Mazda3 still leads from the front

Pilbara News - - Motoring - Alis­tair Kennedy

Mazda has been en­joy­ing steady growth over the past decade on the Aus­tralian new ve­hi­cle mar­ket, over­tak­ing Holden and Ford on its way to sec­ond in the over­all sales hi­er­ar­chy, be­hind Toy­ota.

The star per­former has been the Mazda3 small hatch and sedan, which has been hav­ing a ding-dong bat­tle with the Toy­ota Corolla for top spot.

Now into its third gen­er­a­tion, launched here in Jan­uary 2014, the Mazda3 first went on sale in Aus­tralia in April 2004, re­plac­ing the pop­u­lar Mazda 323. In a very clever mar­ket­ing move this new sim­pli­fied nam­ing for­mat en­sures that the word “Mazda” is ef­fec­tively used in ev­ery ref­er­ence to the car.

The Mazda3 was given a re­fresher in July, in­clud­ing a mild facelift and changes to the steer­ing and sus­pen­sion sys­tems and ad­di­tional safety equip­ment.

Ex­te­rior changes in­clude a re­designed grille and wing with slim­mer head­lights that are ei­ther halo­gen or LED head­lamps, de­pend­ing on the model. LED foglamps are stan­dard on all mod­els above the en­try-level Neo.

In­side, there are changes to the dec­o­ra­tive ar­eas of the trim, while the side “wings” on the touch­screen dis­play panel are larger and eas­ier to read.

There’s good in­te­rior space front and rear. Boot ca­pac­ity is 408 litres.

There are six Mazda3 vari­ants, each avail­able in five-door hatch­back or four-door sedan bod­ies.

In as­cend­ing price or­der, they are Neo, Maxx, Tour­ing, SP25; SP25 GT and SP25 Astina.

Prices start at $20,490 for a man­ual Neo and run through to $35,490 for an SP25 Astina au­to­matic. There is no price dif­fer­ence be­tween hatch and sedan. There are two en­gine op­tions. The Neo, Maxx and Tour­ing grades are pow­ered by a 2.0-litre petrol with 114kW of power and 200Nm of torque; the sportier SP25, SP25 GT and SP25 use a 2.5litre petrol en­gine with 138kW and 250Nm. All mod­els of­fer the choice of six-speed man­ual or six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Mazda3 has a long list of stan­dard safety equip­ment. In ad­di­tion to the usual mul­ti­ple airbags, en­hanced ABS brak­ing and sta­bil­ity/trac­tion con­trol all mod­els have rear park­ing sen­sors; whiplash-min­imis­ing front seats; hill start as­sist; and IsoFix child seat an­chor points.

Also stan­dard in all mod­els are G-Vec­tor­ing Con­trol (GVC) and Smart City Brake (SCBS).

The G-Vec­tor­ing Con­trol sys­tem im­proves chas­sis bal­ance by sens­ing move­ments of the steer­ing wheel and mod­i­fy­ing the amount of torque to each of the front wheels and chang­ing the amount of grip that’s re­quired.

Sys­tems that uses sen­sors and/ or cam­eras to ei­ther pre­vent of re­duce the im­pact of for­ward col­li­sions are be­com­ing more com­mon. Each car com­pany uses a dif­fer­ent name and Mazda has cho­sen Smart City Brake Sup­port-For­ward (SCBS-F) for its cam­era-based sys­tem. For­tu­nately the generic name of au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing is now gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

All Mazda3 vari­ants above the base Neo also get a sim­i­lar sys­tem that acts in the same way to re­duce dam­age while re­vers­ing (SCBS-R), as well as a re­vers­ing cam­era. Sup­port­For­ward

Th­ese mod­els also get the very use­ful Rear Cross Traf­fic Alert (RCTA) that iden­ti­fies ap­proach­ing cars when re­vers­ing out of park­ing spots and Blind Spot Mon­i­tor­ing.

The high­est-spec mod­els also add fea­tures such as Traf­fic Sign Recog­ni­tion (TSR); Smart Brake Sup­port (SBS); Lane-Keep As­sist (LAS); Driver At­ten­tion Alert (DAA); adap­tive head­lights; and radar cruise con­trol.

Our Mazda3 test car was the man­ual mid-spec Maxx.

De­spite its sleek styling, en­try and exit don’t re­quire too much bend­ing and scrap­ing.

The front seats are firm but com­fort­able, with good lat­eral sup­port.

Al­though most com­muters will no doubt opt for the con­ve­nience of an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, we en­joyed the ex­tra con­trol of the car’s six-speed man­ual.

It has a nice, short shift pat­tern and the clutch is light enough for the nu­mer­ous changes re­quired in the ur­ban jungle. The car cruised smoothly and com­fort­ably on the mo­tor­way seg­ment of our test.

On the ru­ral back roads, we had great fun mov­ing through the gears over some un­du­lat­ing and wind­ing ter­rain. The steer­ing is well weighted and re­spon­sive.

The ex­tra sta­bil­ity from the new G-Vec­tor­ing Con­trol sys­tem means there is less move­ment of the steer­ing wheel needed to turn in.

Fuel con­sump­tion from the man­ual hatch is listed at 5.9 litres on the com­bined ur­ban/high­way cy­cle. We av­er­aged in the low sevens dur­ing our week-long test.

Mazda3 com­bines great looks both in­side and out with ca­pa­ble per­for­mance, com­fort and value. Add an ar­ray of safety equip­ment and it’s no sur­prise it has been sell­ing its socks off for more years.

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