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Audi A3


Mazda3

Summary

Audi A3

Audi’s A3 is one of the most affordable ways into this prestige German brand. But like some amusement park mirror maze you’ll find with so many A3 variations there are numerous, seemingly identical ways into the model. 

Which one do you choose? There’s a sedan, a hatch, and a convertible with four different engines, not to mention front- or all-wheel drive.
 
That’s why this range review is here – to guide you through the A3 hall of mirrors, and identify the right model for you.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mazda3

Has anybody ever told you how lucky you are? Well, it’s true because if you’re looking for a small affordable car right now there are at least five different makes which are all so good you could pick any and probably be happy - but some are better than others.

Mazda knows how fierce the competition is and the new Mazda3 has arrived to win you over.

This new Mazda3 is the fourth generation version of a car which has been an Aussie favourite for years. Known for being a more premium feeling, fun-to-drive, small car with a high level of safety technology the Mazda3 was challenged in recent years by new-generation rivals such as the Hyundai i30, Toyota Corolla, Kia Cerato and Ford Focus.

The competition had different strengths – the Cerato offered a low price point, the Focus had Euro looks and a luxury feel, the i30 was refined and great to drive and the Corolla had Toyota’s reputation for bullet-proof reliability on its side.

What could Mazda do to try and fight off that onslaught? Find out below in our review of the new-generation Mazda3.

Read More: Mazda 3 reviews

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Audi A37.5/10

The Audi A3 is now five years into this current generation and it’s beginning to show its age in terms of tech and styling in the cabin, despite updates adding new equipment. It’s expensive compared to most small cars but is spot-on for a prestige vehicle. 

The Sedan is, in my view, the best looking small sedan on the planet and offers the biggest boot space in the A3 range. The Sportback, however, is arguably more practical, with better legroom, headroom and cargo carrying ability (with the rear seats down). The Cabriolet has the same perfect proportions as the sedan, but like all good convertibles doesn’t make practicality a priority. 

The sweet spot of the range would have to be the Sportback 2.0 TFSI quattro S Line with its $50,000 list price making it the most affordable but most 'specced up' A3 in the entire range.

You have $50,000. Do you buy an entry-grade Audi A3 Cabriolet, a 2.0 TFSI Sport Sedan or a Volkswagen Golf R? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Mazda37.8/10

The new-generation Mazda3 may cost a little bit more than some of its rivals but when you consider what you’re getting in return such as standard features including safety tech, craftsmanship and how enjoyable it is to drive, it’s absolutely worth it.  

The sweet spot of the range? The G20 Evolve has a mountain of standard features at a good price. If you are able to stretch the budget I'd go for the G25 Evolve for a bit more power and torque, too. 

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Is the Mazda3 the king of the small car kingdom? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Design

Audi A38/10

The A3 comes in three body styles: a five-door hatch, which Audi calls the Sportback; the four-door Sedan, and a two-door convertible which it refers to as the Cabriolet. It may not surprise you to learn they're all different sizes, too.

The Sportback doesn’t look like the shortest of the three but at 4313mm end-to-end it’s 145mm shy of the Sedan and 110mm shorter than the Cabriolet. But those exterior dimensions don’t tell the whole story on interior space. So, which one is more practical? We’ll get to that.

But first, the looks. The Sportback has a wagon-like appearance with its large (for a hatch) rear quarter windows. If you think it looks longer than a regular hatchback, you’re right: a Volkswagen Golf is 50mm shorter even though it shares the same platform as the A3.

However, unlike the Golf, there’s something about the Sportback’s proportions which doesn’t seem balanced.

Then there’s the A3 sedan. Now this is a perfectly proportioned car. Looking like a miniature version of the A8 limo, the A3 is one of the only tiny sedans on the planet that looks fantastic.

The Cabriolet is based on the Sedan, and it too looks beautifully proportioned. Soft tops, when they’re up, never do much for a car’s profile. Be it a Bentley or an A3, they always look better down. When the roof is down the A3 appears lower, sleeker, and tougher.

While all A3’s have the same grille and headlight design the rear treatment of the Sedan and Cabriolet is more refined with their blade-like tail-lights and boot lid lip, than the Sportback, even if it does have a roof-top spoiler.

Interiors are identical across each A3 grade, the cabin benefiting from excellent fit and finish and the use of high-quality materials. But if you like bling-tastic cockpits, maybe you should be looking at a Benz A-Class because even the fanciest A3 money can buy, the RS3, comes with a small display screen and a rather low-key interior design. 

