Time to re­plot the hatch

Herald Sun - Motoring - - WHICH CAR? - Stephen Har­ring­ton

THE QUES­TION

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.

VER­DICT

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

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