3 STILL A CROWD PLEASER
INCREDIBLE ECONOMY AND EXCEPTIONAL CITY HANDLING
ABSENCE makes the heart grow fonder and it has been a good 18 months since we last drove a Mazda3.
We were there for the launch in California a couple of years back and to be frank we’d forgotten just how good this car is: visually, dynamically, in fact in just about every way.
In a smart move the marketing guys have priced the sedan and hatch the same.
Call us conservative but for our money the sedan is the better looking of the two.
Entry Neo starts from $20,490, then on to Maxx, Touring and SP25 in that order; they still haven’t come up with an MPS rocket ship yet. Our Touring test vehicle is priced from $24,790, with another $2000 on top for an auto.
Comes with leather and climate air, auto lights and wipers, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a 7-inch touchscreen with a bunch of apps including Pandora radio.
That’s still 10 grand less than a Mazda6 Touring and you’d be mad not to try a 3 on for size.
A safety pack is available for another $1500 which adds Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Rear-view mirror with auto dimming function and Smart City Brake Support (SCBS).
You want the latter because it’s the one that’s going to save you from a rear ender.
Fortunately a rear-view camera is standard.
A 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine produces 114kW and 200Nm, the latter from 4000 engine revs.
It can be paired with a 6-speed auto or manual.
The latest Mazda3 is a SkyActivmodel, which means it has been engineered with fuel economy in mind, and it shows.
One of the tell tales is that the engine shuts down momentarily to save fuel when the car is idling, but you can turn this feature off if you don’t like it.
Rated at 5.7 litres/100km and we were getting 6.3 after 300km, with 460 to go according to the computer; not bad for an engine this size?
Can’t remember what we were driving before this one, but I can tell you it was a relief to slip behind the wheel of the Mazda3 as we moved into the traffic. It felt like coming home. The seats are comfortable, the wheel is reach- as well as heightadjustable and the touchscreen computer easy to use.
Rear-seat passengers will find it a bit squeezy – if you’ve got me in front of you at least - but the boot which hides a temporary spare is a good size.
Pairing the phone took only a few moments and we were pleased to see the satnav unit displays the current speed limit and warns of approaching speed cameras. It’s hard not to like this car. Our only real gripe concerns the exhaust note, which sounds dry and asthmatic at times.
It tends to lug too, but I guess that’s the price you pay for fuel economy which is in a word outstanding and a testament to Mazda’s SkyActiv technology.
No need to downsize to a 1.4 and turbocharge it, not when you can get this sort of economy out of a traditional 2.0-litre four which is not going to be working as hard?
If I had to buy a car tomorrow this would be on the short list.
The Mazda3 should be on most buyer shortlists.