It wasn’t too long ago that I had the new Mazda2 on test. It was a cracking little car that impressed me to no end. If it had a wee bit more power, it would be on my want list. The fit and finish of it was brilliant, a definite improvement over previous Mazda models and worthy of the worldwide acclaim it’s been receiving. The manufacturer didn’t stop there, new 3 and 6 models were also recently released and they’re just as good. I have to admit that for at least 5 days of the 7 that I had the car I was telling everyone it was the Mazda6, but to be fair, it’s not my fault. The 6 was always the bigger sedan version in the range and this car is, well, a bigger sedan version. I just hope that the people I so happily told about the new Mazda6 didn’t see the tailgate badge when I was driving off into the sunset.
So with that in mind, the difference between the 2 and the 3 could be seen as hatch versus sedan, except for the fact that there’s a hatchback variant of the Mazda3 out too. Both hatch and sedan are bigger cars, higher up on the rungs from the Japanese manufacturer. C-segment competitors that are currently on the way to do what they were created to do - hurt the competition and gain sales for the brand. Here in SA with Mazda being promoted better than ever, I’m sure the sales figures are starting to reflect that people out there are taking a renewed interest in the brand. I know I’m seeing more new Mazdas on the roads than I used to. The same is happening in other countries too; last year in New Zealand the Mazda3 took an overwhelming win in the New Zealand National Business Review’s Supreme Car of the Year competition and also the AA and NZ Motoring Writers Guild’s Car of the Year. Across the pond, the Mazda3 also took the win in the coveted Family Car segment of the 2014 Scottish Car of the Year Awards.
Once you approach the car and it automatically unlocks thanks to the advanced keyless entry, you’ll see that the Mazda3 interior is good and it features all the mod cons you’d expect, but is missing the cool leather inserts with red stitching that the 2 has. The carbon-look inserts are still found on the multifunction steering wheel though. As with the 2, the main focus is the analogue tacho with the chrome bezel, but once the car fires up a little plastic flap on the dash slowly rises up. This is the heads up display, or as they put it, the Active Driving Display. It’s not a very sturdy piece of plastic to the touch, but then again it’s not meant to be touched. I can imagine it’s a pricey little thing if you manage to break it off, which I almost did. It helps if you read the manual before fiddling with things in new cars. It turns out that you change the positioning of the digital speedo readout on the flappy plastic thing via a settings screen on the MDZ Connect system. Up, down, left, right and contrast settings – they’re all there, no need to try and bend it up or down to see the numbers. Now you know.
Features in the Mazda3 include a reverse camera (something I need on a sedan/coupe thanks to having driven hatchbacks my whole life), rear parking sensors, integrated navigation, blind spot monitoring, dual zone climate control, cruise control, hill launch assist, a really good BOSE sound system that plays Rammstein just right, i-stop (something I hate in most cars but is really not intrusive in the Mazda range), Bluetooth and then all the usual driver aids a modern car needs. Everything that needs to be set and changed can be done via the steering wheel or the controls in the centre console, an easy task from the driver’s seat. Oh, and the seat itself has power lumbar support and is 8-way power adjustable, setting the passenger seat is a manual affair though. The model I had was fitted with a tilt and slide sunroof, which I think is actually a standard feature on the Astina model. The rest of the MDZ Connect software is the same as in the 2, which leads me to believe that it’s the same through the Mazda range just like the KODO – Soul of Motion can be seen in the exterior styling of all the new generation Mazda models.
The car has a sleek look to it, the KODO gives it the same nose as the 2, but just scaled up a little. Rolling on 18s is a standard feature for the Astina model, the wheels are a good design and suit the car, something many manufacturers fail to achieve for some reason. Press releases often use the term ‘striking’ to describe things on new cars, and that word aptly describes the headlights and taillights on this Mazda3, hence the close up pics. The Mazda3 is good to look at from any angle. It goes almost as good as it looks too.
I say almost because while the new high-compression SkyActiv-G motor measures in at a 2000cc and makes a decent 121kW (at 6000rpm) with 210Nm (at 4000rpm), it’s still a normally aspirated setup which is odd considering most of the competition is using turbocharged motors now. It still takes the car to the 100km/h mark in a smidgen over 10-seconds, which is pretty good going. Planting your foot from a standstill at a green light will see the Mazda3 revving nicely though the gears and from 3rd gear on it really starts to get some pace. If you’re taking a slow cruise on the highway and decide you need to add a little bit of hurry up and go to your journey, foot flat on the gas pedal sees the car instantly gear down to the right gear. The 6-speed auto ‘box works fast and I never found it hunting for the right gear, it knows what it needs to do and does it well. While it’s not a sports-orientated car, the Mazda3 can be chucked around a little, handling is good. When I got the car I reset all the gauges as per usual and after a week of combined cycle driving the consumption showed an average of 7.2l/100km. It actually got that figure on the first drive and never changed from it no matter if I nailed the car or if I cruised on along road.
I really like the Mazda3 2.0 Astina, it’s a good all rounder and I can’t think of a feature that it might be missing. It covers all the bases and then some. This model starts off at R330 800, which does make it competitive in the class it fights in. Now that the brand is it’s own entity, it’s ready to take on the competition. As soon as more people get to see and experience the new Mazda range I’m pretty sure new a host of new buyers will be convinced to join the existing Mazda client base.
Mazda3 2.0 Astina AT- from R330 800
The new Mazda3 comes standard with:
• 3-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty
• 3-year roadside assistance
• 3-year service plan
• 5-year corrosion warranty
For more info or head on over to www.mazda.co.za