years newer than the competition. The overall score of 35.92 is 2.5 points clear of the Mazda.
The 3 was docked two points for a side curtain airbag that didn’t fully deploy, which shows how strong the basic structure is. Both vehicles have the usual software controls. VWowners can tick an option pack that includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and assisted reverse and parallel parking.
The philosophy that drives the respective engine development of these cars also dictates how you drive them.
The Golf surges off the line without turbo lag and a zest that translates into chirped wheels if they’re not pointing straight. The Mazda does its best work higher up the rev range and consequently isn’t as slippery away from the lights or merging from a stop into roundabout roulette.
The extra ratio in theVW helps, too; it shifts up or down to keep the car on boost as required, then quickly shuffles up the ratios when the right foot isn’t as heavy.
Unlike the VW, the accelerator should be firmly depressed to get the best out of the 3. The power delivery continues right to the redline but in the interests of economy the auto box is configured to moderate inputs as much as possible. The flip side is its stop- start system just beats theVW for speed and smoothness. Both are first-rate systems, noted for not being noticed, but the 3 fires up a moment quicker with less of a grumble.
It is still easy to put both cars into double-figure fuel use in mixed driving. Carsguide found the 3 used marginally less fuel over the same route. We did enjoy playing with the Golf’s instant go, though, which might help explain the difference. The suspension in theVWis also a step up and copes with small speed bumps in the city with more finesse than the Mazda.
Noise suppression is the VW’s forte, giving the Golf a refinement unmatched in the segment. Steering feedback on both cars is precise with the VWhaving a slightly meatier feel off-centre.
The Mazda3 is down but not out. It isn’t as dynamically sharp or as well packaged as the new Golf. It is still a viable alternative for those who don’t want that anodyne look but the Japanese brand will tough it out until a new contender arrives next year.
For now the Golf assumes the mantle of the smart driver’s first choice, especially with capped price servicing and longer service intervals.