MAZDA3 NEO AUTO

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Ask Smithy -

It’s mainly the 15-inch steel wheels that dis­tin­guish the en­try level 3 from mildly ex­ier ver­sions. Me­tal­lic paint is stan­dard, as it should be, as is MP3 com­pat­i­ble CD. No Blue­tooth un­til Maxx Sport level. The five speed auto adds $2k on the (bet­ter) six-speed man­ual.

Tech­nol­ogy

A sig­nif­i­cant driv­e­train up­grade is due by year’s end, in­clud­ing a more efficient di­rect in­jec­tion en­gine. Un­til then it’s the will­ing if slightly coarse 108kW/182Nm 2.0litre petrol four, good for 8.2L/100km of ba­sic un­leaded. The ex­tra ra­tio in the man­ual gear­box de­liv­ers bet­ter per­for­mance and econ­omy.

De­sign

In the eye of the be­holder, of course, but the sedan strikes these eyes as awk­ward look­ing. Mazda’s mov­ing away from this highly stylised, creased and an­gu­lar look for its next gen­er­a­tion cars. Much bet­ter within, es­pe­cially for the driver, with clean in­stru­men­ta­tion and clear con­trols.

Safety

An­other five star crasher with the full ar­ray of safety mea­sures. Mazda’s elec­tronic sta­bil­ity pro­gram is among the best, kick­ing in aptly and smartly. The space saver spare can be an un­pleas­ant sur­prise.

Driv­ing

An econo car and a driver’s car. Like most Maz­das it’s en­gi­neered to be dy­nam­i­cally adroit, a sharp, re­spon­sive han­dler that could use more en­gine. The com­ing di­rect in­jec­tion unit and new trans­mis­sions should pro­vide what it needs. Re­fine­ment is less than class-lead­ing, but I can say it doesn’t bother me.

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