Originally published September 30, 2015 on autoTRADER.ca

The Destination: BC Interior
The Vehicle: 2016 Mazda CX-3
The Challenge: Rally-style driving event

At last year’s Mazda Adventure Rally, we came for the sights and the great driving roads, and somehow ended up in second place, almost without trying. So we figured that this year, with a little bit of effort, we could maybe climb to that top step of the podium. Not even close.

This time around, we even had a little more heads up as to our destination, but with the exact route and challenges (many specific to sights and information found on the routes themselves) shrouded in secrecy until each day of the three-day event, there was little we could do to prepare.

After last year’s surprise of the MX-5 Miata being the car of choice, we were naturally anticipating and hoping for the new 2016 MX-5 that has been impressing the heck out of everyone who drives it. Alas, another driving adventure of the legendary Miata on ribbons of tarmac and gravel through fabulous mountain landscapes was not in the cards. This time, it would be Mazda’s little CX-3 crossover, a car that boasts dynamics completely at odds with its price and segment, a truly joyful little kart that packs just enough space for a weekend trip for a couple. Families will be hard-pressed to fit even the basics in its narrow, shallow cargo hold, but on this little adventure away from the kids, it would do just fine.

Day 1: Vancouver to Whistler

Within minutes of arriving at Vancouver airport, we were handed an envelope with our instructions and keys, and sent off to track down our individual CX-3’s in the multi-level parking lot, starting off this Amazing Race–style adventure. After putting the panic button to good use, off we went, inputting GPS coordinates into the CX-3’s nav system via the touchscreen (available for touch input only when stopped), and following the route guidance that took us across the Burrard St. Bridge into Vancouver, in and out of Stanley Park, out of the city via the Lionsgate Bridge, and up the Sea-to-Sky Highway to the base of the Sea-to-Sky Gondola at Squamish.

Along the way, we were tasked with collecting branded coffee cups from BC’s diverse selection of coffee shops, stopping often to get caffeinated, more caffeinated, and then caffeinated some more. (Wasting coffee is simply against my prinicples.) By the fourth double espresso, my navigator (who happens to be my wife in real life) was ready to get out and walk or at least throw me out the window. One feature that I wished for in the Mazda was on-map icons for certain points of interest – you can search for them, but only go to any single one individually, rather than having them appear on the map whenever you approach one.

After a lunch and research break with a view overlooking Howe Sound and BC’s Coast Mountains, we cruised back down the gondola, floating over the steep climb that those with more time can make in a few hours.

Back in the comfortable, leather-lined seats of the CX-3, we continued up the Sea-to-Sky Highway, stopping for more coffee and quickly finding our way to the night’s accommodations at Whistler’s Sundial Boutique Hotel just in time to catch the end of the Jays game at the hotel bar.

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