DadLabs Car Reviews: 2013 Mazda3 SKYACTIV

Ever start seriously dating somebody, only to discover that they have an even more attractive younger sibling?

That’s the dynamic I was afraid of when a the bright red 2103 Mazda3 with SkyActiv was delivered to my driveway for review.

You see, my daily driver is a 2011 Mazda3. No SkyActiv. Grey. And not recently washed.

Would this new iteration make me fall out of love?

I can tell you why Mazda3 owners are such a devoted lot — the car consistently delivers great driving fun for the buck without sacrificing practicality, and the 2013 continues in that vein. The steering feel and handling make you feel completely connected with the road. The brakes are predictable and grippy. The acceleration isn’t neck snapping, but it’s still fun.

The new SkyActiv technology really helps with improved economy. I’ve only managed an average of about 24 mpg on my 2011 3 — partially because of a rather heavy foot. The SkyAcvtiv version gets a predicted combined average of 33. That’s a 30%+ improvement over my observed mileage — which would translate into hundreds of dollars in annual fuel savings if my math serves me right. Major savings.

In my opinion, the 3 shines in practicality. Why do you need a bigger car, dad? I love pulling up into the carpool line every day for drop-off behind some mammoth SUV. And out pops 1 tiny kid. I haul three kids in my carpool daily (and I grow them big). They fit comfortably in the 3s back seat, and I love the clown car effect when they all pile out.

My test 3 really had me regretting the stripped down model I plonked for. I loved the keyless entry, heated seats, lane avoidance, and Tomtom powered touchscreen nav screen. The leather interior had a truly premium feel. Audi, who?

Did it make me fall out of love with my car? Well. I do love that mine is a stick, while my tester was a 6 speed auto. The manumatic was responsive, but I think the 3 is a car made to row your own gears. My 2.5l engine, though thirsty, is a little growlier than the Skyactiv 2.0l, which has a buzzier note. I like the flexibility that a hatchback brings and think the hatch is more fun looking than the buttoned down sedan.

I did like that red paint and all the bells and whistles on the Skyactiv, but I’m still in love with my 3.

Don’t get me wrong. This new version is a great option for families that don’t want to give up on driving fun. Take me word for it — it’s practical and fun — awesome at this price point. And now you’ll save a little more at the pump.

Editor’s note: This is a first in a new series of car reviews going up on DadLabs. Look for more in the future! Cars are provided at no cost for our review.