I'm back in the saddle again ...

(Photos top to bottom: Citroen C6, Fiat 500, Mazda 3 i Touring)

Yes sir, it's good to be saddled up and riding again. Thanks to the terrible economy most car companies cut way back on their media fleets, which translated into no new cars for Bruce (and many, many others). Thankfully I have my trusty '87 Toyota pickup - ugly but reliable.

Before getting into what I drove last week, let me tell you a bit about my vacation - 10 days (way too short) in Europe. I'd never been before but I can tell you I will be going again. As this is a column about cars I'll just share a few observations.

First, American cars are way too big. I saw a Dodge Magnum in Rome and it looked so out of place. I also saw a Toyota Tacoma and a Nissan Pathfinder, medium-size trucks here, that looked huge in Rome and Warsaw respectively.

Two cars blew me away - the new Fiat 500 and a Citroen C6. The Fiat is coming to North America and I look forward to driving one. For such a small car (bigger than a Smart but still small) it was exceptionally designed. The C6 was as good looking, if not better, than a M-B S-Class. We will never see it I'm sure.

The car I drove last week was a Mazda 3 4-Door, a vehicle that competes with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla to name two. I haven't driven a Mazda 3 in sometime so I was anxious to see how it was - and I was favorably impressed.

I don't think it is necessarily best in class in any area; it is just a very well built, nice driving, and economical vehicle. The 2.0-liter engine had sufficient power (148 hp) but what impressed me was the engine's flexibility. Fuel economy is rated at 25-city and 33-highway.

The Mazda 3 i Touring was nicely equipped and had a list price of $20,320, this included $325 for fog lights, $430 for satellite radio, and $1,395 for a moon roof.


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