As for rivals, the new A-Class (which I’ve just reviewed) is a glitzy competitor in hatch form, with a soon-to-arrive sedan going head-to-head with the little Audi as well.

Or there’s BMW’s 1 Series hatch and 2 Series Coupe. The 1 Series hatch is seriously ugly, the 2 Series is stunning and looks fast standing still.


Mazda38/10

Yes, indeedy. The hatch has arrived first while the sedan will be with us in mid-2019 and people seem to be split right down the middle as to which is better looking.

I live in the camp which says the hatch is stunning. I’m really taken by the chunky C-pillar behind the rear door.

Yes, it does affect visibility out the back (I strapped a camera to my head in the video above to show you how much of a blind spot is created), but the aesthetic effect created is worth it, just.

The creases in the panels from the previous hatch have also been ironed out – look at the images of the new car in side profile.

The sedan has a fastback profile and it’s attractive – a rare thing among small affordable four-door saloons.

Both the hatch and sedan share the same new face, too. The previous generation car had a friendly, smiley face – take a look at the ‘nerdy’ emoji – that was it.

The new Mazda3 looks like it wants to eat you with its broad mesh blacked-out grille, sleeker than sleek headlights and the area underneath them has now been smoothed out for a clean look.

The cabin for all new-generation Mazda3s, too has moved to a new level of refinement with a minimalist design using high-quality feel materials, dark colour schemes, with subtle labelling to the controls for climate and media.

The overall effect is a cockpit that looks and feels high-end and sophisticated. Take a look at the interior photos.

The outstanding feature of the cabin is the wide display screen that nestles into an overlapping fold in the dashboard. A huge step away from the old screen which stood like a billboard and looked aftermarket, this new display is elegant and premium.

It’s not a touchscreen, however, which takes some getting used to – especially when it comes to accessing Apple CarPlay through a rotary dial located on the centre console.

The Mazda3 is a small car but the dimensions show it’s not tiny. At 4460mm end-to-end the hatch is 200mm shorter than the sedan; both are the same width at 1795mm and the hatch is 5.0mm shorter in height at 1435mm tall.

There are three optional paint colours and they cost $495: 'Machine Grey metallic', 'Polymetal Grey metallic' and the popular 'Soul Red Crystal metallic'.

Standard colours include 'Snowflake White Pearl', 'Sonic Silver', 'Machine Grey', 'Jet Black', 'Titanium Flash' and 'Deep Crystal Blue' which looks beautiful. The palette is a bit conservative, with not a green or purple in sight.

All cars come with alloy wheels, they’re 18-inch on all but the G20 Pure which has 16-inch rims.'

Picking Mazda3 grades apart from the outside is tricky – the wheels are the giveaway. If you look closely at the images, you’ll see the Mazda3 has a subtle body kit with side skirts, a rear diffuser and front spoiler.

Hatches come standard with a rooftop spoiler, and both body styles have twin chrome exhaust.

Has that translated to improved interior dimensions? In some ways, yes, but even with the longer wheelbase there’s not a whole heap of room in the back. See below for more.

You might be able to option different alloys to spruce up the exterior design, though you’ll have to wait and see if you can get a ‘Kuroi’ style body kit with a front spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser and rear wing spoiler. Just think twice about a carbon fiber roof, eh?

On the high-grade model at launch it looked more like there’d been a luxury pack fitted than a sports pack.

Practicality

Audi A37/10

The Sportback and Sedan have five seats, while the Cabriolet has four. Leg and headroom in the back row for all body styles is limited. The Sportback will give you the most rear legroom, while the sedan has a few millimetres more space for your knees than the Cabriolet. 

At 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position in the Sportback with a pinkie finger’s space, while my knees brush the seatback in the Sedan, and the Cabriolet won’t accommodate my long legs back there at all.
  
Rear headroom in the Sportback isn’t bad with enough room for my big head to clear the ceiling thanks to that tall(-ish) flat roofline while the sedan is a tighter fit but I just make it under. The Cabriolet’s low fabric roof means only small adults or kids will be able to sit up straight back there – unless the top is down and then you have literally unlimited headroom.

Boot space varies obviously depending on the body style. The Sedan has biggest cargo capacity with 425 litres, the Sportback offers up 340 litres, but fold those rear seats down and you have 1180 litres at your disposal, plus a bigger aperture to fit stuff in. The Cabriolet’s folding roof eats into the boot space, but you’re still left with 320 litres even when it’s down.

The folding roof is automatic and can be raised or lowered at up to 50km/h, but it’s slow - I’ve timed it and it takes about 20 seconds to open or shut.

