Mazda’s new 3 is a lat­eral-g whizz

South Waikato News - - Motoring -

Left-foot-brak­ing had its ori­gins in NASCAR and soon found its way into many forms of motorsport. The Mazda3 now does this driv­ing trick for you, re­ports

There’s a new steer­ing wheel in the lat­est Mazda3 range. But it’s not the only thing that’s new about how the driver di­rects the car.

Also in­cluded is a new tech­nol­ogy called G-vec­tor­ing Con­trol (GVC), which chucks a bit more weight onto the front wheels when­ever sen­sors de­tect that the driver is turn­ing into a cor­ner. The GVC does this by re­duc­ing power and this re­sults in a nice­ly­judged amount of weight trans­fer.

Mazda says that this ef­fect is equiv­a­lent to the left-foot-brak­ing tech­nique most as­so­ci­ated with rally driv­ing, but that’s pos­si­bly over-stat­ing things.

For the ef­fect of GVC is so sub­tle that it pos­si­bly re­quires jump­ing out of a 2016 Mazda3, and im­me­di­ately get­ting be­hind the wheel of the 2017 ver­sion to no­tice also re­quires the driver to un­learn all the in­stincts that tor­tu­ously-winding New Zealand roads have en­cour­aged over years of travers­ing them.

Given that GVC has es­sen­tially the same as ef­fect as a throt­tle lift, and we’ve pos­si­bly all been lift­ing our right foot off the go-pedal when­ever we en­ter a cor­ner since we were 15 years of age, I ques­tion whether GVC is of much worth to Kiwi driv­ers.

How­ever, it could be of po­ten­tially life-sav­ing value to the many for­eign tourists who have never driven out­side a city be­fore when they rent a car here, and have yet to de­velop in­stinc­tive driv­ing tech­niques to han­dle one cor­ner after an­other at open road speeds. For you no­tice the GVC ef­fect most if you don’t lift off when en­ter­ing a cor­ner. Stay on the gas (gulp) and the car will au­to­mat­i­cally mod­ify the throt­tle to a more ap­pro­pri­ate set­ting for you.

Learner driv­ers and rental fleets are there­fore likely to ben­e­fit most from GVC. It patently won’t turn us all into Hay­den Paddon clones.

The steer­ing aid just one of sev­eral new safety tech­nolo­gies added to the new­est Three, es­pe­cially when the model is the $47,495 SP25 Lim­ited that lords lots of ex­tra equip­ment over the rest of the range.

There’s also au­tonomous city brak­ing these days, ca­pa­ble of bring­ing the car to a com­plete stop au­to­mat­i­cally if the radar and cam­eras sense the need to trig­ger the ac­tion. The City Brake Sup­port does warn the driver that the car is about to hit some­thing first, so un­der­gar­ments will gen­er­ally re­main pris­tine.

All new Mazda3 mod­els get re­vers­ing cam­eras, rear crosstraf­fic alert, blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, and a twirly-mouse con­troller so that you spend less time tak­ing your eyes off the road than you would if us­ing a touch­screen, but the SP25 Lim­ited goes the whole en­chi­lada.

There’s Lane Keep­ing As­sist, Base price: $47,495. Pow­er­train and per­for­mance: 2.5-litre petrol four, 138kw/250nm, 6-speed au­to­matic, FWD, Com­bined econ­omy 6.1 litres per 100km, 0-100kmh 7.8 sec­onds.

Vi­tal sta­tis­tics: 4470mm long, 1465mm high, 2700mm wheel­base, 18-inch al­loy wheels.

We like: Cov­ers as many safety bases as a Mercedes; def­i­nitely still cuts it dy­nam­i­cally.

We don’t like: Over-ac­tive driv­ing time alert; hy­per­ac­tive gear­box when in sports mode.

❚❚❚radar-guided in­tel­li­gent cruise con­trol, a rather ner­vous you’ve­been-driv­ing-too-long alert (which chimes in at a nan­ny­ing 45 min­utes), adap­tive head­lights, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, and a heads-up driv­ing dis­play.

Add all this to the leather trim, Mazda’s most pow­er­ful nor­mallyaspi­rated pow­er­train, the Bose nine-speaker au­dio, and power seats with heaters and mem­ory set­tings, and you’ve plenty to jus­tify a price tag that’s threat­en­ing to bust through the $50,000 ceil­ing.

The neigh­bours might crow that you could have bought a base model Audi A3 Sport­back for just $1500 more than the most ex­pen­sive Mazda3, but the Ger­man will be stripped to the bone, and won’t in­clude a three­year, free-ser­vic­ing plan.

Nor will it drive with quite the same verve. Mazda might be one of the few com­pact hatch­back­mak­ers cling­ing to an old-school, large-dis­place­ment, nor­mallyaspi­rated en­gine strat­egy, but it cer­tainly works for the 2.5-litre Lim­ited.

Fuel ef­fi­cien­cies are found in the pro­cess­ing of the en­gine’s com­pet­i­tive 138kw/250nm out­puts, rather than mostly in the en­gine it­self, and an­cil­lary tech like the au­to­matic idle stop, slip­pery body de­sign, and what is pos­si­bly the world’s most ef­fi­cient six-speed au­to­matic gear­box help keep of­fi­cial fuel use sta­tis­tics con­fined to 6.1 litres per 100km.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion isn’t lack­ing in the SP25 ei­ther, and the car can get ef­fort­lessly from rest to the open road limit in less than eight sec­onds.

The bid­dable na­ture of the Three re­mains in­tact, al­beit lo­cated be­neath a thicker over­layer of elec­tric-kery than pre­vi­ously. It re­mains one of the best-sus­pended cars in its class, di­rected by one of the best elec­tric power steer­ing sys­tems in all car­dom.

There’s a great com­pro­mise made be­tween the con­flict­ing de­mands of ride qual­ity and cor­ner­ing grip, and the Mazda stands above the com­pact hatch­back crowd, with ar­guably only the Ford Fo­cus to match it dy­nam­i­cally.

Top-spec­i­fi­ca­tion Mazda3 Lim­ited is nudg­ing $50,000. But we reckon the price is jus­ti­fied.

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