NEW MAZDA3 SEDAN: BETTER THAN EVER

Mazda3_sedan_front
Mazda3 has been a consistently high seller throughout its 15 years on the Australian market, often contesting the top spots in both its small-medium category as well as overall sales.

The latest, fourth generation, model arrived here in February this year in five-door hatchback form with the four-door sedan joining it a few months later.

The previous Neo and Maxx names have been dropped and replaced with new titles based on the two engine sizes: 2.0-litre G20 Pure, G20 Evolve, G20 Touring and 2.5-litre G25 Evolve, G25 GT and G25 Astina.

STYLING
As tall, boxy SUVs have grown in popularity it seems that designers of conventional sedans and hatches are reacting by adopting a lower and sleeker, fastback styling. So it is with the Gen Four Mazda3. We found the rear of the hatch a little heavy with its bulky C-pillar and much prefer the smoother lines of the sedan.

INTERIOR
Rear seat passengers in the sedan get more legroom than the shorter hatch as well as a two air vents and drop-down armrest with twin cup holders.

Cargo space in the sedan’s boot is now 444 litres, up from the previous 408 litres in the superseded model. It’s also very accessible with a wide aperture and open practical space. The 60/40 rear seatbacks can be lowered by using pull-tabs located on either side at the top of the boot. They don’t quite fold flat.

Mazda3_sedan_rear

All models have push-button engine start, electric parking brake with auto hold, i-stop automatic spot/start and childproof rear door locks. G20 Pure and G20 Active have cloth seats, all others get leather and powered driver’s seat. G25 models have proximity unlocking.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The engines are revised versions of the Mazda SkyActiv-G 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder units.

The G20 generates 114 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque. The G25 has outputs of 139 kW at 6000 rpm and 252 Nm at 4000 and also comes with cylinder deactivation which allows it to run on two cylinders in light driving conditions to reduce emissions and fuel consumption.

All models are offered with six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions – many other brands only give you a manual in entry-level variants.

Something for the future is the innovative SkyActiv-X engine bringing together the best of diesel and petrol power, resulting in high torque for responsiveness, and seamless, highly controllable driving. This may arrive later this year, though possibly not till 2020.

Mazda3_sedan_interior

INFOTAINMENT
The Mazda Connect system gets an excellent centrally mounted 8.8-inch widescreen colour screen which is controlled by a rotary dial located between the front seats rather than the more common touchscreen.

Embedded satellite navigation is standard in all models as, for the first time in the ‘3, are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are two fast-charging USB ports. Eight-speaker audio is standard on lower specced models, GT and Astina get a premium Bose system with from 12 speakers positioned for optimum reproduction.

Bluetooth pairing proved a bit frustrating until we found out that, unlike most cars where the car needs to be in park, the Mazda must also have the engine turned off and pairing done through the Accessory setting. Not a major issue given that it’s a once-off process for new owners.

SAFETY
New for 2019 is a driver’s knee air bag bringing the total to seven.

Advanced safety features have been added including Smart Brake Support (SBS), Lane-Keep Assist (LAS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR) and Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW). There are also two ISOFIX child seat anchors in the outer rear seats.

New to the GenFour Mazda3 is Vision Technology which adds Driver Monitoring, Front Cross Traffic Alert, Cruising and Traffic Support and a 360-degree view camera. It comes standard in the top-spec G25 Astina and as a $1500 option in all other variants.

DRIVING
Our test car was the Mazda3 G25 Evolve automatic priced at $30,490 plus on-road costs.

The sleek profile does mean a bit of a bend to get in and out but once inside the seating is comfortable and supportive. Indeed we’re told that the design of the driver’s seat ensures not only a correct driving position but also has ergonomical benefits.

The SkyActiv-G 25 engine is larger than its major competitors and the extra torque is noticeable when compared to the standard 2.0-litre versions of its rivals. We haven’t had the chance to drive the manual version but the traditional six-speed auto is smooth and refined.

During the urban segments of the drive fuel consumption was reduced courtesy of the cylinder deactivation feature which was barely noticeable.

On the motorway the car cruised smoothly with the extra refinement, comfortable seating and large boot suggesting that it could easily qualify for long-distance family transport.

Mazda has addressed previous criticism and put a considerable amount of work into reducing NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) and it has paid off with a much smoother, quieter ride than before even on some of the rougher and coarse-chip roads that we traversed.

Handling is competent enough but certainly not in the sporting department. Steering is sharp and responsive.

Fuel consumption in the G25 models is listed at 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres. We averaged a reasonable 7.4 L/100 km during our week behind the wheel.

SUMMING UP
The fourth generation Mazda3 has quality and refinement that almost bring it into the range of premium European cars of the same size. Note that prices have gone up by between $2000 and $2500 to cover the cost of the extra safety and other standard equipment but, given the improvements, we’d be surprised if potential buyers don’t recognise that the value for money is there.

Mazda has now joined the majority of manufacturers in offering a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty together with its Premium Roadside Assistance program for the same period.

MODEL RANGE
G20 Pure 2.0-litre hatch or sedan: $24,990 (manual), $25,990 (automatic)
G20 Evolve 2.0-litre hatch or sedan: $26,690 (manual), $27,690 (automatic)
G20 Touring 2.0-litre hatch or sedan: $28,990 (manual), $29,990 (automatic)
G25 Evolve 2.5-litre hatch or sedan: $29,490 (manual), $30,490 (automatic)
G25 GT 2.5-litre hatch or sedan: $33,490 (manual), $34,490 (automatic)
G25 Astina 2.5-litre hatch or sedan: $36,990 (manual), $37,990 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mazda for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Mazda3 G25 Evolve 2.5-litre petrol four-door sedan)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 2.448 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 139 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 252 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Standard unleaded
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.5 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 152 g/km

DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4660 mm
Wheelbase: 2725 mm
Width: 1795 mm
Height: 1440 mm
Turning Circle: 10.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1376 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 51 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Five years / unlimited kilometres

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