Storage throughout the cabin is limited, too. There are two cupholders up front in all cars, while the Cabriolet is the only A3 to have two cupholders in the back (they’re between the rear seats). If you want cupholders in the rear of the Sedan and Sportback you’ll have to option the $450 fold-down armrest which houses them.

All grades above the 1.0 TFSI come with storage nets in the seatback and front passenger footwell, 12-volt sockets in the rear centre console and boot, plus cargo nets back there, too. There’s a USB jack in the centre console of all A3s.


Mazda37/10

If you’re buying the Mazda3 to use as a family car, then you’ll want to read this. The boot space of the Mazda3 hatch has been reduced in this new generation car. The cargo capacity of the hatch is now 295 litres (VDA), while the previous car has 308 litres of room. the sedan has a cargo capacity of 444 litres.

If you have a pram, then see if it fits into the boot before you buy. As a parent myself, that would be a deal breaker and I’d look at stepping up to a Mazda CX-5 SUV which is a more practical family car.

Those backseats in the hatch are a bit squishy, too. At 191cm tall I can only just slide my legs in behind the driver’s seat when it’s in my position and headroom is getting tight for me back there, too.

I reckon kids will outgrow those seats quickly and if you plan on hanging onto the car for a while, you’re going to have complaints from lanky, cranky adolescents about space. Again, the answer is something bigger such as a CX-5 if you want to stay with Mazda.

Up front space isn’t a problem – I found I had plenty of shoulder room and headspace, and while those seats are impressively comfortable and supportive, more cuddly people (ahem, bigger folks) might find them tight.

Cabin storage space is excellent with a giant centre console bin under the armrest between the front seats and places to put keys, wallets, purses and phones under the dash around the shifter.

There are two cupholders in the front and two in the back and decent-sized bottle holders in all the doors.

Price and features

Audi A37/10

The A3 isn’t great value for a small car, generally speaking, because while you are getting a high-quality prestige vehicle, it doesn’t come with a mountain of equipment that you might find on a more affordable little hatch or sedan.
 
Look at it this way: take $40 into a fish and chip shop and you’ll walk out with your arms full of food, take the same amount into a Michelin-starred restaurant and you’ll be lucky to get an entrée. Same with buying a prestige car – and the A3 really is a starter on the Audi menu.
 
Coming standard on the entry-grade $36,200 1.0 TFSI Sportback are xenon headlights with LED running lights, cloth upholstery, dual-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, multimedia system with voice control, eight-speaker stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, CD player, front and rear parking sensors, rear view camera and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Only the Sportback comes in this 1.0 TFSI grade. The rest of the body styles start with the 1.4 TFSI ($40,300 for the Sportback; $41,900 for Sedan; $49,400 for Cabriolet) which comes with the 1.0 TFSI’s equipment but swaps the cloth seats for leather upholstery and adds paddles shifters, aluminium-look interior elements and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Stepping up to the 2.0 TFSI Sport ($46,400 for Sportback; $48,000 for Sedan; $55,500 for the Cabriolet) adds leather sports front seats, aluminium door sills, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 17-inch alloys with a different design.

The 2.0 TFSI quattro S line ($50,000 for the Sportback; $51,600 for Sedan and $59,100 for the Cabriolet) brings in lowered sports suspension, 18-inch alloys and LED headlights.

Each grade also attains more safety equipment, which we’ll cover further on.

I’ve also reviewed Mercedes-Benz’s new A200, which is a good model comparison for the A3. At a list price of $48,200 the 1.3-litre four-cylinder A200 is pricier than the 1.4 TFSI, but offers better value than the A3 2.0TFSI with more equipment, including two 10.25-inch display screens.

As for paint colours, only 'Brilliant Black' and 'Ibis White' won't cost you a cent more. Optional colours include 'Cosmos Blue', 'Tango Red' and 'Monsoon Grey'.


Mazda38/10

How much is a Mazda3? Well, the Mazda range has five grades to pick from: Pure, Evolve, Touring, GT and the Astina.

Then there’s a choice of two engines: the G20 and the more powerful G25, which you can get with a manual gearbox or automatic transmission. The thing is you can’t get all grades with both engines. I’ll show you.

Here are the list prices (RRP) for the manual versions with the G20 engine – just add $1000 for the automatic: the G20 Pure is the entry-point into the line-up and lists for $24,990; above it is the G20 Evolve for $26,990 and then the G20 Touring for $28,990.

