In the battle of the bottom-line sedans, the bountifully equipped Corolla sedan takes on the driver’s favourite Mazda3. RICHARD BERRY compares
The fleet favourite Corolla was No. 1 in 2013 but the new Mazda3 is outselling it again. The new-generation Mazda 3 went on sale last month and the base model Neo sedan in manual form undercuts the Corolla on price. Standard features include keyless start, Bluetooth and automatic hill brake. There’s no display screen.
The Mazda3 — 40mm shorter than the Corolla yet with the same wheelbase, 2700mm — has sleek lines, muscular haunches and a feline face, as opposed to the appliance-styled rival. The Mazda’s cabin is youthful but space, especially rear legroom, is limited. Same goes for the boot at 408L.
The Neo sedan is powered by a 2.0-litre fourcylinder (114kW/200Nm), which Mazda claims burns 91 RON at 5.8L/100km in six-speed manual guise. Suspension setup is MacPherson strut front and multilink rear.
Five stars from ANCAP, six airbags plus ABS, stability and traction control. The Neo does not come standard with a reversing camera or parking sensors (the latter are optional). There’s a $1500 safety pack that includes blind-spot warning and infra-red emergency braking.
Ride and handling are impressive thanks to a great chassis — the multilink rear smooths out the bumps. The 2.0-litre feels strong and the six-speed manual suits it well. The driving position is excellent — hips are low, seats supportive. The electric steering is communicative and accurate. An enjoyable car to drive.