MORE THAN A CAR — IT’S SET TO BECOME PART OF YOUR LIFE
WATCH out VW Golf, look out Mazda6. The latest iteration of Australia’s favourite car shapes up as quite a weapon yet there’s a risk of collateral damage to its larger stablemate’s sales.
The roomy cabin, the slick “kodo” styling, the Skyactiv tech and the tasty dynamics of the Mazda3 burnish its appeal and make the brand’s forecast of 3800 sales a month look entirely reasonable.
Among the promises made for the 3 is that it will become “part of your life”. Such is the connectivity that for some buyers it will become a fourwheel personal digital device.
This driver would be quite happy to leave it to the teen passengers and L-platers to customise — not solely from Luddite tendencies but because the vehicle is far more fun to drive than to dick around with settings.
The dual zone ethos — cabin for front passenger, cockpit for driver — enables just such a division of labour. From the driver’s seat, the visual information is clear and ample, both in terms of readouts and the vista ahead and across.
The windscreen pillar is hefty, not egregiously so, but comes out of the body 100mm rearward of where it was in the previous model, giving a greater arc of vision. The mirrors, mounted on the doors this fraction further back, open up a useful sliver of view too.
The 3’s increased wheelbase comes to great effect in more space for occupants. My lumpy colleague easily sits behind the driving position of shortarse me and, in the front, has all the legroom he needs without drastically taking it away from the rear pew.
Under way, the 2.0-litre employs its 114kW nimbly and, on the initial drive, frugally. The 2.5, the source of some consternation and much buzzing when encountered in the CX-5 stablemate, performs keenly and much more quietly.
The chassis balance on long, winding ascents elicits a smile, whether rowing the manual or flicking the paddles.
At $26,000, the SP25 warmish hatch may not be the volume seller (the base Neo is the tip) but it’s the best-bangfor-buck candidate. And the affection for the Astina nameplate may be tested when the GT auto version nudges $40K.
Our preview SP25 tries to become part of my life when in Melbourne’s stupendous January heat, the satnav refuses to accept a destination in the Southbank precinct, adjacent to the casino. “Mate, keep away from gambling,” it seems to tell me.