Now, here’s what you’ll pay for the grades with the G25 engine, and again these are for the manual cars, but add a grand for the auto: the G25 Evolve is $29,490, above that is the G25 GT for $33,490 and then at the top of the range is the G25 Astina for $36,990.

The hatch has arrived first and the sedan will be in dealerships by mid-2019 – both cost the same.

As for drive-away prices – speak to your dealer at the end of the month and see what they can do.

The level of standard features across the range is seriously good. Coming standard on all cars is a head-up display, an 8.8-inch screen, reversing camera, sat nav (GPS), adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital (DAB+) radio, Bluetooth and steering wheel mounted controls.

All Mazda3s come loaded with advanced safety equipment such as AEBblind spot monitoring and lane keeping assistance which you can read about below. All come with rear parking sensors, too, while the Astina has front ones as well.

The G20 Pure and G20 Evolve have cloth seats, while the rest have leather with a power adjustable driver’s seat.

Only the G20 misses out on paddle shifters and dual-zone climate control, but has single-zone air-conditioning instead.

The only difference between the G20 Evolve and G25 Evolve (apart from the engine) is the G20 has cloth seats while the G25 comes with proximity unlocking and a power adjustable driver seat.

The G25 GT and G25 Astina come with a 12-speaker Bose stereo but the eight-speaker sound system which is standard on the rest of the grades is excellent.

All have push-button start and only the G20 Pure and G20 Evolve don’t have a proximity key.

The top of the range G25 Astina is the only Mazda3 which comes standard with a sunroof.

It’s great that all cars have LED headlights and LED tail-lights.

Is it good value? Yes, absolutely. Sure, getting into the line-up costs more than some of the rivals such the Kia Cerato or Hyundai i30, but the base grade Mazda3 is better equipped than the entry-level grades of those cars.

Engine & trans

Audi A37/10

Now on to the engines. Yes, I’m doing this in what may seem a strange order, but trust me, it’s to guide you safely through the A3 range without anybody getting lost. We don’t leave anybody behind here, not on my watch.

The grades indicate the engines in the A3 line-up – the higher the grade, the more powerful the engine. So, the range starts with the 1.0 TFSI which has a 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, and steps up to the 1.4 TFSI which has a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre four-cylinder with cylinder on demand (COD) letting it run on two cylinders when not under load). Both are front-wheel drive (FWD) cars.

Next rung up is the 2.0 TFSI Sport and that has a 2.0-litre four making 140kW/320Nm with drive going to the front wheels. The top of the range is the 2.0 TFSI quattro S line which has the same engine but is all-wheel drive (AWD).

Those are all turbo-petrol engines – yes, no diesels and no manual gearbox option either. All have a seven-speed dual-clutch automatics shifting the gears. 

If you’re after something more hardcore in the same package, there are two halo ‘models’ that sit above the A3 range: the S3 with a 213kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four and the RS3 with its 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-petrol making 294kW/480Nm. 

Given they are almost stand-alone models, the S3 and RS3 aren't included in this review, but you can read about them separately by clicking those links.


Mazda37/10

We touched on this earlier, but let’s go into a little more detail. There are two engines available: the G20 and G25. Both are four-cylinder petrols with the G20 being a 2.0-litre making 114kW/200Nm, while the G25 is a 2.5-litre making more grunt with 139kW/252Nm. The G25 has cylinder deactivation which lets the engine run on two cylinders when not under load to save fuel.

Having driven the G20 Evolve and G25 Astina with automatic transmissions back-to-back I can tell you the difference feels huge when it comes to steep hills and fun driving on the winding bush backroads where I tested the cars.

That said, the G25 isn’t particularly sporty either, so if it comes down to budget and you’re not fussed by having a little less oomph, the G20 is perfectly fine.

A timing chain, rather than a timing belt should make many out there happy.

All cars can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

Some countries will be able to get all-wheel drive (AWD) Mazda3s, but Australian ones are front-wheel drive.

A diesel isn’t offered on the Mazda3, and the hybrid version may not make it to Australia.

As for the 'Skyactiv-X' Mazda3, that super fuel-efficient petrol car will come to Australia soon.

Fuel consumption

Audi A38/10

Fuel usage depends on the engine and body style, with weights varying across the range. The most fuel-efficient engine is the 1.0-litre which is only offered on the Sportback, and Audi says over a combination of urban and open roads you should see it use 4.8L/100km.
 
The 1.4 TFSI Sportback uses 5.0L/100km, while the Sedan uses 4.9L/100km, but the heavier Cabriolet drinks more at 5.1L/100km.

