Originally published August 28, 2015

One of the great joys of a long-term test is getting fully acquainted with the car’s different systems in a much deeper way. Like sure, over a week I can tell you if something is easy to use or if it’s fun, but sometimes a bit more time exposes something nifty you didn’t know about before, or a frustration that only develops after time.

After 7,000 km of driving I can tell you there are examples of both buried in the Mazda CX-3’s infotainment system. It’s a slick system, with a BMW/Audi-style puck controller perfectly placed where your hand might naturally rest on the armrest – were one to exist in this car. That quibble aside, the puck controller really is natural to use on the go without any effort. No reaching, no straining, your arm falls there, the puck is there. Perfect.

The screen itself is large and high quality and placed right in your eyeline. The more I use the “stuck-on iPad” type screens that are mounted high up the more I’m a believer in their ergonomic value.

Mazda’s bonus trick is the dual nature of the screen. Stationary? It’s a touchscreen allowing you to shortcut your way through things. Things like the keyboard for example, which responds quickly allowing you to rapidly type an address. Once you’re moving though, the screen can only be controlled by the puck controller, which is also fast and has a good, convincing feeling to its movement making it easier to use.

The main menu is simple to walk through, and “apps” gives a hint at scalable add-ons that might make their way onboard in the future. Under this menu you’ll find a link to a radio traffic information service (which is not activated in this car), maintenance information, warning guidance and a really, really cool little fuel monitor.

I saw as low as 5.8 L/100 km on one trip from Brampton to downtown Toronto (about a 40 minutes on a traffic-free nighttime drive), proving that the little CX-3 has the potential to deliver excellent gas mileage. More on that shortly.

The rest of the menus are standard fare: audio, communications, nav, and settings. The settings will control everything from the adaptive high-beam sensitivity to the height of the head-up display.

From the beginning: Long-Term Test Arrival: 2016 Mazda CX-3

Under audio there is FM, AM, XM and Bluetooth or CD plus some oddballs like Stitcher and Pandora for the kids. Stitcher is something I’ve never heard of, because I’m old, and I read a book about never opening up anything belonging to Pandora once, so I’m leaving that one the hell alone.

A wide range of audio settings help you shape the sound to your preference, and it’s easy to re-set everything back to normal when you get in. How do I know? Because someone in the office likes to go full positive bass, full negative treble, fader full back and balance full left. You can even adjust the sound settings on the fly – bravo Mazda!

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