Sunday, March 22, 2009

Squaring off a round wheel

The new car has an absurd gear pattern that I just cannot get used to. Admittedly I don't drive it a lot. A friend who also owns a Mazda 3 tells me that nearly all new cars are similar.

Talk about re-inventing the wheel. What was wrong with gears all in a line. How simple. And really, if you want to change gears all time, then buy a manual.

Park, reverse and neutral are fairly standard, but I would rather just a button to press to move the stick than moving in a gate. Normal drive is straight on from neutral, but then it gets really weird. Move it across to manual drive and the car won't change up a gear unless you pull the stick towards you and it will change to the next gear up. To change down, you push the stick forward..........or is it the other way around. It did not seem very instinctive to me and did the opposite of what I thought it should.

I got into all sorts of bother with it when we were driving in the Dandenongs recently. I did not want it to use overdrive, so I kept it in 3rd, but on a tight corner it changed down to 2nd and then of course I had to change it back to third. R firmly suggested with some bad words that I just leave it alone and use normal auto, but I don't like these things to get the better of me.

Our car parking spaces are up about five ramps and I like to keep it in 1st so the wretched thing is not changing up and down, and when leaving, I don't have to brake as I descend, just let the engine hold the car back. That is not so difficult, I suppose. But I am also in the habit of putting my seatbelt on or taking it off while waiting for the car park gate to open. You soon get out of that habit as a loud squawk starts happening if you try to drive without the belt on.

Another thing it does that took me by surprise and is quite usefeul, is that it changed down to 3rd when I was braking while descending a long hill, Burnley Tunnel actually, thereby giving some engine braking. The first time I thought I imagined it, but it has happened more than once. I don't know if it is angle of the car, or brake pressure, or the length of time the brake is applied.

The old Hyundai has a neat little electric button on the shift to turn off the overdrive and give some engine braking. I prefer that really.

Mutant, how about unravelling the mysteries of the modern motor car for me?


  1. Same here, with the Pathfinder, I am going through the manual yet again on how to use the extra gears foe 4wd. Better half did ok with them today up the Dandenongs. I have yet to conquer them.

  2. I've never driven an automatic. Wouldn't know how. I only know the classic manual 'H' pattern with a sort of tail appendage for reverse.

  3. Dear god, don't get me started I could be here for days. First of all, fuck all car manufacturers who use a gated shift on automatics, you're not Mercedes-Benz and you just look wanky.

    That said, The gated shift in the Mazda3 is one of the better ones, and isn't configured for left-hand-drive thankfully.

    As for the manual shift thing - generally they are pretty good. The correct way to set it up is push forward to change up and back to change down, sadly very few manufacturers do this. Anyone who doesn't should be heavily penalised and forced to change the setup... all it takes is a reversal of the switch pack the lever operates on.

    Some manu-matics will keep the gear you've selected, others will change up or down as they see necessary. Again pointless.

    It's been a long time since I've been at the helm of a Mazda3 but from what I can remember their system is pretty good. It will change down if the gear selected is too high and for the most part thats okay. The shift action is set up the correct way (ie as you accelerate through the gears you push forward in the direction of acceleration) and the car will hold the gear all the way to the red-line.

    Many autos now have an adaptive shift pattern which will learn the way you drive, so it is quite likely the car has learnt that under brakes you would prefer engine braking and hance why it behaves as it does in the tunnel.

    Overdrive buttons are a thing of the past now which is fine, straight shift P-R-N-D-3-2-1 set ups are on the way out too. I hope that helps a little bit.

    Oh and next time you're going through the Burnley tunnel feel free to come and visit me at work, I'm just around the corner from the exit!

  4. Is this what they class as 'semi-auto'?? We have a work car that I use sometimes to attend meetings off campus and it has this funny looking gear shifter. Pffft. Just give me a go and stop auto and that's what I'll use: the drive, reverse and park features, nothing else.

    Thanks Andrew for this, Mutant has taught me a little more on the confusing world of these new 'gadgets' in cars. My first car was a 4 speed manual. Nothing confusing about that!!

  5. Used to drive plain old garden variety automatics and manuals with the old H gear pattern, with the odd column shift thrown in to scare the bejebus out of me for a week.

  6. At least you don't have to get out and turn something on the front wheels these days Cazzie.

    I think that is it Mutant. You push it forward to go down and the opposite to go up. It is illogical. Interesting about the learnt behaviour. I must teach it better then. Mutant....tunnel....corner......oh my mind is bad.

    Not sure that it is called semi-auto Raelene. Perhaps you say you are using it in semi-auto mode. I guess most people do just leave it in Drive.

    Those old column shifts Jayne. Yuk. Then the French decided they would have their own pattern and arranged them opposite to ours. Some gear sticks had to pulled or pushed to get to reverse. Good riddance to them.

  7. Marvellous mechanical term Brian, tail appendage.

  8. I think I remember that pattern from a Level 9 game of Tetris I once played.

    Besides that, this is yet more evidence for my wise choice to be a pedestrian/PT user.

    Mind you I failed Dinky toys, Matchbox cars and Meccano set well before I hit primary school, though I did have a soft spot for Tri-ang Hornby train sets ... and "Man Junior". (Courtesy of the local barber - "1 chair. Lots of waiting." )

  9. Good analogy LS. I had so forgotten about Man and Man Junior.