Sleek and sexy hatch which justifies higher price tag
Changing perceptions can be a difficult task.
Hyundai and Kia are winning over Australians after shaking off the cheap and cheerful tag.
Mazda is a brand which has steadily won the loyalty of Australians. The Japanese marque’s success Down Under is a shining beacon for Mazda worldwide.
Playing a pivotal role in its popularity is the Mazda3, the small car that’s available in sedan and hatch guises and was among Australia’s top-two selling cars only five years ago. Now the Mazda3 has shifted to a more upmarket focus as dual-cab utes dominate the best selling podium.
We put the family into a G20 Evolve over the past two months to see whether it now has improved family appeal.
KEL: Life in a Mazda3 looks classier these days.
GRANT: Forget the times of a sub-$20,000 bargain, the ’3 has got a bit fancy.
KEL: The hatch would be my pick, and I like the look of the exterior, especially that rear end.
GRANT: Quite the looker and depending on your perspective, I think it’s the most alluring when compared to something like the tried and tested VW Golf or the recently updated Toyota Corolla.
KEL: Some of my colleagues have commented it looks nice. They often compliment the red colour, I think the Mazda red is spectacular.
GRANT: Spending the extra $495 is a worthwhile investment to get the soul red metallic finish.
KEL: So where does our car sit in the Mazda line-up? It looks and feels like an up-spec model.
GRANT: This is where Mazda has gone upmarket. The Mazda3 we’re driving is the Evolve, which is just one rung up from the base variant and you can have it in the carport for just over $30,000 drive-away.
KEL: It looks and feels more expensive than the price tag.
GRANT: You could learn something from that ethos.
THE LIVING SPACE
KEL: Everything feels well put together and elegant.
GRANT: There’s certainly a feeling of prestige, from the 8.8-inch colour display controlled by a central dial (that’s straight from the luxury playbook) to the modern minimalism of the dash design.
KEL: Most importantly, the cup holders can also handle a drink bottle.
GRANT: And your coffee. That elixir has saved the kids and I on countless occasions.
KEL: You all walk a fine line. I love the console design. There’s enough space for my purse, both my phones and the Apple cord can be plugged in and it’s out of the way.
GRANT: The inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a boon for Mazda. Previous models had a cumbersome design that was difficult to navigate, this is far more cohesive.
KEL: I’m not a fan purely of the dial design, I like the touchscreen option. It took me time to work out how to operate, but overall the configuration is simple and easy.
GRANT: Rarely do I worry about the radio or the in-built satnav. Podcasts, Google Maps and my music are all a click away through CarPlay.
KEL: In the driver’s instruments there’s some great information on fuel consumption and various digital view options. Collectively it’s all classy.
GRANT: Here’s where Mazda has come ahead. The composure on the road is impressive.
KEL: Whether around town or on the highway the cabin is well insulated.
GRANT: Speaking with you on the phone there was barely a whisper of road noise.
KEL: It’s really easy to drive, too, but I like my cars with more punch.
GRANT: This is the base engine, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder. There is an option for a 2.5-litre unit, but given its dynamics I’d be intrigued to see how it performed with a small capacity turbo.
KEL: Because we live in a hilly environment I had to stamp on the accelerator up steep inclines. There are situations when you are pulling out into traffic and you have to gain speed quickly.
GRANT: You are quite the hoon. I am impressed with its balance and composure, along with its ability to handle a bend without rocking and rolling all over the place like an SUV.
KEL: Are all the safety features standard?
GRANT: Automatic braking if you don’t react quickly enough and radar cruise control are all included. But the latter is really aggressive and it steps on the anchors remarkably quickly.
KEL: While it’s great to be cautious and avoid a frontal collision, I worry that drivers behind won’t react in the same manner and you end up being hit.
GRANT: Some extra refinement is needed. Other good inclusions are the head-up display and the speed limit reminder that constantly monitors signs.
KEL: The speed limit feature is great, although it can sometimes pick up signs off the motorway and provide the wrong information.
GRANT: Parking is a breeze with that accurate steering and small platform.
KEL: Absolutely. No concerns about getting into those tight spaces.
GRANT: One of the drawbacks of the hatch is boot space which is 295 litres compared to 444 in the sedan.
KEL: It still managed to swallow our weekly shop without issue.
GRANT: Surprisingly fun to drive. If you use the paddle shifters, the little hatch can be engaging for keen steerers.
KEL: Our family timetable leaves little time for cruising, and it’s a nifty little hatch for getting around.
GRANT: With two growing boys, the rear seat environs can feel cramped courtesy of those beautiful external lines.
KEL: Our two didn’t complain about a lack of leg room.
GRANT: The seat trim feels like it would withstand a good battering and the fabric is often a better option than hot leather during these warm days.
KEL: Rear air vents are another good inclusion.
GRANT: Average fuel consumption was about seven litres for every 100km. Servicing is required annually or every 10,000km – the latter is short, and your return to the dealer alternates between $309 and $354 for the first five maintenance visits.
KEL: I love the look inside and out. Solid and secure dynamics along with a long list of safety features, it remains a great family fit for us and a step above run of the mill hatches.
GRANT: Agreed on all counts. Despite the smaller dimensions it could handle family life if you can manage to deal with the small boot. Certainly a better pick than a small SUV.
AT A GLANCE
MAZDA3 G20 EVOLVE
PRICE $30,412 drive-away (gone up-market)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years, unlimited kilometres (competitive); $1558 for 5 years/ 50,000km (OK)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 114kW/ 200Nm, FWD (hard worker)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise (excellent)
THIRST 6.2L/100km (expect to average about 7.0)
S PARE Space-saver (expected)
BOOT 295L (small)