Mazda has been enjoying steady growth over the past decade on the Australian new vehicle market overtaking both Holden and Ford on its way to currently sitting second in the overall sales hierarchy, behind Toyota.
The star performer throughout this period has been the Mazda3 small hatch and sedan which has been having a ding-gong battle with Toyota Corolla for top spot, initially in its category but in the past few years as Australia’s overall biggest-seller.
Now into its third generation, launched here in January 2014, the Mazda3 first went on sale in Australia in April 2004, replacing the popular Mazda 323. In a very clever marketing move this new simplified naming format ensures that the word ‘Mazda’ is effectively used in every reference to the car.
Mazda3 was given a refresher in July 2016 including a mild facelift together with changes to the steering and suspension systems and additional safety equipment.
The exterior changes include a re-designed grille and wing with slimmer headlights that are either halogen or LED headlamps depending on the model. LED foglamps are standard on all models above the entry level Neo.
Inside, there are changes to the decorative areas of the trim while the side ‘wings’ on the touchscreen display panel are a larger and easier to read.
There’s good interior space front and rear. Boot capacity is 408 litres.
There are six Mazda3 variants, each available in either five-door hatchback or four-door sedan bodies. In ascending price order they are Neo, Maxx, Touring, SP25; SP25 GT and SP25 Astina. Prices start at $20,490 for a manual Neo and run through to $35,490 for a SP25 Astina automatic. There is no price differential between hatch and sedan.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
There are two engine options. Neo, Maxx and Touring grades are powered by a 2.0-litre petrol with 114 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque; the sportier SP25, SP25 GT and SP25 use a 2.5-litre petrol engine with 138kW and 250Nm.
Lack of demand saw the previous 2.2-litre turbo-diesel dropped from the range in January 2014.
All models offer the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Mazda3 has a long list of standard safety equipment. In addition to the usual multiple airbags, enhanced ABS braking and stability / traction control all models have rear parking sensors; whiplash-minimising front seats; hill start assist; and IsoFix child seat anchor points.
Also standard in all models are G-Vectoring Control (GVC) and Smart City Brake Support-Forward (SCBS).
The G-Vectoring Control system improves chassis balance by sensing movements of the steering wheel and modifying the amount of torque to each of the front wheels and changing the amount of grip that’s required.
Systems that uses sensors and/or cameras to either prevent of reduce the impact of forward collisions are becoming more common. Each car company uses a different name and Mazda has chosen Smart City Brake Support-Forward (SCBS-F) for its camera-based system. Fortunately the generic name of automatic emergency braking is now gaining popularity.
All Mazda3 variants above the base Neo also get a similar system that acts in the same way to reduce damage while reversing (SCBS-R), as well as a reversing camera. These models also get the very useful Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) that identifies approaching cars when reversing out of parking spots and Blind Spot Monitoring.
The highest-spec models also add features such as Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR); Smart Brake Support (SBS); Lane-Keep Assist (LAS); Driver Attention Alert (DAA); adaptive headlights; and radar cruise control.
Our Mazda3 test car was the manual mid-spec Maxx. Despite its sleek styling entry and exit doesn’t require too much bending and scraping. The front seats are firm but comfortable with good lateral support.
Although most commuters will no doubt opt for the convenience of an automatic transmission we enjoyed the extra control of the car’s six-speed manual. It has a nice short shift pattern and the clutch is light enough for the numerous changes required around the urban jungle.
The car cruised smoothly and comfortably on the motorway segment of our test.
On the rural back roads we had great fun moving through the gears over some undulating and winding terrain. The steering is well-weighted and responsive. The extra stability from the new G-Vectoring Control system means that there’s less movement of the steering wheel needed to turn-in.
Fuel consumption from the manual hatch is listed at 5.9 litres on the combined urban/highway cycle. We averaged in the low sevens during our week-long test.
Mazda3 combines great looks both inside and out with capable performance, comfort and very good value for money. Add a large array of safety equipment and it’s no surprise that it has been selling its socks off for more than a decade.
AT A GLANCE
MODEL RANGE (Hatchback and Sedan)
Mazda3 Neo: $20,490 (manual) $22,490 (automatic)
Mazda3 Maxx: $22,890 (manual) $24,890 (automatic)
Mazda3 Touring: $25,290 (manual) $27,290 (automatic)
Mazda3 SP25: $25,690 (manual) $27,690 (automatic)
Mazda3 SP25 GT: $29,990 (manual) $31,990 (automatic)
Mazda3 SP25 Astina: $33,490 (manual) $35,490 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mazda dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Mazda3 Maxx 2.0-litre five-door hatch)
Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 114 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 200 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.7 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 134 g/km
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4580 mm
Wheelbase: 2700 mm
Width: 1795 mm
Height: 1450 mm
Turning Circle: 10.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1291 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 51 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Three years, unlimited kilometres