It’s cheaper than the SSS yet matches the Nissan’s standard satnav, climate control, reversing camera and rear parking sensors. It misses out on leather trim and xenon headlights. Mazda plays the same game on capped price servicing, with service every 12 months/ 10,000km — three years cost $924 but if you drive the average, you’ll need a fourth service for $326, plus fluids and filters at $126.
The SP25 styling is subtle, with Mazda opting against even a badge on the latest model. There are a spoiler and alloy wheels, while fog lamps lift the look above the standard Neo. The interior doesn’t differ much from cheaper models but feels sportier, with better instrumentation and more supportive seats.
The SP25 goes for a bigger engine rather than the Nissan’s turbo boost. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder puts out 2kW less than the SSS but has a little more torque. By the seat of the pants, the Nissan feels a little livelier off the mark but the Mazda is no slouch. It turns the tables on fuel efficiency, using just 6.0L/100km on the official cycle — 22 per cent less.
The Mazda trumps the Nissan with a crash score of 36.40 out of 37 points. It gets six airbags and has seat belt reminders for the rear seats. It also has a $1500 safety pack that gives you blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and automatic low-speed braking.
The SSS has more power than poise — the Mazda feels the opposite. The well tied-down suspension and sharp, precise steering create the impression that it could handle more power. The ride is firmish but not uncomfortable in city driving, while on the open road the SP25 is an engaging and rewarding drive.