You don’t buy a Mazda 3 to stand out. They crowd most Aussie parking lots and dominate city traffic. The Mazda 3 has been Australia’s top-selling car for two years running and has left its small car competitors in its dust.
While this year the Mazda3 keeps the same design – viewed by some as outdated – we get an updated version in 2014.
From $20,330 for the base model manual Neo the Mazda3 competes against the Toyota Corolla (from $19,990), Hyundai i30 (from $20,990), Holden Cruze (from $21,990) and Ford Focus (from $20,290). Equipment varies between models, however they all drive through the front wheels and receive a three year warranty (i30 gets five years).
The Maxx Sport manual tested here is priced from $24,490 and gets 12V auxiliary sockets, six speaker stereo, dual climate control, digital clock, illuminated entry and exit, remoteless central locking, multi-function control screen, trip computer, steering wheel controls, rain sensors and cruise control.
In late 2012 Bluetooth and USB connectivity became standard across the Mazda3 range. The USB feature can connect to iPods, iPhones and USB 2.0 memory sticks. Once connected the song title, artist and album are displayed on the multi-function information screen.
With 7.9 litres/100km (9.9 litres on test) and emissions of 187g/km the Maxx Sport’s fuel efficiency isn’t standout compared to others in its class. It has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 108 kilowatts of power and 182 Newton metres of torque.
After driving the Mazda3 we have no idea why it’s called the Maxx Sport, when in fact its sibling variants are far sportier. For example, the Mazda3 SP25 variant has a 2.5 litre engine with 122 kilowatts of power and 227 Newton metres of torque and the MPS version has a turbo 2.3 litre engine with 190 kilowatts and 380 Newton metres.
Perhaps the name derives from the sporty exterior design with attractive moulded rear doors, high wheel arches, 16 inch alloy wheels, chrome exhaust tip, front fog lamps, metallic paint, side skirts and a spoiler. And of course it wouldn’t be a Mazda3 without the “smiley” shaped grille and sharp headlights that many small car buyers have come to love.
The sports theme continues on the inside with racing instrument dials and bucket styled seats. The black leather steering wheel and shift knob suit the dark interior. The controls on the seats aren’t electronic but the height adjustment on the driver’s seat allows those of all sizes to position themselves comfortably. You can also alter the steering wheel with both tilt and reach adjustments.
Safety features include dual front, side and curtain airbags, active front head restraints, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, stability and traction control, electronic throttle control, engine immobiliser, automatic headlamps and front fog lamps.
It’s clear why buyers love the Mazda3. It’s a zippy small car that will get you around town with ease. It has smooth suspension that takes bumps well and the firm steering allows for good control around sharp corners.
The visibility at the front of the Mazda3 is excellent, due to the thin front pillars and low to the ground bonnet. However, as with many vehicles in the small car segment, rear visibility is reduced due to the thick back pillars.
The 2.0-litre four cylinder engine operates quietly, an indication of Mazda’s strong engine making ability. The only minor niggle is the air ventilation that allows plenty of road and tyre noise to enter the cabin.
The gear box is accurate and easy to use, the gears have been spaced well and the sixth gear makes highway cruising a breeze. You may want to opt for the five speed auto if you’re regularly commuting in heavy traffic, as constantly changing gears can become a headache.
The Mazda3’s design is simple yet sporty, the price is competitive against others in its class and its drive train makes for a fun ride. However, if you feel the design is getting a bit long in the tooth wait for the 2014 redesigned version to be released.
Mazda3 Maxx Sport
Price: from $24,490
Warranty: 3 years
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, 108kW/182Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 7.9L/100Km, CO2 187g/km