THE HEARSE OF THE FU­TURE

BRIAN BAS­SETT shifts down for the de­light­ful ex­haust note of the new 1.6 Mazda3 Dy­namic

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

ASK any South African over 35 about Mazda and you will prob­a­bly find that at some time in their mo­tor­ing life they have owned a Mazda 323.

This re­mark­able lit­tle car, which was avail­able with 1,3 and 1,6 en­gines ap­peared al­most in­de­struc­tible and can still be seen on our roads to­day.

My daugh­ter had a 1,3 for about six years and, af­ter she de­parted for Lon­don I in­her­ited the car and used it daily over the next five years with no is­sues or in­ci­dents.

I then sold it lo­cally and still see this lit­tle 323 on the roads. This old Mazda 323 thus paved the way for the new Mazda 3 hatch, which com­petes in one of the tough­est corners of the lo­cal mar­ket, where it has al­ready won the Best Hatch­back of the year award in the Wheels Car of the year awards and did very well in

Car Mag­a­zine’s 12 best buys for 2015.

I was there­fore ex­ited when Faizal Hoosen, new ve­hi­cle sales man­ager at Bar­loworld Mazda of­fered me the use of a Mazda 3 for a few days.

Styling

The Mazda 3 is very much part of the new wave of Mazda cars. The build qual­ity is ex­cel­lent and the ex­te­rior im­pres­sion is svelte and sexy and must rate as one of the best look­ing en­trants into the com­pact seg­ment.

The typ­i­cal Mazda ag­gres­sive front grille, the crisp edges, gen­tle curves and sportscar-like taut­ness, to­gether its long bon­net and “cab-back” de­sign cast the car as a stand­out in terms of styling in the com­pact seg­ment.

Em­brac­ing the car­maker’s Kodo or Soul of Mo­tion de­sign phi­los­o­phy first seen in the CX5, the Mazda 3 takes on the brand’s blunt nose and five-point grille lead­ing into thin, slanted, swept­back head lamps.

A sweep­ing shoul­der line flows grace­fully along the side of the body and a more slanted; fast­back roofline ends in a softer, some­what less strik­ing rear treat­ment. Once again, how­ever, the slanted and dis­tinc­tive rear light mod­ules dom­i­nate.

In­te­rior

The in­te­rior de­sign is fo­cused on the driver. The leather-cov­ered seats are well up­hol­stered and out­lined in red stitch­ing, which al­ways lends a sporty feel to any in­te­rior. The er­gonomics are ex­cel­lent and the driver’s seat is one of the most com­fort­able I have ex­pe­ri­enced in a com­pact car.

The dash­board is sim­ple and di­vided into three di­als, which are a mix­ture of ana­logue and dig­i­tal and tell you at a glance ev­ery­thing you need to know while on road.

The cen­tre of the dash is oc­cu­pied by a seven-inch dis­play screen with com­mand func­tion, which pro­vides a wide va­ri­ety of in­for­ma­tion. The leather-cov­ered, multi-func­tion steer­ing wheel is en­joy­able to han­dle and the brake lever is cov­ered in soft leather. The cen­trally-placed gear lever is also leather cov­ered and for those who love to drive, it will be a joy to han­dle.

There is a six-speaker, BOSE au­dio/AUX/CD sys­tem which is ex­cel­lent, as well as a plug for your elec­tronic toys and a cli­mate con­trol sys­tem which serves pas­sen­gers well.

The rear seats will take two adults in com­fort but the na­ture of the over­all de­sign makes three some­what of a squeeze.

Lug­gage space is rea­son­able for a con­ven­tional fam­ily with 408 litres of lug­gage space with the rear seats in place and more space avail­able with the seats folded down in 60:40 fash­ion.

Safety and se­cu­rity

The Mazda 3 may have been de­signed as a sports hatch­back, but it will largely be used as a fam­ily car so it has a wide va­ri­ety of safety mea­sures avail­able. The car has ABS with EBD, Dy­namic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol, Emer­gency Brake As­sist and Hill Launch As­sist. There are 6 driver, pas­sen­ger, side and cur­tain airbags, seat­belts for all and child re­straint an­chor points.

Cen­tral lock­ing makes your life eas­ier and the alarm will wake the dead. In all there are some sev­en­teen safety fea­tures on the car and you can easily en­trust your fam­ily to its care.

Per­for­mance and Han­dling

The Mazda 3 has a 77 kW/144 Nm, four-cylin­der en­gine, which meets the Euro stage IV emis­sions stan­dard. Power is ex­pressed on road via a de­light­fully-smooth five-speed man­ual gear­box and the car is a plea­sure to drive. Straight-line sta­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent and cor­ner­ing at speed presents no prob­lem. This is a driver’s car in ev­ery sense and long dis­tances should be easily dealt with.

Per­for­mance is peppy with 0-100 com­ing up in about 11 sec­onds and top speed is over 180 km/h. Fuel con­sump­tion is al­ways dif­fi­cult to pre­dict as so much de­pends on ter­rain and driv­ing style but, with quite a bit of heavy-footed town driv­ing thrown in my car reg­is­tered about 7,9 l/100 km. Town driv­ing is plea­sur­able, although the Mazda 3 is no ro­bot racer. On the N3 the ride is com­fort­able and when pass­ing large trucks the ex­haust note is quite de­light­ful.

The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence makes you feel as though you are in a larger car.

Prices and com­peti­tors

The en­try model the 1,6 Orig­i­nal comes in at about R233 000 and the 1,6 Dy­namic, which I drove, costs around R255 000, while the range-top­ping 2,0 In­di­vid­ual costs about R294 000.

The car comes with three-year or un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre war­ranty, ser­vice plan and road­side as­sis­tance. The hatch seg­ment of­fers buy­ers the most choice, so also have a look at the Ford Fo­cus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra Toy­ota Corolla and Re­nault Me­gane — to men­tion but a few.

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

The Mazda 3 is more than ready to step into the big boots left by the 323.

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