Mazda’s new 3 is a lateral-g whizz
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 it.it 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.