What is it?
Now in its fourth generation, Mazda3 is looking larger and more stylish than ever, especially the elongated sedan.
Approaching from different angles over the course of a week, I found myself wondering, not for the first time: when did small sedan suddenly grow so large?
In the old days, the Mazda3 sedan could have easily passed for a family sedan, but as we ourselves have grown larger, so have the cars we require over the years — each model just a little larger than the preceding one.
Available as a hatch or sedan, and now as an SUV too a la the CX-30, all sit on the same platform with the same engines and running gear, giving buyers more choice than ever before.
Rear legroom in all three however is not generous, especially in the SUV.
What’s it cost?
Hatch and sedan are priced the same, from $25,590 plus on-roads for the 2.0-litre Pure with manual transmission.
A 6-speed auto adds $1000 to the price and comes with steering wheel mounted gear change paddles — that is for all grades except the entry Pure.
Prices for CX-30 start from $29,990, or $4500 more, but that figure includes an auto.
So, from the word go, it boils down to a question of money.
Our test vehicle, the mid-range G20 Touring sedan, is priced from $29,590. In comparison, the CX-30 G20 Touring, is $34,990 — or another $5400 this time around.
You also need to toss up between the 2.0-litre or more powerful 2.5-litre engines and, in the case of CX-30, there’s also a choice of front- or all-wheel drive?
Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloys, cloth trim and air conditioning, along with push-button start, electric handbrake, windscreen heads-up display, rain sensing wipers, auto headlights, auto high beam, LED head and tail lights, auto dimming rear view mirror, rear park sensors, 8.8-inch info display, satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Safety equipment across the range includes seven airbags, rear view camera, electronic stability control, Radar Cruise Control (MRCC) with Stop & Go, Smart Brake Support, Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), Driver Attention Alert (DAA), Blind Spot Monitor (BSM), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW).
The optional $1500 Vision pack that comes standard with top of the line Astina includes 360 degree monitor, Cruising & Traffic Support (CTS), Driver Monitoring, Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA), and Front parking sensors.
By the time you get to the G20 Touring, it has grown larger 18-inch wheels, two zone climate, and overhead sunglasses storage, together with black leather trim, auto dimming exterior mirrors, exterior mirror with reverse tilt, exterior mirrors with position memory, front park sensors, power adjust driver’s seat with 2-position memory and vanity mirrors with illumination.
What’s it go like?
The sedan is the larger of the trio, at 4661mm in length, while the hatch is 4460mm and the SUV, 4395mm.
Sedan and hatch share the same 2725mm wheelbase, while the CX-30 has a shorter 2655mm wheelbase, explaining the reduced legroom.
The red paint, we assume Soul Red Crystal Metallic, is worth bottling, but leaning against the car we were alarmed at the amount of panel flex.
Lean too hard, or make contact too swiftly, and we worry it might not rebound . . .
The 2.0-litre engine is good for 114kW of power and 200Nm at 4000 rpm, while the 2.5-litre engine delivers 139kW and 252Nm at 4000 rpm.
Neither is turbo boosted and all grades are available with a manual or optional auto transmission — both of which have six gears.
The 2.0-litre engine in our G20 Touring sedan performs okay in most situations, but is not going to set the world on fire.
Nor does it produce its best form without a few revs on the dial.
Around 4000 revs in third gear produces the magic.
BUT at least power delivery is linear and consistent, and perhaps not as bad as we first thought, and I felt no immediate need to step up to the larger 2.5.
Up and running, and out on the open road, it’s at its sweetest.
It’s only when you get the sudden and urgent desire to overtake, that it feels a little underdone. That maybe you should have spent the extra for the 2.5.
Steering, ride and handling are superb, and for a small car (or large whichever way you look at it), it’s also got a big car feel.
The chassis is terrific, delivering a super interior and suspension that soaks up the bumps, and is not easily unsettled by secondary roads.
Put it in manual mode, start hustling with the change paddles and it corners flat, with plenty of grip from the Toyo rubber.
The cabin feels upmarket, with leather, a stylish dashboard, windows that are all one-touch up/down and a long, impressive looking computer screen that is set well back.
The design permits map and other information like turns and POIs to be displayed side by side — but in reality the map is quite small.
I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to see what’s ahead rather than what lies either side of the road?
And, of course, it doesn’t respond to fingers. It’s controlled by a BMW-style rotary knob in the centre console with shortcut buttons around it.
Together with a single, standalone volume control, one gets the feeling Mazda spends quite a bit of time keeping an eye on what BMW is up to?
The part-digital instrument cluster can be configured to show either a speedo or digital speed, with a constant reminder of the speed limit and graphics that fill the rest of the space.
The fuel gauge to the side with its distance to empty prediction is a nice and unexpected touch.
With a 51-litre tank, the car will happily run on standard 91 unleaded.
Rated at 6.1L/100km, we were getting 7.2 after about 450km.
What we like?
- The red paint
- Super quiet interior
- Large boot
- Rear air vents
- Standard satnav
- Standard head up display
What we don’t like?
- Could use more power
- Electric hand brake is irritating
- Limited rear legroom
- No speed camera warnings
- Space saver spare
The bottom line?
It’s a lot of car for the money. Some might say too much money for the car.
But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Whatever else you might think about the Mazda3 — it’s a class act.
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Mazda3 G20 Touring sedan, priced from $29,590
- Looks - 8/108/10
- Performance - 7/107/10
- Safety - 8/108/10
- Thirst - 7.5/107.5/10
- Practicality - 7.5/107.5/10
- Comfort - 7.5/107.5/10
- Tech - 8/108/10
- Value - 8/108/10