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Thread: Looking at a Mazda3 - How are they for winter?

  1. #1
    Registered Member


    Join Date
    Jun 2018

    Looking at a Mazda3 - How are they for winter?

    Hi all. I've been looking into getting a new (or used) car (manual transmission with some cargo space, likely hatchback) to replace or supplement my nearly 20-yr old Saturn SL. I am looking hard at the Crosstrek seeking some extra ground clearance and traction in the winter. I have to regularly go up a gravel incline road that is... inconsistently plowed. The good news is that when I bought some Thule chains even my Saturn stopped giving me too many problems (as long as I was willing to get out and put them on\off and freeze abit) although it would be great to have something more capable in the real ugly stuff. I also do backpacking, occasionally some kayaking, etc. Most of my driving is on roads but sometimes dirt\gravel and the roads in NY\NJ tend to be on the rough side thanks to the winters. There is also a lot of salt used. I had occasions to deal with high water before but probably not as much now. I have some elderly family members that I drive around which means I'm a little leery of anything with such a stiff\low suspension that it would be difficult to get in and out of or feel like hell with potholes.

    So you can see why I'd be looking for something like a Subaru and I like the dimensions of the CT; but the Crosstrek's AWD and clearance is balanced out by its increased costs for gas / maintenance and an engine reputed to be pretty weak (even though it might come in handy if I want to attach a hitch for a dirt bike). I happened to see a used 2015 Mazda 3GT within an hour drive and plan on checking it and some 2018 crosstreks out this week.

    I guess I'm wondering how people's experience with them have been in less than stellar road conditions. I know there are some things that I would be losing going to the FWD (don't want to take it on a beach for example) but I'm mostly concerned about snowy conditions. I'm fine with getting a set of winter tires\wheels but how much is the clearance an issue? Do those of you who deal with snow find that you're pretty capable with a good set of tires or do you end up plowing to a stop?

    And I do sometimes have to travel for 5-8 hours at a time, how does the car feel for long trips suspension\seat wise? Unfortunately I don't have anyone around here with a 3 or Crosstrek so I can't easily borrow one to find out.

    Last edited by VictorySalad; 06-11-2018 at 02:30 AM.

  2. #2
    Registered Member concept's Avatar

    2014 Mazda3 S GT auto, 2008 MX5 6-speed

    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    San Diego
    I think it depends upon what you prefer - excellent handling on dry roads or better traction on snow-covered roads. The 3GT with 18-inch wheels will not have a plush ride like the CT, but the 3 will be faster and (road) noisier. The best thing to do would be to drive each on as many different surfaces and road topography variations as possible. I drove many winters in Connecticut with rear wheel drive vehicles. Yes, there were steep hills that my cars could not negotiate but as long as the streets were plowed, I was always able to make my way to school and work.
    2014 3S GT, Deep Crystal Blue, Eibach Pro-Kit, Enkei PF01s, Koni Sports, Pirelli P ZERO ALL SEASON PLUS tires, 225/45/18
    2008 MX-5 Touring (Mazdaspeed CAI, HIDs, Progress/Koni Sports/Racing Beat sways, SST Magnaflow muffler and tips)

  3. #3
    Registered Member

    2014 Mazda3 Sport GS

    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Edmonton, AB, Canada
    Reporting from Canada Here, I went from a 2013 Crosstrek to a 2014 Mazda3 Hatch.

    With the Crosstrek I never got stuck, even on mountain roads that other vehicles had got stuck on/hit the ditch however on snowy/icy highways I found the Crosstrek would not hold a straight line at higher speeds and the steering felt loose (despite several investigations by the dealership and checks of the wheel alignment) I don't know if that was an issue with my particular Crosstrek, or Crosstreks in general because I would often see STI/WRXs pass me no problem. I traded it in mostly because it was too pricey to drive while I was in school (the Mazda3 worked out to about $300/month cheaper included gas/insurance).

    With the Mazda3 Hatch I have had slightly different issues than the Crosstrek. Mostly at lower speeds in heavy/wet snow especially on slopes it would sometimes be difficult to get the vehicle going and keep it in the direction I wanted it too, but in my opinion was much less concerning than having the whole car wobbling at highway speeds. Although the North American Mazda3 doesn't officially have a towing capacity, the European and Australian versions are rated about the same as the Crosstrek is for towing, and many people have bought aftermarket hitches and towed with their Mazda3s.

    I should note that I put studded winter tires on both cars (Nokian Hakkapellita 7s on the Crosstrek and Hakkapellita 8s on the Mazda3. The seats are fairly comfortable for long drives in either vehicle (although not as nice as an SUV) but I'm a small guy 5'6" 120lbs so depending how big you are you may not fit as well as me. Both vehicles were equally capable for hauling around my sports equipment with similar cargo capacity in the hatch, easy to install roof-racks (for my snowboard/camping gear), and easy to install hitches for a hitch mount bike carrier. I have never hauled a Kayak but I imagine the Mazda3 being a shorter vehicle would make it easier to load/unload your kayak from the roof. I average about 35,000km or driving each year, including about 6-8 ski trips through the rockies.

    Assuming your location is New York, I think the Mazda3 will handle your winters no-problem.

  4. #4
    Registered Member

    2014 Mazda 3 sGT. 2019 cx-3 awd touring

    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    i'm from NYC, if you install winter tires the car is pretty solid, i've had no issues with any of the noreaster storms.
    If you're getting a mazda 3 hatch, you can always hit me up, i'll eventually be trading it up in march / april and i'll give you a great deal on my winter tires only has about 3,000 miles on them and basically any and all accessories i have, including rubber OEM floor mats and hatch mat =)

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