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Mazda3 XD Astina 2015 review

2015 Mazda3 XD Astina Diesel
EXPERT RATING
7
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2015 Mazda 3 XD Astina Diesel, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The Mazda 3 keeps pounding away on the sales charts, regularly duking it out with the i30 and Corolla and frequently coming out on top. With last year's brand spanking new third generation 3 came a bit of a reshuffle. Gone is the fast but ill-mannered MPS3 and up to the top of the range goes the diesel, now known as the XD, topping even the warmish SP25.

MORE: Read the full Mazda 3 2016 review

Value

The Mazda3 range starts way down at around $22,000 plus on roads, right up to the $42,190 Astina-only XD. Based on the SP25 spec, the XD is fully-loaded with active cruise control, dual-zone climate-control, sunroof, powered driver's seat, heads-up display, auto-wipers, auto bi-xenon headlights, electric windows all round, keyless entry and start, leather trim, auto-dimming rear view mirror, nine-speaker stereo, sat-nav and LED rear lights.

The XD comes with the Mazda3's otherwise optional safety and sunroof package comprising blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and smart city brake support. There's just one optional extra on the XD, and that is the absurdly good value (and very pretty) Soul Red metallic paint for $200.

Design

Mazda's Kodo design language seems to work on any size. Pioneered first in concept form and then in the svelte 6, Kodo now stretches from the 2 all the way through the passenger range. The big five point grille is framed by a coloured trim that pokes back into the lights. The bodywork flows along the side of the car from the upper corners of the grille, forming an interesting-looking channel that is not only eye-catching but aerodynamically sound.

  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina
  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina
  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina
  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina
  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina
  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina
  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina
  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina
  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina
  • 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina 2014 Mazda3 XD Astina

The XD has a few red flashes to let the car-spotters know you're in the quicker one, along with a handsome set of 18-inch alloys that are in perfect proportion. Inside is largely unchanged from the top-end SP25 but there is a very tasty pair of front seats that not only look good in leather and Alcantara but are uncommonly comfortable.

Safety

The goodies don't stop with the gadgets. The XD comes standard with six airbags, traction and stability control, ABS, brake force distribution, brake assist, forward obstruction monitoring and brake support, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert, the latter to stop you backing out into people as they hoon their machines through carparks. The Mazda3 recently scored 5 ANCAP stars.

Infotainment 

Branded MZD-Connect, the stereo/sat-nav works very well, has USB and Bluetooth, with the only letdown being the low-res maps. The system allows connectivity with apps like Pandora and Stitcher stored on your phone.

The standard Bose-branded speakers on the XD are a bit of a treat, with good deep bass. It's all controlled via a cross between Audi's MMI and BMW's iDrive from the centre console. When you're stationary, the screen becomes touch-capable.

Also on the XD is a little bonus - a head-up display. Before you get too excited, this isn't a particularly good one. A little blade of glass rises from atop the instrument pod, with a bright blue-green LCD projection of speed and lane departure/city braking info. The problem is it's too bright at night but, with the speed readout, it's very handy because of the odd dashboard layout.

A big plus is that it doesn’t become invisible if you’re wearing polarising sunglasses. The housing and light reflect off the windscreen, which seems a wasted opportunity.

Engine / Transmission

The D in XD means diesel, in this case Mazda's 2.2 litre turbo-diesel. It's good for 129 kW (which is a cracking start) and a mind-bending 420 Nm of torque. Mazda claims a combined cycle of 5.2 litres per 100km, with the aid of stop-start and brake regeneration. This is probably a bit of a dream as we saw 9.2 litres in mixed driving.

All that torque and a six-speed automatic transmission helps send the 3 on from standstill to 100 km/h in about 7.5 seconds, which is a guess because Mazda won't give an official figure.

The engine is excellent - plenty of power and torque and the transmission is smooth and responsive.

Driving

The engine is excellent - plenty of power and torque and the transmission is smooth and responsive. It's got a wide power band for a diesel. Acceleration - particularly in the gears - is properly fast. It's a bit diesel-rattly, but there are worse-sounding diesels out there.

All it needs is a better chassis to go around it. That seems like a mean way to kick off what is a largely positive driving experience, but it's not all bad news. The ride is firm, but comfortable, the steering responsive and light and you can take on all-comers once you're rolling. It really does push you back in your seat when you put your foot down.

The only problem is, being a 3, the front-end grip just isn't what it needs to be for really getting stuck in to the corners or burning out of tight ones. It will be left behind by the not-that-much-more expensive Golf GTI, despite having a big torque advantage.

If you're willing to be a bit more judicious with the throttle and deal with the inevitable wheelspin of the inside front and be smooth, you can have some fun, but you need to back away from the limit. All that twist needs a good electronic diff (like the Golf's) or a proper-but-heavy limited slip diff.

Verdict

Going fast is not what this, or any current Mazda3, is about. It's never going to take on a Golf GTI in the handling stakes but we'd be raving if it could. The XD is an excellent all-rounder - frugal and comfortable in the city, brilliant on the open road. You won't avoid twisty bits because it's still a good chunk of fun, it's just not a hot hatch.

Our biggest issue is that at $42,190, it's on the pricey side, which is a shame because it's the best Mazda3 by a country mile. Perhaps if Mazda could strip out the safety and sunroof pack, lose the HUD and knock a few grand off the price, it might become a cult hit...

Pricing guides

$16,999
Based on 547 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$10,000
Highest Price
$24,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Maxx 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,300 – 16,610 2015 Mazda 3 2015 Maxx Pricing and Specs
Maxx Safety 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $10,700 – 15,730 2015 Mazda 3 2015 Maxx Safety Pricing and Specs
Neo 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,900 – 14,960 2015 Mazda 3 2015 Neo Pricing and Specs
Neo Safety 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $10,800 – 15,840 2015 Mazda 3 2015 Neo Safety Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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