining 2011s are going to be a steal. What's more, Mazda Canada has just announced a $600 price reduction on the base Mazda3 – while adding more content, all for $15,595 to start.

Vaughan: Unfortunately, Mazda's dead in the water sales-wise. I think it's about the goofy front end styling on an otherwise terrific little car, the Mazda3. Thankfully, they've changed the front end for 2012.

Cato: And, Mike, if you want a responsive and fuel-efficient four-banger, the mid-level Mazda3 for 2012 has what Mazda is calling SkyActiv powertrain technology – a new, strong engine and a choice of a snappy manual gearbox or a new automatic. I want you in a 2012 GS-SKY Sport hatch with the new powertrain – $19,995. You'll love the car and your clients will love you.

Vaughan: Let's take a look at Ford, Mazda's former partner until Ford cruelly dumped them. There's Ford's Escape at fire-sale prices on a model to be replaced next year.

The Escape, a very competent little station wagon, starts at less than $20,000. With various sales sweeteners out there now, the savvy buyer might lop $2,250 off that price by adding up the $1,000 Costco discount, a $500 factory-to-dealer rebate and the $750 No Extra Charge Winter Safety Package.

An Escape for less than $18,000 plus taxes and fees? With all these ridiculous giveaways, it's possible.

Cato: Mike, just keep in mind that a truly all-new Escape is coming next year, one using the same platform as the recently introduced Ford Focus.

Okay, a last option: the Nissan Rogue ($23,648 base). I know it's the most popular vehicle with women in America, but it's also a huge deal, very functional and fantastically fuel-efficient.

If you show up in a Rogue, you're clients will think you've embraced your feminine side – probably not a bad thing in this day and age. Nissan Canada's offer is an impressive $4,000 non-stackable factory-to-dealer discount that expires Oct 31.

Vaughan: So a Mazda hatch, an aging but cheap Ford and a fuel-efficient Nissan crossover – and one which shows we actually read the letter.

We have Mikey zoned in. An architect these days better be. I say Mikey should go with the Mazda. Yes, you could probably design a better front end on the thing, but it is a solid little car that will get you through the difficult days ahead.

Cato: You're such a comfort, Dr. Vaughan. Time to hang up a shingle and get paid for your counselling. That said, I like the Mazda for Mike, too. Maybe I have lost my mind.



2012 Mazda3 GS-SKY Sport

2011 Ford Escape XLT Manual 2.5L

2011 Nissan Rogue S FWD

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Height (mm)





2.0-litre four-cylinder

2.5-litre four-cylinder

2.5-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

155/148 lb-ft

171/171 lb-ft

170/175 lb-ft

Drive system

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive


six-speed manual

five-speed manual


Curb weight (kg)




Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

7.8 city/5.1 highway

9.1 city/7.1 highway

9.0 city/7.0 highway

Base price (MSRP)




Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.