MAZDA3 NEO

In the bat­tle of the bot­tom-line sedans, the boun­ti­fully equipped Corolla sedan takes on the driver’s favourite Mazda3. RICHARD BERRY com­pares

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Head To Head -

VALUE

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

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