E bout

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story -

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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.

Paul Gover

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