I grew up in a typical Chinese home, the Canadian-born daughter of Chinese immigrants. From a young age, I knew I had high expectations to live up to; academics were incredibly important (I remember my dad asking me what happened to the last 4% when I brought home a science test that I scored 96% on). After school and on weekends, I had math tutoring. My mom wanted me to be a well-rounded kid, so I had dance, art, swimming, and skating lessons (thankfully not all at the same time). I sang with the Toronto Children’s Choir for a few years. I remember as a child, leaving one lesson, eating, and changing in the car to make it for a dress rehearsal at another location. MY LIFE WAS CRAZY.
Before I continue, I want to make this clear: I don’t regret it. I know my parents had the best intentions for me; they really wanted me to be successful. My mom and dad did their best with what they had, and I am thankful. Part of my growing up also meant I had to learn boundaries like how to deal with multitasking and extreme pressure (also self-induced).
Parenting my own kids has been a real challenge. Every now and again, I see my own ‘Tiger Mom’ shadow when I’m with my kids. I get anxious about what to do with them, and it’s been hard not to project my own ambitious and driven thoughts onto my kids. Contrast that with my husband, who grew up in small town Ontario. He never had swimming and skating lessons—they just went to the local pool/skating rink and learned!
I had the opportunity to go with my youngest son to Vancouver for four days and road test the all-new 2014 Mazda 3. I was excited to go—the car is a BIG improvement from the previous year, and I was blessed that I could spend some quality time with my son. But, wait! He’ll be missing three days of school! As I packed the night before our flight, I made sure I had his schoolwork, extra math work, a reading book, and his abacus homework with me. Hold on, don’t judge! I also brought a new pack of LEGO to balance it all out.
My vision was this: road test the car, connect with others in the auto industry, have fun with my son, and make sure he does his homework.
We arrived a day early, spent time with relatives and visited the Vancouver Aquarium (my personal must-visit in Vancouver). We went for a walk in Stanley Park and met up with my friend, auto journalist extraordinaire Alexandra Straub.
On the day of the test drive, Mazda held a two-hour morning meeting. How to keep him entertained and quiet for two hours? Homework and LEGOs. That’s all I got. Truth be told, when he broke out the LEGOs, I could sense that some of the grownups in the room wished they could play with LEGOs too! They gave us a quick break during the meeting, which I spent running up and down the conference centre hallway with my son so he could get rid of some energy. All in all, he did very well: finished math work, built a LEGO model, and played games on my cell phone.
Finally we got to drive the 2014 Mazda3. The overall design of the car was beautiful, totally different that its previous generations. One of Mazda’s goals with this design was to create “a stunning first impression.” Yep, I knew my eyes lingered a bit longer the first time I saw the car. My favourite part was the front headlight styling. Again, Mazda wanted the alluring look and it achieved it with the angle of the lens as well as a halo effect around the bulb.
Child car seat installation was such a cinch—I had my son do it! Ok, ok, it’s a booster seat, so all I had to do was check the height and make sure the seatbelt was through the shoulder loop.
The rear bench seat does have cushioning and slightly deep seats but a pool noodle or two should help you get the correct angle when installing a rear-facing child car seat.
Lastly, the headrest hangs in front of the seatback so you may need to remove that when installing a forward-facing child car seat. This allows the child car seat to be flush against the seatback.
Our first stop on the tour was Butter Baked Goods, my five-year-old’s perfect pit stop! We had their peanut butter sandwich cookie, and my son said it was the best. THE best. The BEST. I asked him a few times to make sure he was sure.
We drove the Mazda3 through Vancouver and into Coquitlam. Inside the car, I wasn’t a big fan of the instrument panel design that had a large speedometer in the middle. The GT model has a large tachometer in the instrument panel with an active driving display showing a digital speedometer, and that took some time getting used to.
An information screen was placed above the centre of the dash (rather than having it built into the dash itself) which gave it a streamlined and minimalist feel.
Surprise! Incoming texts are displayed on screen for all to see. It was Alexandra—thank goodness her text was ‘family-friendly’!
Under the hood, the basic maintenance items were laid out clearly. I was happy to see less covers as compared to its previous generations; the battery is easily accessible. I was disappointed that in order to read the coolant reservoir level, you have to look behind the radiator near the engine.
I generally don’t like electric steering as sometimes it feels very flimsy. However, I felt that the Mazda3’s steering was no different than traditional hydraulic power steering; road feedback was good. As for the owner’s manual, this has got to be one of the biggest ones I’ve seen. Granted, it’s bilingual—but still. Packed with information, basic car care, and tips, it also doubles as a not-so-handy paperweight.
Although our "tour" ended mid-afternoon, we were able to take the hatchback version to Stanley Park. Having sat in the car most of the day with me, I knew my son would love to go to the playground.
After spending the rest of the afternoon there, we went back to the hotel to—you got it—do some homework! I had him write a few thank-you cards, and then we got ready for dinner. You’ll never guess what Mazda planned; it’s one of the most creative events I’ve been to. Vancouver is known for its food trucks, so they had three come to the hotel. It was awesome! My son thought that was so cool, and I was relieved he didn’t have to sit through a formal dinner. (Anyone else get anxious keeping their kid entertained in a formal/professional setting?)
On the flight home, I made sure he wrote postcards to his grandparents (a family thing we always do on trips) and finish up his abacus work. Since we don’t have cable at home, he got to watch in-flight TV. All in all, our time together went well. I got him to do homework, and he got to have some fun.
I feel like I'm slowly training my inner Tiger Mom.