VI­TALS

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Road Test -

MAZDA3 SP25 ASTINA PRICE $35,490 WAR­RANTY 3 years/un­lim­ited km CAPPED SER­VIC­ING $1566 over 50,000km SER­VICE IN­TER­VAL 12 months/10,000km SAFETY 5 stars EN­GINE 2.5-litre 4-cyl, 138kW/250Nm TRANS­MIS­SION 6-speed auto; FWD THIRST 6.1L/100km DI­MEN­SIONS 4470mm (L), 1795mm (W), 1465mm (H), 2700mm (WB) SPARE Space-saver also claimed to im­prove ride com­fort, where the 3 has also been smacked for be­ing too un­for­giv­ing.

AROUND TOWN

As soon as you slide into the Astina’s sup­port­ive, leather­trimmed GT-style driver’s chair, you know you are in a high­qual­ity piece where at­ten­tion to de­tail is para­mount.

A sim­ple, for­mal dash fronts an el­e­gant twin cock­pit lay­out, with ro­tary dial/cur­sor­op­er­ated in­fo­tain­ment and a head-up dis­play on which your speed, ba­sic nav­i­ga­tion and safety alerts are shown.

Voice con­trol works seam­lessly with phone, nav­i­ga­tion and au­dio menus, so fid­dling with con­trols and eyes off the road time are min­i­mal.

Safety func­tions aren’t un­nec­es­sar­ily in­tru­sive, apart from lane-keep­ing which — as in all cars — is hyper-vig­i­lant to the point where, around town, it soon gives you the ir­rits and you turn it off.

Speed sign recog­ni­tion/alert is a use­ful neu­traliser of speed cam­eras but a 40km/h school zone sign is al­ways iden­ti­fied as such, even out of re­stricted speed times, so its au­di­ble warn­ing can get pesky too.

Au­to­matic brak­ing works. As I ap­proach a sta­tion­ary car at about 40km/h in traf­fic, it reck­ons I’m a frac­tion late on the pedal, hits the an­chors hard just in case and flashes up a BRAKE! mes­sage on the headup dis­play, ac­com­pa­nied by a yelp from the col­li­sion warn­ing alarm. Suit­ably chas­tised, I am more care­ful there­after.

Rear legroom is on the tight side and high win­dow sills re­strict the view for young kids. The boot is huge, though.

The driv­e­train does the job eas­ily and smoothly in town, where you can achieve sin­gle­fig­ure con­sump­tion on reg­u­lar un­leaded.

Low-speed ride is com­fort­ably firm and tyre and road noise around the ’burbs aren’t an is­sue.

ON THE ROAD

Roar from the 215/45 Dun­lop SP Sport Maxx tyres be­comes ap­par­ent on coarse-chip coun­try roads, where I’ve also tested a few other cars with sim­i­lar noise lev­els, notably the Corolla. If you want peak seren­ity, the VW Golf and Honda’s new Civic sedan are bet­ter op­tions.

The 2.5 gets mildly en­thu­si­as­tic in Sport mode, but only above 4000rpm. It’s hon­est enough but can’t match the re­fine­ment, flex­i­bil­ity or midrange punch of turbo power.

Cruis­ing at 100km/h you’ll get 6-7L/100km, which is par.

In­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion is stan­dard and the 3 is so taut and con­trolled it could eas­ily han­dle more power. Its dy­namic abil­ity is matched only by the Golf and Ford’s Fo­cus.

If I was sup­posed to no­tice GVec­tor­ing, I didn’t, so I guess it must work.

The open road ride is com­pli­ant and the Mazda ab­sorbs big hits with ease.

VER­DICT

If you want the best hatch rea­son­able money can buy, it’s a choice be­tween the Mazda3 SP25 Astina and the VW Golf 110TSI High­line. The Golf’s a more re­fined, lux­u­ri­ous, com­fort­able car, with a sweeter en­gine, but there are other dif­fer­ences to con­sider.

Japanese brand blue-chip qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity or Ger­man brand, er, bag­gage and bel­liger­ence? You’re the cus­tomer, so you be the judge.

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