Toyota Corolla 2018 review
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Mazda has been on a roll in the last few years, apparently adored by private buyers who are flocking to its boldly styled cars.
Rather than rest on its laurels, though, Mazda has doubled down with an ambitious and somewhat unexpected plan to move its entire lineup “upmarket”.
Sure, Australian consumers are known for their love of expensive, high-spec versions of cars, but should people really put up with a three- to four-thousand dollar price hike when compared to the previous-generation like-for-like spec?
I sampled a G25 Astina hatch (the top-spec) to find out.
|Mazda 3 2020: G25 ASTINA|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The big question – value. At $38,240, before on-roads, for this particular 3 (well over $40K on-the-road, considering it also has the optional signature 'Soul Red Crystal' paint) it’s a pricey mid-size hatch.
For the same money you can have a rather good mid-size SUV – like a Forester, or Mazda’s own CX-5, and you’re in entry-level 'actual' premium car territory, say, a Mini Cooper S or even a sports machine, like a Toyota 86.
Maybe your heart is set on a hatch, though, and despite tall pricing, the Astina still offers a bucket-load of features.
The spec includes 18-inch alloys, an 8.8-inch multimedia display (not a touchscreen, but we’ll get to that… ) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and built-in nav, Bluetooth and digital radio, electric handbrake, LED headlights with auto high beams, parking sensors front and rear with a 360-degree top-down parking camera suite, leather seat and wheel trim, heated front seats with power-adjust, Bose audio system, heated auto-folding wing-mirrors, and a sunroof.
So, those fishing for value are better served looking further down the range. At least the Astina gets the larger 2.5-litre engine to add some extra potency over the base model’s 2.0-litre engine, so it’s more than just luxury appointments.
This car’s primary rivals offer similar, but not quite as comprehensive feature suites, even on their penultimate variations – with Toyota’s hybrid Corolla ZR standing out as it also offers the option of a Hybrid powertrain at this price.
Want to know where your extra money actually went? It went into making you look good. Because, damn, this is one great looking hatchback.
The very silhouette it cuts is instantly recognisable as a Mazda, but you turn your head anyway to take in it's low and sleek looks. It’s grille now encompasses the front in a diamond-style pattern popularized by the likes of Mercedes and Lexus.
I was trying to find things I didn’t like about the way it looks, but failed.
Even the rear panel, which seems frumpy and over-sized in the pictures, comes together nicely when seen in the metal. The 3D circular accents in the rear light fittings are almost retro and the whole package, when viewed from the rear, undeniably reminds me of the Alfa Romeo Brera. Look it up.
Inside is just as sleek. I’d argue Mazda needs to be applauded for veering away from gaudy post-modern design and sticking with what it’s done before, but better.
The wheel is familiar in shape, but more delicate and intricately executed, the instrument cluster impresses with its semi-digital layout, and the panels are almost all clad in soft-touch materials.
Suffice it to say, this was a car that I liked getting behind the helm of. There were just a few irks about the design. Gloss plastics which inhabit the large area between the seats are a nightmare to keep clean and will never look the same once scratched.
Finally, as good as MZD Connect is… it’s a bit weird to not have a touchscreen, especially when using Apple CarPlay.
Straight up, the 3 presents some issues that are pushing drivers to SUVs. You sit super low in it, making entry and egress perhaps a little harder than you might expect, and the newfound style overload does create issues with the rear door having a smaller than expected aperture.
Once you’re in, the driving position is very adjustable with telescopic steering adjust and comfortable leather-clad seats. The high belt-line, oddly high dash and black-clad interior do make the space a little more claustrophobic than it perhaps needs to be.
Arm room is good though, with plenty of space between the seats, and soft leather clad surfaces for wherever your elbows should land.
Visibility is… predictably compromised by the 3’s newfound abundance of panel work. Particularly out the rear. Good thing the Astina comes with rear cross traffic alert tied to the reverse AEB system I suppose…
The back seat offers average amounts of legroom for the class, but it’s an enclosed space thanks to that thick C-pillars, leaving not much daylight for rear occupants to enjoy. The centre seat is also so small it may as well be for kids only.
Rear passengers haven’t been cheated on trim though, with the same comfortable seats and soft door cards combined with directional air-vents to offer a comfortable, if confined, space.
