Test Driving Cars at the Orange County Auto Show
At the Orange County Auto Show, attendees have the opportunity to test drive cars from more than a dozen different car companies. The Auto Show, which began yesterday from 4pm-10pm, continues today from noon until 10pm and on through tomorrow, 9am-10pm, and Sunday, 9am-7pm, taking place at the Anaheim Convention Center. Licensed drivers are invited to get behind the wheel of the latest vehicles from Acura, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Jeep®, KIA, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Ram, Toyota and Volkswagen.
While there were multiple car companies having test drives yesterday, I decided I would do some driving in the Mazda cars (yes, Mercedes-Benz is there, but their cars were not available for test drives yesterday). First, after filling out multiple screens of information on an electronic tablet (and giving them my driver’s license), I was then given a breathalyzer test (which makes sense, but it took me by surprise (I did pass it)). Then, I was ready to roll. First, after selecting one’s car, one drives out of the garage in the Anaheim Convention Center, navigating cones and following the instructions of the employee accompanying the test driver, easily reminding drivers of their driver’s education courses or driver’s tests. Once one winds their way out of the garage, it was on to West Street, taking a right out of the convention center, then taking a left at Katella Avenue. After driving along Katella for a little bit, one makes a U-turn at Euclid Avenue, and then returns on the same route.
I started off driving the Mazda 3, which was enjoyable to drive. There were several features I found fascinating, so I’ll start with the most visible, the heads-up display which shows the driver the speed at which they are going, the road ahead of them (and if there are any cars there), and, if one engages cruise control, the speed at which the cruise control is set. Another really cool feature is on the screen… that when in navigation mode, it not only shows the driver the speed limit for the road on which they are driving, but the speed limit sign will turn red if you hit the speed limit or go above it. Also on the navigation screen is a really helpful feature: it has gas stations on the map, helping drivers find their nearest fueling station. A couple other features I thought were cool were that it included two USB ports, as well as a slot for an SD card.
I then test drove the Mazda 6, which was more spacious than the Mazda 3 and more enjoyable to drive, which was on account of its increased engine, providing it with more get-up-and-go. This added pick-up was noticeable once one begins to accelerate, which was good. Also, as I mentioned, it’s more spacious, including a bigger trunk. While the Mazda 3 has the same features (at least as far as I saw during the brief test drive), one thing I noticed while driving it is that, when I turned on my indicator to switch lanes, anticipating to get into the next lane after a car passed me by, the car made a warning sound to me, indicating that there was already a car where I had intended to move. While I already knew that there was a car there, I certainly understand how useful that blindside warning noise can be.
I then decided to finish off by driving the Miata, since I had never driven a convertible before (not even a test drive). It was really unfortunate going from the Mazda 6 to the Miata, since the car is a lot smaller and much less of an engine. I will say this: it seems like a good car for one or two people (there are only two seats) for a fun ride, whether that’s a quick getaway for the weekend (Las Vegas, perhaps) or for a fun outing. It’s obviously not for a family or anything requiring significant trunk space (it’s a really small trunk). Also, there’s no heads-up display, not many charging ports, etc. It made me yearn for the Mazda 6.
I enjoyed getting to try out the different cars and see what they had to offer. All of them come with XM Radio, cruise control, and bluetooth, so one can make/receive phone calls while driving without having to touch one’s phone. It was unclear to me how many of the features I have mentioned come standard or not, since the versions I was driving were Grand Touring, so some of them may have been special. Finally, as I was leaving, I was given a $5 gift card to Starbucks just for taking a test drive! I greatly enjoyed the experience and would love to try out cars from other manufacturers.