NEW YORK—On Friday morning, the annual New York International Auto Show opened its doors to the public. In stark contrast to last year—when I foolishly predicted that NYIAS was now the premier US auto show—this year’s event feels very lackluster.
The Shanghai Auto Show is partly to blame. It opened earlier this week and pretty much every automaker with something new to show chose China over the US. In fact, some brands like BMW and Volvo weren’t present at all. The Internet didn’t help either, as what little new metal there was coming to the Big Apple got shown off online in the weeks leading up.
But given that we missed both LA and Detroit in recent months, I braved Amtrak’s rapidly deteriorating service from DC to wander the Javits center and see what was neat among the vehicles that did show up in NYC. While have some other stories from NYIAS to come, we’re kicking off this year’s event with our Best Of awards.
Best Small Car: Mazda 3
For this category, the pickings were so slim we’ve chosen a car we’ve already driven—the new Mazda 3. It’s built on all-new architecture, one that Mazda hopes will create an even tighter bond between machine and driver. Or, in Japanese, Jinba ittai.
As with the previous generation, the Mazda 3 is available as either a five-door hatchback, or a four-door sedan. The sedan is the cheaper one, starting at $21,000. When we drove it on the mean streets of Los Angeles—and the wonderful Angeles Crest Highway—it was obvious that the move to a torsion beam in the rear suspension hadn’t compromised the car’s engaging handling. Keen drivers will want the hatch which starts at $23,600. That one can be optioned with a manual transmission, although only in conjunction with front-wheel drive.
But the best bit is the Mazda 3’s interior. If, like me, you have capital O opinions about typefaces and touch points, the 3’s cabin is a joy, particularly at this price point. In fact, it’s far nicer than anything I’ve sat in recently from any of Mazda’s Japanese rivals’ luxury brands. The redesigned seats are comfortable, the steering wheel is one of the few you’ll find that’s suitably thin, and Mazda even rejected the idea of a touchscreen-based infotainment system.