Archives for April 2013

Tween Approved: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a Go!

Tween Approved: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a Go!

Disclosure: I am not a car person; I don’t review cars for a living.  But I am a mom who is concerned about the safety of her family, is budget conscience and also takes pride in have a cool “mom-mobile. ”  All opinions and views with regard to this car review, the company that loaned it to me and the vehicle manufacturer are entirely mine and were not influenced, edited or even reviewed by the companies prior to posting. 

Last week, I test drove the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE and it couldn’t have come at a better time: Lulu had a day off of school and it was up to me to plan something cool to do that day.  Last year, Lulu’s class had gone on a field trip to the Chicago History Museum and I left feeling like we had been rushed and needed more time to explore the exhibits and gain some appreciation of our home town.  (Coincidently, since I was test driving the car, it would also be a great excuse to drive the car on the highway, in the rain and determine if it was, in fact, “kid friendly.”)  As I only have one child, I decided that I needed to “rent” two more, Lila and Madison, and thus fill the car’s back seat with wiggly, screaming, sometimes singing 10-year-olds.

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE

“We Like The Color!”

Armed with their American Girl dolls to keep them company, my test drivers were up to the challenge of evaluating the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.  Of course, the color of the car was their primary concern and these 10-year-olds gave it a thumbs up.  One girl commented that “I’m not sure if there will be enough room for my dolls and us.”  (There was.)  So in they climbed and fortunately there were three headrests and three 5-point seat belts.  This meant that everyone would be secured in the car equally and safely. (Check one for the Mitsubishi Outlander.)  Actually, as the day progressed, this turned out to be a very good feature because the two girls sitting on opposite sides of the car got into a fight and the middle child was able to keep them separated by the mere fact that her seat belt restricted each of the girls from lunging over each other.  (They are a very spirited bunch).  Also, I was a bit concerned about the seemingly lack of cargo space.  But, as the week progressed and I bought groceries, collected sports equipment and other school related items, I found that the cargo space actually met my needs.  Note: Also the front seat warmers were nice to have, but the switches were hidden and my husband had to point them out to me.  

As we pulled out of the driveway, I explained to my pre-teen passengers, that I was testing out this car for the week and I wanted their honest opinions about the car, the ride, the sound system and anything else that came to mind as we drove downtown.  Lila commented that she thought it was fun to watch the reverse mirror on the console while we were backing up and that “it’s a nice feature.  That way you don’t have to worry about getting into an accident.”  Lulu liked the panoramic glass roof but didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t open it and she also thought that the LED lights were a bit “cheesy.”  Personally, I found them to be distracting particularly when the roof was exposed while I was driving at night.  But, while driving home from the museum, all three girls were lulled into silence (and then sleep) while they watched the world go by via the glass roof instead of just looking out the windows.

Mitsubishi-Outlander_Sport_2011_800x600_wallpaper_4c

As we drove through the driving rain, the car handled well but seemed to lack some pick-up or power.  I actually didn’t feel like I was driving a SUV.   Yes, it was comfortable but I didn’t get the “zippy”  SUV feel that I am used driving my old car.  Also there are a lot of windows in the car, but I felt like the manufacturers could have designed the back windshield better.  It felt a bit small to me.

My passengers (and adopted daughters for the day) didn’t complain about the lack of speed.  They were too enamored with the INTENSE sound system and the huge speakers in the cargo space!   The girls continually ordered me to “crank it up!” but, to be quite honest, I was afraid all that bass would shatter the windows.

Note the giant speakers!

Note the giant speakers!

As a music lover,  I like to listen to a variety of tunes while I drive but I couldn’t figure out how to use and then program the stereo. Somehow the user has to switch between the different sources (GPS, MP3, Sirius, AM/FM etc) which takes some time, and requires the driver to take her eyes off the road (or pull over.)  I didn’t feel that the steering wheel controls improved my ability to drive and manage the music or GPS.    Also finding stations on the built-in Sirius/XM satellite radio system was really a challenge. To load CDs or DVDs, the display faceplate sort of  swings down and detaches itself from the unit. (Very odd looking.)  I originally thought that I had broken the stereo. I also struggled with connecting and then programming the navigation system.  I did, eventually, figure out how to use the GPS but never quite got a handle on the other components of the sound system and user interface.

All in all, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE was a decent and seemingly solid car. But for the MSRP of $23,695 (with basic options), its combined MPG of 26 and general lack of exciting features, I wasn’t overly impressed with the car.   My fellow reviewers enjoyed being in the car and felt that there was PLENTY of space even if Adam was riding in the back seat (i.e. lots of room for tall people.)  From the driver’s seat. I felt that the car handled well (especially in the driving rain.)  All-in-all, I felt that it if you are looking for a solid, reliable ride you can’t go wrong with the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE but for a mom who is used to a lot of power and a sun roof that opens, this wasn’t the best choice of car for me.

 

Mazda3 I 4-Door Grand Touring: The New Mom Car?

Mazda3 I 4-Door Grand Touring: The New Mom Car?

Disclosure: I am not a car person; I don’t review cars for a living.  But I am a mom who is concerned about the safety of her family, is budget conscience and also takes pride in have a cool “mom-mobile. ”  All opinions and views with regard to this car review, the company that loaned it to me or the vehicle manufacturer are entirely mine and were not influenced, edited or even reviewed by the companies prior to posting. 

