THE NEW MAZDA3

The latest Mazda3 stands out from the mid-sized crowd with its style and sporty driving experience.

THE NEW MAZDA3

Mazda3 replaced the renowned 323 when introduced in 2004. Only 4 years later the second generation of the Japanese mid-sized sedan was unveiled at the 2008 Los Angeles Motor Show, then the third generation in June 2013.

Mazda also introduces the latest it has to offer with respect to technology, refinement and design tweaks as mid generation updates, and we have had the opportunity to assess the most recent of these, in sedan form. (Of course it also comes as a hatch)

The new Mazda3's primary theme was to heighten the “Jinba-ittai” driving experience, introducing G-Vectoring Control (GVC), the first application of Mazda’s new-generation vehicle dynamics control technology called “SKYACTIV-VEHICLE DYNAMICS”. This is a process that minutely reduces and increases engine torque when the steering wheel is turned, to generate a juggling of increased pressure between front and rear axles and wheels, giving more grips, and aiding steering of the car.

At 4,580mm x 1,795mm x 1,450mm (LxWxH), the latest Mazda3 shares the same length as its predecessor but is 40mm wider and sits 20mm lower for a broader, more powerful on-road stance.

Mazda has built a strong reputation for designing eye-catching cars and the latest Mazda3 upholds this case. Bold styling, based on Mazda’s “KODO – Soul of Motion” design language, clearly takes its cues from bigger brother the sleek Mazda6's mix of curves and creases.

At front, the latest Mazda's new grille and signature wing design combine with adoption of LED headlamps to create a bolder yet pleasantly composed expression. LED headlamps provide a cleaner design with three dimensional structures giving the car “eyes” a better, perhaps intimidating look.

The compact cabin is set further to the rear, making the profile dramatically different from the previous version and other compact cars.

At first the Mazda3’s new interior may come across as rather plain, but spend a bit more time in it and you will be impressed with the driver-oriented environment. The solid and well-built cabin exudes a snug feeling and boasts upscale materials with unbeatable assembly quality as well as an understated and elegant overall design.

MZD Connect works in conjunction with the smartphone to provide internet connection and communication functions, and can read email and short messages aloud whilst on the go, using text-to-voice technology.

Unlike the outgoing model's dated centre console with many controls clustered together, the new Mazda3’s cabin embraces the less is more concept.

Taking the level of sophistication higher, the new Mazda3 also features an Active Driving Display, commonly known as head-up display.

Like the tight cockpit feel, everything feels closer and more driver-focused than the previous model, as if this has grown up into a wholly more serious car.

The new Mazda3 comes with choice of 2 or 2.5 litre SKACTIVE-G petrol engines. The engines pull well from low revs and gather pace with enough enthusiasm to pass muster for everyday driving. The engine may not be so much of an aural delight, but its 114kW and 200Nm (2.0-litre) and 138kW and 250Nm (2.5-litre) smoothly and happily get the car going.

As well as two engines, there is choice from six Mazda3 variations with increasing levels of tech and equipment dependent on requirements and budget.

While not as smooth as a dual-clutch, the Mazda3’s six-speed automatic provides quick gear changes and paddle shifters add to the driving involvement when required. Six speeds manual is also available.

Other efficient technologies, such as the i-Stop idling stop system and i-Eloop regenerative braking system, work with the engine to assist the Mazda3 in a fuel saving quest.

The new Mazda3 does not disappoint with its handling. The well-tuned suspension allowed me to move the car into corners with agility and total confidence. Whilst damping may be on the firm side, bumps and ruts are absorbed well and the ride does not come across as jarring for passengers.

During my drive there was only one negative thought about the car, that it has a bit of road noise. On the flip side, there is good feedback from the sharp and well-weighted steering, which makes the Mazda3 feel solid in the settled way it engages with the road.

  • Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
  • Power: 114kW at 6,000rpm
  • Torque: 200Nm at 4,000rpm
  • Kerb Weight: around 1,300kg
Price: From $20,490 to $35,490 plus on-road costs
Warranty: 3 years /unlimited km