Time to replot the hatch
I am thinking of updating my wife’s 2011 Mazda3 Neo. It has been a fine car and has done less than 50,000km but she wants some of the mod-cons on newer models. What are your thoughts on a Toyota Corolla Ascent, Honda Civic and Mazda CX-3? Should we consider something else? The base models won’t have as many of the features your wife expects. There will be precious little driver assist technology — that’s usually reserved for the top-line variants. The Corolla Ascent is an “old” car compared to others in the segment. The Civic arrived a few months ago so it rates better for mod-cons. The CX-3 is a standout small SUV; the others have hatch or sedan variants. The newgeneration Hyundai i30 and Subaru Impreza are on the way.
CHOICES Toyota Corolla Ascent hatch $20,180
The Corolla has been around for a few years in basically the same specification. The base Ascent scored more kit with the June 2015 upgrade, including reverse camera, ride and steering improvements and better fuel economy — the 1.8litre (103kW/173Nm) manual now claims 6.7L/100km. Styling was improved inside and out and the car is good to drive. It gets cruise control, 6.1-inch touchscreen, manual aircon and steel wheels, while missing out on ToyotaLink connected mobility. Automatic adds $2060. But it’s a Toyota, meaning a vast dealership network, guaranteed resale and cheap fixed price servicing.
Honda Civic VTi-S hatch $22,150
It’s a big car for the class with imposing looks and a smattering of advanced driver assist tech. You get a standard automatic, lane watch, tyre pressure monitor, reverse camera and basic driver aids. The longstanding 1.8-litre (104kW/174Nm, claiming 6.4L/100km) is an honest performer. It has Apple Carplay/Android Auto and standard kit includes climate control aircon, 16-inch alloys, economy assistance and pushbutton start.
Mazda CX-3 Neo $19,990
The great-looking small SUV is compromised by its chassis links to tiny Mazda2. Rear seat and luggage space are tight. Power for the front-drive Neo comes from a punchy 2.0-litre (109kW/192Nm) with claimed thirst of 6.3L/100km. It lacks the excellent commander control set-up, reverse camera and satnav in higher-spec models but has cruise control and rear parking sensors. A safety pack with blind spot monitoring, surround view and a form of autonomous braking adds $1030. Automatic adds $2000.
WILDCARD Suzuki Baleno GLX Turbo $21,990
It’s in the light-car segment but it is actually larger than a Suzuki Swift, goes and rides well, has a six-speed auto as standard and gains satnav, 16inch alloys, climate control aircon, reverse camera and super bright HID headlights. The 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo performs well.
The Corolla is the safe, sure choice — solid, reliable, cheap to service and run, with sound resale value. The Ascent Sport ($21,210) has extra mod-cons.
TOYOTA COROLLA ASCENT
MAZDA CX-3 SUZUKI BALENO HONDA CIVIC
PETER BARNWELL KICKS THE TYRES FOR A READER