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.
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.
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.