My family is discussing getting a new car.  Last week, I had the opportunity to test drive a 2013 Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring and I may never go back to driving a SUV again! I was curious about the award winning safety standards and fuel economy.  Is this car really that different (or any better) from my current car?  One word: YES!  

When the Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring arrived at my house, I had to smile.  It looks friendly, sporty and…happy.  (It kind of looks like the car is smiling at you. )  And while this red 4-door sedan with a black leather interior may not be the  image that I conjure in my mind whenever I consider a “Mom” car, after testing this sweet automobile, I may need to permanently change my stereotype. 

Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring

Hey! It’s smiling at me!

 

My initial interaction with the  Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring was trying to figure out how to start the car via the keyless ignition which, of course,  I had no idea how to use.  (Hey!  My current car is almost 10 years old!  They still made keys back then!) Yes, I will admit that it took me a few minutes to figure out that the driver must step on the brake and then push a button to get the car started.  Once I got the car started, I noticed all of the buttons on the steering wheel.

 

Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring

Steering Wheel: Mom Central Command Center

The steering wheel is equipped with a “Steering-wheel-integrated button for the Multi-Information Display (MID).”  Here’s what that means: The  Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring is also equipped with Bluetooth hands-free capabilities which allowed me to access the phone via voice commands and control the sound system from the steering wheel.  The overall effect?  This driver kept her hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while listening to great alternative music and discussing dinner options with her travel weary spouse (who happened to be in Miami at the time.) I also never struggled to access the GPS system because it is located just above the dashboard and in the driver’s natural line of sight.  It was so easy to keep track of where I was going without needing to take my eyes off of the road.

The Ride

The  Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring is a commuter’s best friend and a dream car because it is so comfortable and easy to drive.  When Adam and I had to drive from the suburbs to downtown Chicago last Friday night, we were dreading the hour plus drive during rush hour.  But the Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring made the ride enjoyable.  (The company wasn’t too bad either.)  We were comfortable and felt like we had plenty of leg and head room. Note: I didn’t take advantage of the Skyactiv Drive 6- Speed A/T with manual shift mode (I kept the car in “D”), but Adam seemed to dig using the manual transmission option. He felt that it was a great feature on the car and made the car run efficiently.

Safety:  How Safe Is It? 

Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring

Let’s start with something called the “BSM” or Blind Spot Monitor.  The BSM is located on the side-view mirrors and an icon appears whenever another car enters the driver’s “blind spot” indicating that it is not safe to switch lanes.  As someone who consistently looks over her shoulder prior to switching lanes (thus taking my eyes off of the road) this safety feature is a huge benefit to me.  We also learned that a chime will go off if you select your turn signal and the BSM is showing; another way that the car alerts you of potential (and avoidable) danger.

Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring

Side mirror blind spot alert

Other unique great safety features include:

  • 5 Passenger 3 point Safety belts (I have to admit that my car only has 4 passenger 3 point belts.)
  • Active Front Headrests: Active front head restraints help guard against neck injury in the event of a rear-end collision. During a rear impact, the front head restraint moves forward when the occupant is pushed into the seat back and helps minimize whiplash.

 

Mazda3 I 4-Door Grand Touring

Adaptive Front-Lighting System

 

 

 

Adaptive Front-Lighting System: the road is illuminated in front of you to help spot potential dangers. With the available Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFS) the headlight beam automatically swivels in the direction the driver wants to go based on vehicle speed and steering angle, improving visibility while cornering at night. This was a GREAT added feature especially when I had to drive down those dark suburban streets at night. 

 

Say Goodbye to Gas Station Visits!

If you’re not convinced that this is a GREAT car based solely on the safety features, check out the fuel economy.  With the Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring, weekly visits to the gas startion are a thing of the past.  The car gets 40 Highway MPG and 28 City MPG mileage! The guys at STI dropped the car off with a full tank of gas.  When they picked it up a week later, I had put more than 150 miles on the car but the gas tank barely registered at a half tank. Talk about getting the “best bang for your buck!” More like a few thousand dollars in savings. If I had driven my car for the week, I would have filled up the gas tank at least once! .

Is There Enough Storage Space For My Family?

But this is a compact size car, right?  Since becoming a parent, I am always astounded by how much “stuff” we need to keep in the car.  Yes, we are now past the jogging and regular stroller days but don’t discount how much space is needed for the ice skates, soccer ball(s), Hebrew homework bag, art work coming home from school and non-disposable grocery bags we carry for the daily trips to Trader Joe’s. Fortunately, the  Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring can accommodate my family’s storage demands-with room to spare.  Even better?  Once the trunk is closed, one cannot peer in and see our vast collection of “priceless” grocery bags.  Seriously, this is a great safety feature that many SUVs lack.

I loved driving the  Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring because it was easy to drive, comfortable and above all, (I felt) safer than most of the cars on the road.  My daughter didn’t enjoy it as much because she had to sit in the backseat and felt that it didn’t have enough legroom. (Maybe what was sacrificed in backseat legroom was made up in cargo storage space?)  So, while my family may not be ready for the Mazda3  I 4-Door Grand Touring right now, in about a year or two (when she can travel in the front seat) we can absolutely consider buying the 2015 or 2016 iteration of this car.  Yes, it is that comfortable, safe, fuel efficient and affordable.