My most recent A3 test car was a 1.4 TFSI Sportback and the trip computer reported 7.6L/100km over a mix of city and country kays - not bad.

The 2.0 TFSI Sport Sportback uses 5.9L/100km, the Sedan needs 5.8L/100km, the Cabriolet a bit more at 6.0L/100km.

The 2.0 TFSI quattro S Line Sportback uses 6.2L/100km, while the Sedan will go through 6.1L/100km and the Cabriolet again is highest with 6.4L/100km.

That raises the question of how much more does the Cabriolet weigh? About 170kg more than the Sedan and  Sportback thanks to the extra reinforcement needed to strengthen the body to compensate for the rigidity it loses by not having a fixed metal roof.


Mazda37/10

Mazda says the 2.0-litre engine in the hatch with the six-speed manual should use 6.4L/100km (6.3L/100km for sedan) while the auto will use 6.2L/100km (6.1L/100km in the sedan) after a combination of urban and open roads.

My own testing in the G20 Evolve with that 2.0-litre engine saw me use 6.7L/100km after 85.2km according to the trip metre. That was over a combination of city streets, motorways and country roads.

As for the 2.5-litre engine, Mazda says in the hatch with the six-speed manual it should use 6.3L/100km (6.2L/100km for sedan) while the auto will use 6.6L/100km (6.5L/100km in the sedan) over a combination of urban and open roads.

When I swapped into the G25 Astina after it had completed the same journey as the G20 Evolve the trip computer was saying 7.6L/100km.

As for towing the Mazda3 has a braked towing capacity of 1200kg. Not bad and enough for trailer or small caravan.

Driving

Audi A38/10

I’ve driven all A3 variants from the 1.0 TFSI to the 2.0 TFSI quattro S Line, plus the S3 and RS3, but most recently I tested the 1.4 TFSI Sportback, which I’ll focus on here.

Our car was fitted with two optional packages – the 'Style Package' which adds LED headlights, 18-inch alloys and sports suspension, and the 'Technik Package' which brings a virtual instrument cluster, an 8.3-inch display and sports steering wheel.

Those larger 18-inch alloys wearing low profile 225/40 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo2 tyres look great, but like thin-soled shoes you’ll feel every imperfection on the road giving a harsher texture to the ride, plus they can be noisy on course-chip bitumen. 

I’d stick to the standard 16-inch wheels. Sure, they don’t look as racy, but the ride from those, on 55 profile tyres, is a lot more cushioned.

Despite that grittier feel from the tyres the sports suspension is excellent and manages to soften bigger bumps well. Handling is good too, thanks to that suspension keeping the body well controlled.

Good visibility, steering that’s light but offers decent feel, and a comfortable seating position make the A4 pleasant to pilot,  but not hugely engaging. If you're after more of a driver’s car, the S3 and RS3 will deliver – trust me.

Acceleration isn’t bad from the 1.4-litre, with 0-100km/h claimed to be 8.2 seconds. That dual-clutch transmission is a quick shifter and smooth even in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but only if you turn off the stop-start engine system (jerky and hard to tolerate). 

I’m also not a fan of the way the stop-start system switches the engine off as you coast to a stop at traffic lights and intersections. For me, that borders on a safety issue, particularly when needing to turn on an amber only to find you momentarily lack steering or power.

As mentioned in the engine/transmission section, the 1.4 TFSI Sportback is a FWD car. Put it on a steep hill, as I did on our test incline, and even in dry conditions it’ll lose traction under hard acceleration. Traction control reins the slippage in, but AWD 'quattro' cars won’t struggle for traction in the same circumstances. 


Mazda38/10

Mazda’s schtick is fun driving and the brand is super keen to tell everybody it meets about how much work it puts into making its cars enjoyable to pilot.

That’s good news for you if you see driving as more than just getting from A to B, but even if you don’t, you’ll benefit from changes made in the new Mazda3.

I found the previous Mazda3 to be up there with the best affordable small cars to drive, but when the new generation i30 appeared the Hyundai’s refinement and suspension tune delivered a serious threat with great ride and handling.

Also look at the Kia Cerato, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus if you want to do a model comparison.

Now Mazda has done it again – this new generation car is the most comfortable and engaging Mazda3 made.

You may have heard a bit of hubbub about the rear suspension changing from a multi-link to a torsion bar in this fourth generation Mazda3.

Even we at CarsGuide called it “an apparent technological backward step” but having now driven the new car on Australian roads I can tell you its ride and performance haven’t been damaged. If anything this car feels more composed and dynamic than ever.

