Clas­sic driv­ing, done right

ALWYN VILJOEN finds top sys­tems from German cars used to best ad­van­tage in the Mazda3

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - ALWYN VILJOEN

THANKS to my pref­er­ence for ve­hi­cles that can earn their keep and the predilec­tion of SA buy­ers for SUVs or small cross overs, it has been a while since I tested a car.

Hence, while driv­ing the Mazda3, I had to keep re­mind­ing my­self this ve­hi­cle has such car-like han­dling be­cause it is, ac­tu­ally, a car.

And what a beaut to boot. The bev­elled edges of Mazda’s de­sign en­sure the en­tire model range stands out in the park­ing lot. This de­sign phi­los­o­phy looks so good on the Mazda6 that read­ers guessed it to be a Maserati, but in the Mazda3 it comes to­gether even bet­ter — much like any shoe looks that much pret­tier in a smaller size.

Best of all, the beauty is not just skin deep. Un­der the hood, the lack of a turbo in Mazda’s Sky­ac­tiv Tech­nol­ogy en­gine (77 kW and 144 Nm) con­tin­ues to sur­prise any me­chanic I took for a test drive. I did not miss the turbo up in Gaut­eng’s thin air, and down at our al­ti­tude in KZN, this tech growls hap­pily.

The new Mazda3 also boasts all the tech just in­tro­duced to the Mazda CX5 sport util­ity ve­hi­cle. On long roads, the heads-up dis­play, (first seen lo­cally in a BMW), gives a handy re­minder of the cur­rent speed limit (re­cently also a party trick in the new Opels).

While this speed limit dis­play is re­ally handy, it is not en­tirely to be trusted. Along one stretch on the N3 out­side War­den, the on­board GPS thinks the 80 km/h zone is a 100 km/h zone, which can re­sult in a steep fine.

I found us­ing the mouse-like sys­tem in front of the hand­brake in­tu­itive, thanks to a much sim­pler ar­chi­tec­ture be­hind the touch screen than what BMW and Audi used when they first placed sim­i­lar con­trol wheels where the driver’s fin­gers can eas­ily reach them.

Most im­pres­sive in the Mazda3, how­ever, is the G-Vec­tor­ing Con­trol (GVC).

Mazda claims it to be the world’s first con­trol sys­tem to vary en­gine torque in re­sponse to steer­ing in­puts in or­der to pro­vide in­te­grated con­trol of lat­eral and lon­gi­tu­di­nal ac­cel­er­a­tion forces and op­ti­mise the ver­ti­cal load on each wheel for smooth and ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cle mo­tion.

Reg­u­lar read­ers will re­call how we wrote this sys­tem kept the much higher Mazda CX5 SUV level around the dy­namic han­dling cor­ners at the Gerotek Test Cen­tre, to both re­duce the pas­sen­gers’ over­all move­ment and make for a less tir­ing ride. In the Mazda3 with its lower cen­tre of grav­ity, the GVC sys­tem adds a lit­tle dar­ing to the drive.

Mazda states the GVC en­gages “by finely con­trol­ling en­gine torque that is based on the steer­ing and ac­cel­er­a­tion of the driver, re­sult­ing in im­proved han­dling for the driver and ride qual­ity for the pas­sen­gers around cor­ners”. In plain English, you will feel like putting foot just for the fun of it a lot more of­ten.

Courtesy of Mazda, Wheels got to do just this in the 2.0L Astina Plus sedan. Af­ter yet an­other 22-hour drive in a small car with no cruise con­trol, I es­pe­cially ap­pre­ci­ated the way the cruise con­trol in the Mazda3 could hold the sedan to the speed limit down Field’s Hill. I also like the pad­dle-shift be­hind the steer­ing wheel, which al­lows you to se­lect the right ra­tio from the six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Its safety fea­tures in­clude Smart City Brake Sup­port (SCBS), Adap­tive LED Head­lights (ALH), Lane Keep As­sist (LKA), Lane De­par­ture Warn­ing (LDW), Driver At­ten­tion Alert (DAA) and Blind Spot Mon­i­tor­ing (BSM), all of which are also avail­able on the Astina hatch­back. The lights im­pressed me most at night. The sys­tem has three ma­jor set­tings; glare-free High Beam, widerange Low Beam and High­way mode. Glare-free High Beam recog­nises lead­ing and on­com­ing cars, and turns off se­lected LEDs to avoid daz­zling other driv­ers. When driv­ing at speeds be­low 40 km/h, the wide-range Low Beam ex­pands dis­tri­bu­tion of light to in­crease driver’s vis­i­bil­ity. High­way mode func­tions at speeds over 95 km/h, in­creas­ing the dis­tance low beam can il­lu­mi­nate the road be­hind a lead­ing car, by con­trol­ling the axis of light.

All this tech reads like a long list of things that can go wrong, but Mazda backs the model with a three-year un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre fac­tory war­ranty, as well as three-year road­side as­sis­tance, a three-year ser­vice plan and a five-year Cor­ro­sion War­ranty.

The top of the range Mazda 2,0 Astina Plus lists for R410 400, while the en­try level 1,6 Orig­i­nal sells for R258 500.

In this price range there is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion, but those who look for all the best prac­tices in one car, and done right to boot, look no fur­ther than the Mazda3. It’s clas­sic driv­ing done right.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

The bev­elled edges of Mazda’s de­sign en­sure the en­tire model range stands out in the park­ing lot, but this de­sign phi­los­o­phy comes to­gether best in the Mazda3. Best of all, the beauty is not just skin deep.

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