The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Cover Story -

WATCH out VW Golf, look out Mazda6. The lat­est it­er­a­tion of Aus­tralia’s favourite car shapes up as quite a weapon yet there’s a risk of col­lat­eral dam­age to its larger sta­ble­mate’s sales.

The roomy cabin, the slick “kodo” styling, the Sky­ac­tiv tech and the tasty dy­nam­ics of the Mazda3 bur­nish its ap­peal and make the brand’s fore­cast of 3800 sales a month look en­tirely rea­son­able.

Among the prom­ises made for the 3 is that it will be­come “part of your life”. Such is the con­nec­tiv­ity that for some buy­ers it will be­come a four­wheel per­sonal dig­i­tal de­vice.

This driver would be quite happy to leave it to the teen pas­sen­gers and L-platers to cus­tomise — not solely from Lud­dite ten­den­cies but be­cause the ve­hi­cle is far more fun to drive than to dick around with set­tings.

The dual zone ethos — cabin for front pas­sen­ger, cock­pit for driver — en­ables just such a di­vi­sion of labour. From the driver’s seat, the vis­ual in­for­ma­tion is clear and am­ple, both in terms of read­outs and the vista ahead and across.

The wind­screen pil­lar is hefty, not egre­giously so, but comes out of the body 100mm rear­ward of where it was in the pre­vi­ous model, giv­ing a greater arc of vi­sion. The mir­rors, mounted on the doors this frac­tion fur­ther back, open up a use­ful sliver of view too.

The 3’s in­creased wheel­base comes to great ef­fect in more space for oc­cu­pants. My lumpy col­league eas­ily sits be­hind the driv­ing po­si­tion of short­arse me and, in the front, has all the legroom he needs with­out dras­ti­cally tak­ing it away from the rear pew.

Un­der way, the 2.0-litre em­ploys its 114kW nim­bly and, on the ini­tial drive, fru­gally. The 2.5, the source of some con­ster­na­tion and much buzzing when en­coun­tered in the CX-5 sta­ble­mate, per­forms keenly and much more qui­etly.

The chas­sis bal­ance on long, wind­ing as­cents elic­its a smile, whether row­ing the man­ual or flick­ing the pad­dles.

At $26,000, the SP25 warmish hatch may not be the vol­ume seller (the base Neo is the tip) but it’s the best-bang­for-buck can­di­date. And the af­fec­tion for the Astina name­plate may be tested when the GT auto ver­sion nudges $40K.

Our pre­view SP25 tries to be­come part of my life when in Mel­bourne’s stu­pen­dous Jan­uary heat, the sat­nav re­fuses to ac­cept a desti­na­tion in the South­bank precinct, ad­ja­cent to the casino. “Mate, keep away from gam­bling,” it seems to tell me.

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