17 June 2019

Car Launch: The new Mazda3

When a manufacturer claims a tyre was designed especially for its mass market car, the correct response is usually to ignore that claim as sales flim-flam.

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2019 Mazda 3
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2019 Mazda 3
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2019 Mazda 3
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2019 Mazda 3
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2019 Mazda 3
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2019 Mazda 3
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2019 Mazda 3

But with this latest Mazda3 it isn’t. Mazda got Toyo, Bridgestone and Yokohama to produce a tyre different to those you’re used to, with a stiffer footprint and a springier sidewall, the aim being for the rubber to work as part of the suspension and produce a much more effective package without breaking the budget.

And by golly it works. Judging by our launch drive of the hatch that went on sale on June 1 this car’s handling is extraordinarily supple, especially when you consider the bracket in which it sits.

And the whole car lives up to that quality – it looks fabulous, outside and in, which is important when the competition arguably includes lines up Mercedes’ A-class, BMW’s 1 Series and Volkswagen’s Golf as well as more mainstream competition.

This seventh-generation 3 lives in a declining bracket as the market continues to shift to SUVs and utes, but its predecessor gained market share here, and it remains a solid performer for the brand.

Mazda NZ says it aims to engage those who can let their heart rule a purchase decision. The first key is design. The 3’s flanks feature not a single ‘character line’ or crease, simply a restrained flow of curves for the light to play over. The result, especially paired with the long, lower bonnet and elongated body, is an almost classic elegance.

The cabin looks good too, with a restrained, even up-market design identity, and build and materials which mark this car out – even the base models can stand up to the Euros with head held high. The action of buttons and switches feels a cut above – don’t get Mazda NZ staff started on what went into this – though many functions can also be accessed via a console dial which falls easily to hand, even with your take-away coffee in place, as the cupholders now sit ahead of the gear lever. Nope, no touchscreen, as research has shown they encourage the driver to lean towards them, which can cause unintended steering input.

Our tester loved how easy it was to set up the driving position, how supportive yet comfy it feels, and how good the apparent heft of pedals and steering. That wide C-pillar does obstruct over-shoulder view a tad, but the mirrors and safety aids – reversing camera, blind spot monitor etc – ably fill in the gaps.

The sedan wasn’t available at launch but will be larger – it’s as big as the first Mazda6 – however the hatch doesn’t claim any space advantages against the competition. As usual, if you regularly carry outsize passengers or loads, try before you buy.

Neither the 2.0-litre nor the 2.5-litre engine options will set your trousers afire – they’re competent rather than characterful, and well matched to the rest of the package. The 2.5’s star turn is that it’ll cut the two outer cylinders on a light throttle to slash fuel use. We rarely dropped far below 7l/100km, but for most of our drive were playing with the throttle too much to give those cylinders a rest.

However we drove it, we realized this is quite a quiet car. Mazda makes much of the work done to reduce NVH – noise, vibration and harshness – and indeed there’s very little from outside to disturb, and just enough to inform.

Many other changes seem minor, but impart a ‘cut above’ feel – like the windscreen washers which squirt now from the wipers, not the screen edge.

The infotainment system boots up faster on start, and the satnav includes a 3D gyro sensor so it’ll work even if contact drops, while entering in destinations is easier as it’ll proffer suggestions as you type.

The sedan and hatch were not designed together, the four-door now being an altogether more serious car, while the new Skyactiv X motor, which promises petrol-style power with diesel-like torque and economy will join the line-up next year.

Questions? The latest Mazda3 sells in auto form only, after only one per cent of its predecessor’s sales were manuals. Yes, prices are up model for model, but specification upgrades more than offset that, unless you want a bare basics GLX – there isn’t one. And no, Mazda can’t force buyers to replace these tyres with identical ones when they wear out. But buying a different tyre will affect suspension performance: we can only hope the correct tyres will always be available, and at a similar price to same-quality alternatives.

The Mazda3 sells in a shrinking bracket, and this version could sell even fewer than the last, in part because there’s no budget base model.

Still, we’d recommend it for the great chassis, the handsome, classy looks inside and out, the comfort and the supple handling.

If you’d like a handsome or sweet-handling car which encourages a push-on approach, but need a sensible daily driver hatch, this Mazda3 could top your list.

At a glance


Sedan: GSX, GTX, Limited; Hatch: GSX, GTX, Limited


2.0-litre petrol, 2.5-litre petrol


GSX sedan $36,595, GTX sedan $40,795, Limited sedan $48,795. GSX hatch $36,595, GTX hatch $40,795, Limited hatch $48,795

ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

114kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4000rpm (2.0), 139kW at 6000rpm and 252Nm at 4000rpm


Six-speed auto

Fuel economy

6.2/6.1l/100km (Hatch/sedan 2.0), 6.6/6.5l/100km (Hatch/sedan 2.5)

Towing capacity

600/1200kg (unbraked/braked)


2WD front

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

444/1142 litres (Sedan row 2 seats up/folded), 295/997 litres (hatch, row two seats up/folded)

Safety systems

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Driver Attention Alert
  • High Beam Control
  • Reversing camera plus park sensors front/rear
  • Radar cruise control
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