Pick of the bunch

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - In The Garage -

WHEN it works, tech­nol­ogy is won­der­ful. Our Mazda3 went “back to the shop” this month for a soft­ware up­date to stop the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem from drop­ping out.

Since then, it has worked fault­lessly but it high­lights a grow­ing chal­lenge for mod­ern car com­pa­nies. Af­ter spend­ing decades per­fect­ing en­gi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses to en­sure their ve­hi­cles are me­chan­i­cally re­li­able, they now find them­selves ex­posed to the va­garies of the con­nected age and it’s a steep learn­ing curve.

Mazda says part of the prob­lem is up­dates to third-party apps and op­er­at­ing sys­tems, which have to flow through to the ve­hi­cle. On your iPhone, it’s a sim­ple vir­tual trip to the iS­tore app and all is rosy. On your car, it’s usu­ally a trip to the dealer.

Au­to­mo­tive re­searcher JD Power says a glitch with au­dio, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, en­ter­tain­ment or nav­i­ga­tion is the No. 1 com­plaint with car own­ers, ac­count­ing for one in five re­ported prob­lems.

Else­where, there’s lit­tle to fault our Mazda3 as we en­ter our sec­ond month of “own­er­ship”. We’re av­er­ag­ing roughly 10.0L/100km in heavy peak hour traf­fic, which sounds a mile away from the claimed 5.8L av­er­age. It’s pretty good for our com­mute, where we are lucky to crack 30km/h.

The stop-start fea­ture on the 3, which switches off the engine when stopped at lights, is one of the more seam­less around. Un­like oth­ers, though, it doesn’t tell you how many idling min­utes or millil­itres of fuel you’ve saved or con­served.

Which brings us to an­other weak­ness. The cen­tre screen and in­stru­ment panel graph­ics are look­ing dated, with some read­outs look­ing more like your old dig­i­tal alarm clock than the hi-tech cock­pits on some ri­vals.

Mazda also hasn’t joined the Ap­ple CarPlay-An­droid Auto club, which means you can’t hook up your smart­phone and have all your favourite apps ap­pear on the cen­tre screen.

They are small gripes, though, and it’s still the pick of the small cars, based on its up­mar­ket in­te­rior de­sign — our two-tone cream and black leather in­te­rior looks bet­ter than some prestige brands — and its class-lead­ing dy­nam­ics.

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