The boot is smaller than average, too, with 295L (VDA) on offer. If it’s interior space you’re looking for, the 3 is easily bested by rivals like the Hyundai i30 (395L), Kia Cerato (428L), and Subaru Impreza (345L).
Mazda offers two engines in the current 3 range, but the top-spec Astina can make use of only the more premium option, an old-sounding 2.5-litre non-turbo petrol engine.
Figures are stronger than many (but not all) rivals at 139kW/252Nm. Mazda is one of few remaining automakers which will still offer you the option of a six-speed manual transmission, but our car was a six-speed (torque converter) auto.
Hybridization has not yet reached Mazda’s most popular passenger car ranges, so watch this space.
One of the drawbacks from having a large capacity engine with no turbo is higher fuel consumption, and that certainly seemed to be the case for us.
The claimed/combined fuel consumption is an optimistically low 6.6L/100km, but our week long drive of representative ‘average’ driving conditions produced a real-world figure of 8.4L/100km.
Thankfully having an older engine also means you can fill the Astina’s 51-litre tank with base-grade 91RON unleaded.
Mazda must be commended, because the new 3 is evidence that the brand listens to feedback and applies it. The previous generation of this car was noisy and harshly sprung, but this new car has been starkly improved, with a quiet interior on most road surfaces and a softer edge to the dampers.
It’s still on the sportier side, though, the 3 is sharp enough and rides so low that it’s easy to thoroughly enjoy in the corners, but the improvements more than make up for the fact that Mazda quietly swapped the independent rear suspension out for a cheaper torsion bar this time around.
The steering is improved, too. Softer, yet still direct, with my only complaint being that there’s some odd cheap-feeling feedback that comes through the wheel on corrugations and potholes. Most won’t even notice it.
The 2.5-litre engine has plenty of punch for something this size, but with no turbo has a more linear power delivery than some top-spec rivals. It’s still a bit noisy at the higher end of the rev range.
A predictable six-speed torque converter auto should please those who enjoy driving. It’s certainly more engaging than the continuously variable solution offered up by an increasing number of rivals.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The base Mazda3 Pure already has such a good safety suite that it leaves you wondering what’s left for higher grades, but the Astina pushes into new ground when it comes to its feature suite.
The 'i-Activesense' system has been updated to include a new version of Mazda’s auto-emergency braking system (AEB) which also works in reverse, and is plugged into the front and rear cross traffic alert sensors to prevent more than just collisions that could happen directly in front.
It also sports a new version of Mazda’s ‘adaptive LED headlights’ which are fully automatically adjustable. Traffic sign warning and driver monitoring are also now standard.
Other active safety features in the Astina’s quiver include blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist with lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. The Astina is the only grade which allows the active cruise to stop and go in traffic.
Failing all of that you’ll have seven airbags (now including a driver’s knee airbag) a new “accordian style” crumple pattern (we’ll just have to take Mazda’s word that that’s better than it sounds) as well as dual ISOFIX child-seat mounting points and three top-tethers on the back seats.
This Mazda 3 has a five star ANCAP safety rating as of 2019 (scoring remarkably well for adult occupant protection at 98 per cent).
Mazda offers all of its products with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, matching the other Japanese automakers on the scene. It’s bested by Kia’s seven year/unlimited km promise, but that’s about it.
The services are neither cheap nor expensive, coming in at either $315 or $359 on alternating years.
They’re mostly all-inclusive, with brake fluid ($68) required every two years, and a cabin air filter ($92) required every 40,000km.
If you can spare the coin, Mazda’s top spec 3 won’t disappoint. It's every bit as good as it looks and delivers in pretty much every department, but just be conscious of what else this much money will get you elsewhere.
|G20 EVOLVE||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$27,940||2020 Mazda 3 2020 G20 EVOLVE Pricing and Specs|
|G20 EVOLVE VISION||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$29,440||2020 Mazda 3 2020 G20 EVOLVE VISION Pricing and Specs|
|G20 PURE||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$26,240||2020 Mazda 3 2020 G20 PURE Pricing and Specs|
|G20 PURE VISION||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$27,740||2020 Mazda 3 2020 G20 PURE VISION Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|