6 December 2021 ·
A Love Letter To Driving
Zoom-Zoom takes a Mazda3 to one of the most beautiful corners in Britain, to reconnect with the joy of driving.
Words Tommy Melville / Images Dan Froude / Film Brother Film Co.
Like most people, I have managed very little driving in the past year. But today that changes, and in the company of a Mazda3 I’m out to explore the Cotswolds: a beautiful corner of south-west England carpeted in verdant farmland and a scattered network of dramatic roads. The plan is simple: to rediscover the joy of driving by spending a day behind the wheel, doing just that…
Driving. It can be a mundane transportation solution, a convenient method of getting you from A to B. Today is different, and I won’t be clock-watching or following arbitrary orders from the car’s navigation system. Today is about letting those stresses (and all others) melt away. To focus on the car, the scenery and the next piece of tarmac on the road ahead.
The day starts before dawn, and once-routine actions such as adjusting mirrors and pairing my phone take on significance in their unfamiliarity. I’m in no hurry; I take time to connect with the car. I push the starter button; the engine turns briefly, then catches, and my anticipation for the day builds. The car’s systems whirr into life, symbols glow on the instrument binnacle. A brief moment of reflection, then I select first gear and ease into the cool dawn.
My driving history is a standard one. On reaching 17 I booked lessons and a test, somehow passing first time, and was soon racing through the English country lanes with friends who had done the same, inspired by the annual Festival of Speed we were lucky to have at Goodwood, on our doorstep.
Our cars became a proving ground. Not only in the principles of physics as we learned to handle them, but also in a broader sense as the practicalities of buying, taxing and insuring a car offered life lessons in reality. Most of all, our cars represented a new freedom.
- Tommy Melville
“WORKING WITH THE CAR MY CONFIDENCE INCREASES, AND WORRIES FADE TO BACKGROUND NOISE. IT IS WONDERFUL TO BE OUT ON THE ROAD AGAIN.”
The Cotswolds is built on a heaving bedrock of Jurassic limestone, with the roads flashing between hidden valleys and broad, high commons. It takes time, but my rusty reflex reactions return, and soon accurate gear shifts and smoothly navigated corners are commonplace. Working with the car my confidence increases, and worries fade to background noise. It is wonderful to be out on the road again.
Freedom is at the core of what driving represents and, unlike other transport methods, in a car you are the master of your own destiny. For anyone who thinks this freedom is overstated, consider the anxiety and significance of an elderly relative forced to retire their licence, or the sobering fact that until 2018 it was illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. In countless ways the freedom driving represents can’t be exaggerated.
- Tommy Melville
“EACH DRIVE TELLS ITS OWN STORY. SOME, LIKE MINE TODAY, INCONSEQUENTIAL BUT UTTERLY THERAPEUTIC.”
I spend the day exploring the area; the only aim is to see as much of the staggering countryside as possible. The Mazda3 is a real driver’s car, and it urges me down every straight and through each corner. The steering is perfectly weighted, the plucky Skyactiv‑G engine offering oodles of power. The car is as much fun to drive as it is good to look at – a considerable compliment.
It occurs to me that a drive, any drive, offers a distilled analogy for our existence – a journey to be enjoyed, the experience what we make of it. Perhaps that is why driving can resonate so deeply. Each drive tells its own story. Some, like mine today, inconsequential but utterly therapeutic. Others far more significant: bringing a newborn home from hospital, for example. But each has its own narrative, emotions and consequences.
As the sun fires one last blaze of orange across the Severn Estuary and calls time on my day, I reflect that the pandemic has taught me to celebrate the simple things in life. It doesn’t get much purer than this: a great drive, with nowhere in particular to be, in a fantastic car on some incredible roads. We encourage you to get out there as soon as you can.
Fall in love with driving again in Mazda’s award-winning hatch