NEW YORK — Less is sometimes better — as when you are sitting in rush-hour traffic on an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel rushing nowhere.
You are jammed with cars and trucks substantially more expensive than the 2013 Mazda3 S Grand Touring sedan in which you are parked. They aren’t moving. Neither are you.
There is schadenfreude in that truth. There is comfort in schadenfreude. There is epiphany in both.
Your thoughts turn to myriad automobile TV commercials and formal marketing conferences, the latter often held in some of the world’s most exotic locales.
Somehow, the cars and trucks in those presentations are never surrounded by ambient traffic, certainly nothing as frustrating as the stagnant mess that has me cemented between the toll booth and the tunnel’s entrance. The cars in the TV commercials are always plying open roads. The test drives in marketing presentations seem timed and organized to avoid any conflict with real traffic. If a manufacturer wants to demonstrate the “ultimate” driving prowess of its anointed product, there always is an available racetrack on which to do so.
This is the real world — caught in horn-honking mayhem between a toll booth that just relieved me of $13 and swarmed by seemingly enraged motorists who are hellbent on moving into one of the world’s most congested, grimiest urban tunnels before I do. There is no open road, no open anything. Every inch is hotly contested premium space.
Driving “performance” has been redefined by reality. Suddenly, I find myself smiling, happy that I am in one of the smallest, most comfortable, reliable, easiest-to-drive-in-a-crowd, most fuel-efficient cars available in the North American market.
I love this Mazda3 ... and love it even more now that I am stuck in thick urban traffic going nowhere fast. It is a front-wheel-drive fuel sipper — getting 28 miles per gallon in the city and nearly 40 miles per gallon, or better, on the highway. And it drinks less-expensive regular grade gasoline and does just fine with that.
It is a deliciously small car with a wheelbase — the centerline distance between the front and rear wheels — of 8 feet, 7 inches (103.9 inches). With a relatively small turning circle of 34.2 feet, it can squirm out of some of the tightest spaces. It has an agile personality.
Yet it is big enough to comfortably seat three adults and a large chocolate Labrador who feels entitled to the space of two. There’s cargo space for several pieces of soft-pack luggage and a large bag of dog food.
Once out of the tunnel, the little Mazda3 demonstrates another bit of performance compliance with reality. New York City, as is the case with a growing number of municipalities nationwide, has fallen in love with speed cameras — ostensibly as a traffic safety measure, realistically as a revenue-enhancement tool.
It is the ultimate irony — being stuck forever in go-nowhere city traffic only to arrive home and find a $125 ticket from the New York City Department of Finance for “speeding.”
Thankfully, the Mazda3 S Grand Touring comes with an onboard TomTom navigation system that automatically signals the presence of speed cameras before you reach them ... or they nab you. There are so many reasons to love the Mazda3. Speed-cam navigation warning is just one of them.