I was able to drive two versions of the Mazda3 at the Australian launch – the G20 Evolve and the G25 Astina.

The drive route from Sydney airport to the NSW Central Coast and back couldn’t have been better in that it represented normal driving, not just a blast on great roads through the country which doesn’t give you much real-world information.

Starting in the G20 Evolve and snaking through the city towards the M2 Motorway was a good way to get used to the car’s layout of controls. I did find it tricky at first to read the stylishly subtle labelling on buttons.

Just locating the fan speed switch was difficult, for example, because it sits flush under the small climate screen. But that minimalist styling is also something I love about that cabin and an owner will instinctively know where everything is after a while.

And ergonomically the cabin is great. Yes, the display isn’t a touchscreen, but it’s too far away to reach anyway, even if you had arms as crazy long as mine.

I drive on those same roads every day. I know how the hundreds of cars I’ve tested react to the bumps and bruises of Sydney’s arteries which stretch north to the Central Coast and the Mazda3 impressed me with how comfortable and composed it stayed.

Steering is direct, meaning you turn the wheel and the car turns almost instantly with it. That sounds silly but some cars have slow steering that lags a little.

That steering is great for sporty driving, but around town it can feel a little ‘on edge’, but again owners will grow to love its quickness, I think.  

What’s not particularly quick is that Evolve with the G20 engine, with well-sorted suspension and direct steering the weak link is a lack of oomph from the 2.0-litre.

Still, if it came down to money and the 2.5-litre engine was out of the price range (because you can get the Evolve with a G25), then the G20 shouldn’t be seen as a deal breaker – it just didn’t feel like it had long legs.

Whereas, the G25 Astina did when I swapped into that car – the difference in grunt while not huge on paper felt plainly noticeable as we took to bush backroads through to the coast. That 2.5-litre engine is a better match for the good dynamics of the new Mazda3.

A criticism of the previous generation car was the amount of road noise that found its way through into the cabin and NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) was a major focus for Mazda on this new car.

Some of the lengths Mazda went to to reduce noise included padding in the steel structure of the car itself to act like a shock absorber during flexing; creating suspension components which change the direction of the forces on the car over speed bumps to keep the driver’s head as motionless as possible; tyres which ‘squish’ more so they don’t transfer the jolt over a speed bump; and carpet and floor mats designed to trap sound.

Even the seats have been designed to not just provide a good driving position but be good for your back by keeping your pelvis upright and your spine in the natural S-shape it takes when you walk.

The driver’s seat was one of the most comfortable and supportive I’ve ever sat in and that’s including prestige cars. I’m also talking about the cloth seats in the G20 Evolve which seemed to expand a bit more to fit me than the leather ones in the G25 Astina.

The overall effect of the work Mazda has put in means the Mazda3 provides one of the best driving experiences you can have for a car under $40k.

Safety

Audi A38/10

The A3 has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from its 2013 crash test, which applies to the Sportback, Sedan and Cabriolet.

While the Sedan and Sportback have seven airbags, the Cabriolet has just five, missing out on the head-level curtain bags.

The amount of advanced safety equipment increases as you step up through the grades, but AEB is standard across the range. Lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert becomes standard from the 2.0 TFSI Sport upwards, while the lower grades can attain these with the optional $1500 'Assistance Package'.

For child seats there are two ISOFIX mounts and two top tether anchor points across the back seats in the Sedan, Sportback and Cabriolet.


Mazda39/10

This fourth-generation Mazda3 is yet to be tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but we’re expecting it to perform well.

All cars come equipped with a high level of standard safety technology including AEB which works forwards and backwards, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance and blind spot monitoring. The G25 Astina also comes with front cross-traffic alert.

Mazda was one of the first brands to make AEB and other advanced safety tech standard across its line-ups and it continues to be a leader, where many other carmakers, including prestige ones, make safety tech a pricey optional extra.

For child seats, you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the rear row.

There’s a space saver spare tyre under the boot floor.

Ownership

Audi A37/10

The A3 is covered by Audi’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at 15,000km/12-month intervals. A three-year/45,000km service plan is available and costs $1680.


Mazda38/10

The Mazda3 is covered by Mazda’s five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Servicing is recommended at 10,000km/12-month intervals. While Mazda doesn’t have capped price servicing the price calculator on its website says Mazda3s with the 2.0-litre engine will costs $991 over three years and $1778 over five years; while the 2.5-litre car will cost $1006 for the three years and $1802 for five.