Cars have changed a lot over the last 20 years to make driving easier, safer and more convenient. Wind-up windows are now obsolete, brakes designed to operate on drums have all but disappeared, and even the cheapest cars now come fitted with disc systems that not only offer far more superior stopping power, but also feature anti-lock equipment that cuts the risk of accidents by greatly reducing the risk of skidding. Additional gadgetry has been introduced to save embarrassment by preventing the car from rolling backwards during hill starts and electric switchgear looks to be well on the way to taking over the role of the handbrake.
There’s no doubt that the modern car cossets its driver in all manner of ways and keeps them ever better informed during time spent at the wheel. Yet for all that, it is still possible to get the odd surprise occurrence, and the appearance of a little spanner symbol on the instrument cluster of our Mazda3 gave me some cause for concern. What did it mean? Had the engine oil suddenly dropped below the recommended level, or was I being reminded that the time was approaching for a visit to the service bay? A look at the dipstick revealed the oil level to be fine and the fact that the handbook described the symbol as lighting up only when the next service was imminent only added to my confusion, because the milometer reading was well within the scheduled servicing interval.
So a visit to my nearest Mazda dealership was called for, and happily, the mystery was soon resolved. According to the particularly helpful service manager, it seems that as well as monitoring servicing requirements, the gadgetry on the Mazda3 also allows the spanner symbol to be programmed to light up as a reminder that the wheels can be changed around periodically in order to prevent irregular tyre wear. In this case, the symbol was set to illuminate at 6,250 miles, but as the service manager explained, the reminder can be adjusted to personal preference. While this might be only a minor detail, I am impressed that this model can be tailored to suit the preferences of its owner in areas other than seat and steering, in-car entertainment and climate control.
With this issue resolved, I’m also continuing to be impressed by the higher level of fit and finish achieved in this latest generation Mazda and changing handbrake operation from a traditional lever to an electric switch has freed up valuable extra space for a bigger and much more useful centre console box, complete with a double drinks container and neat sliding cover. Combined with more precise switchgear and clear instrumentation, detail changes like this have a remarkable effect on ambience, and take the interior to a level not far short of what would be expected in a premium car. It’s also good to see that as well as having two USB sockets, the dashboard still includes a CD slot for those that havenít quite reached the digital age yet.
Date arrived 31st October 2016
Fuel economy 74.3mpg (combined) 62.2mpg (on test)
It’s still possible to enjoy CD recordings.
Glovebox illumination would be useful.