The full SKYACTIV package
Launched in 2003, the Mazda3 quickly grew in popularity to account for around a third of Mazda’s global annual sales and be an important model for the marque. Its production surpassed four million units earlier this year to be recognised as the first Mazda to reach this milestone in such a short timeframe.
The new 2014 Mazda3 hatchback and sedan have arrived and showcases the distinctive KODO-soul-of-motion design architecture that was first seen on the CX-5 in 2012 and the Mazda6 a year later.
The previous model’s happy face has been dropped and the new styling cues include a flatter front grille and sleeker body panels for a sportier design. The Mazda3 sedan is one of the slipperiest vehicles in its class with a 0.26 coefficient of drag (Cd) and the only compact vehicle to outshine its sleekness is the Mercedes-Benz CLA that’s stickered at almost double the price.
Both the hatchback and sedan’s lengths have remained the same but the wheelbase is 60mm longer, it has a 40mm wider footprint and the roofline has been trimmed by 20mm. Around 60% of the vehicle’s structure consists of high-tensile steels which reduce weight and improve the torsional rigidity.
The interior roominess has improved and there are ample soft touch materials throughout the cabin. The uncluttered dashboard features a seven-inch colour screen which is operated by a dial located on the centre console, providing easy navigation of the infotainment system. The circular dial instrument cluster is pleasing to the eye and the chunky steering wheel adds a premium feel to the classy look.
Mazda’s new MZD Connect infotainment system is standard on all models and includes internet radio station’s Pandora, Aha and Stitcher that can be streamed through the user’s mobile device. Satellite Navigation comes standard on all but the GLX models and the SP25 gains a speedometer head-up display.
Sticking with the larger four-pot motors
Many car manufacturers are moving towards fitting smaller engines with turbochargers for improved fuel efficiency and lower exhaust emissions but Mazda has stuck with its 2.0L and 2.5L engines. The outgoing Mazda3 was available with one SKYACTIV engine option on the GSE model, but now all models receive the cleaner burning powerplants.
The 2.0L engine has 114kW/200Nm for smooth acceleration and the frugal fuel economy is claimed from 5.7L/100km while the 2.5L develops 138kW/250Nm for keen performance and is rated to use only 6.1L/100km of petrol in a combined cycle when mated to the automatic transmission. All models feature Mazda’s i-STOP technology which switches off the engine when the vehicle is stationary to reduce unnecessary fuel usage.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models and there is the option of a six-speed manual ‘box for the SP25.
The new electrically assisted steering is nicely weighted and responds adequately to driver inputs while the suspension delivers a comfortable ride and precise handling in the turns. Keen drivers will prefer the 2.5L powerplant’s performance and those who prefer three pedals will enjoy the manual model’s short throw gear lever. The 2.0L motor isn’t a powerhouse but along with the smooth shifting auto ‘box that adapts its shift patterns to the driving style, it performs well enough.
The Mazda 3 has been awarded a five-star ANCAP crash test rating and standard active safety features includes a reversing camera, Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), and SP25 Limited models gain High Beam Control (HBC), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Distance Recognition Support System (DRSS), Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), Smart Brake Support (SBS), Smart City Brake Support (SCBS).
The Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) system uses an infrared laser to scan the road ahead at speeds up to 30km/h and the Smart Brake Support (SBS) system uses a radar monitor at speeds from 30km/h to 145km/h, checking for a risk of frontal impact with another vehicle. If an accident is imminent, without the driver taking evasive action, the systems automatically apply the brakes.
The 2.0L GLX starts the price list at $32,795 and the GSX adds a $2,800 premium, retailing at $35,595. The 2.5L SP25 is priced from $38,395 to $47,495 for the range topping SP25 LTD.
The new Mazda3 has a lot more active safety and creature comfort features added to it that would normally command a premium price tag, but Mazda has managed to keep the increases to a minimum. Better still, the SP25 base model’s price has even dropped by $1,300. It will compete against the Golf VII, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla on the sales leader board but bang for buck the Mazda3 is certainly the attractive new option to consider.