Fog lights, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, paddleshifters and digital radio are standard. The aircon can’t be set to a temperature, though. It lacks front sensors and electric park brake. Built-in satnav is more reliable in remote areas than Google Maps. Standard safety package is much better. Servicing is $1367 for three years, including filters/fluids. Warranty is three years/unlimited km.
Looks old-fashioned despite a recent update. Lacks a digital speedo and the instrument readouts pall against the Honda. There’s a manual handbrake and storage space is tight. Materials and finishes are high quality. Dial-operated menu for the centre screen is easier to use and less distracting on the move than the Honda. Attention to detail falls away in the rear, where hard plastics dominate.
The engine has enough oomph to match most competitors and uses less fuel thanks to its stop-start fuel-saving feature. The six-speed auto, with paddle-shifters for changing gears manually, is less obtrusive in the cabin than the Honda’s CVT and allows you to hold on to lower gears for more drive out of corners.
Comprehensive safety package includes automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring. It will even slam on the brakes if it spots something or someone in your path when you’re reversing. The driver assistance is backed up by six airbags and a five-star crash result where it scored 36.4/37.
A midlife update brings “G-vectoring control” — new technology aimed at making cornering more precise by adjusting engine torque as the car approaches a bend. It’s hard to pick the difference but Mazda says it requires less steering correction by the driver. The Mazda3 was always great to drive and still is. Comfier ride and noise suppression improvements are more noticeable — owners complain about road noise but this example was no noisier than the Honda.