Ford Focus Active 2019 review
You've got to feel for the marketing peeps at Ford tasked with cooking up a catchy one-word description for the new Focus Active.
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A new Mazda 3 has become an event. I don't say that lightly. When the first 3 landed, it was a bolt from the blue. Bold, sharply priced it was flawed (boy, was it flawed) but it took the humble hatch from humdrum to hoo-boy, look at that.
Some of the problems of the original persisted while Mazda worked on improving its value, which it certainly did over the years. MZD Connect, proper integration with Android and iOS, better interiors, improved ride and handling and, finally, a huge reduction in noise, vibration and harshness. That was a biggie - the early Mazda 3 was not a quiet car.
The fourth generation has landed and straight off the bat, it's taking the 3 a little bit upmarket. The gorgeous new hatch came first, and I had the privilege of punting one around for a week in Soul Red GT form.
|Mazda 3 2019: G25 GT|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Where do I start? What a terrific thing this car is to look at, inside and out. Everywhere your eye falls there's something lovely to see, like the dark alloys, the finely judged shape of the grille, the polarising C-pillar. It's aggressive without being a jerk about it and looks its best in the spectacular Soul Red paint, which should be made compulsory by legislation. The taillights on the hatch are a particular favourite of mine; they just look the business from a distance and up close.
The interior is an evolution of the previous car and guided by the recent Mazda philosophy of reducing button clutter, which improves things immensely (as it did in the updated 6). The materials are yet another step up over the old car's and the seats are excellent, easily as good as those in its Korean rival, the i30 and those in the up-spec Corollas.
Whereas those other two cars have neat interiors, the Mazda's is actually a design that's worthy of appreciation. I'm a big fan of that, especially in cars that are going to find so many homes.
The front seats are really great, very comfortable and would make me very happy on long trips. I'd have plenty of places to put my things, too, with a big centre-console bin, a sensible place to put my phone, four cupholders and four bottle holders.
The bad news is that the boot - always something of an issue in the 3 hatch - is down 13 litres to 295 litres, and well down on the sedan's 444 litres. It's a small drop and, truth be told, you probably won't notice it that much, but it's worth noting. The loading aperture is high and relatively narrow, too, so if you're in the baby phase, pram fit is something you'll need to check.
Taller folks have trouble in the back seat - m'colleague Richard Berry was squashed in tight behind his driving position. I was okay behind mine (I'm easily 10cm shorter) but its on the lower end it's okay. Kids will be fine, but this might not be a long-term proposition if you have lanky teenagers.
The G25 GT name means its a 2.5-litre powered 3 in second-from-the-top-of-the-range specification. A six-speed manual version will set you back $33,490 while this six-speed auto version will cost just another thousand, knocking it up to $34,490. Soul Red Crystal is another $495 (as are Machine Grey and the new Polymetal Grey).
The GT has a 12-speaker stereo, 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start (with a new key!), a comprehensive safety package, head-up display, part-digital dash, active cruise control, electric driver's seat, sat nav, auto LED headlights with auto high beam, leather trim, auto wipers, power windows and mirrors, and a space-saver spare.
The stylish new 8.8-inch widescreen media display is no longer a touchscreen. Mazda reckons they're distracting, so while BMW is making its screens touch-capable, Mazda has gone the other way; restricting control to the rotary dial. The new MZD software is much nicer than the old setup and optimised to the controller. It's also got Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB, which is fantastic.
Mazda's SkyActiv 2.5-litre engine soldiers on in the new generation, in this case delivering 139kW and 252Nm to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic. The G20 makes do with 114kW and 200Nm and feels a lot slower.
It's no fireball, but only the late lamented MPS3 was every really quick, and that came with a great deal of waywardness.
Mazda says you'll burn through 6.6L/100km on the combined cycle. With a week of enthusiastic driving (you probably already know why), it squeaked in under 10L/100km at 9.9L/100km.
As before, Mazda's clever i-Stop stop-start is fitted to cut fuel use. You control whether it kicks in or not by applying a little extra brake pressure if the light is flashing at you.
As an added bonus, the 3 runs on standard unleaded.
I used to be very hard on the 3 because it was hard on the driver. It was noisy and handled oddly and the rear was all over the shop. But over the years, the car has gotten better and better, with the last big change coming with the addition of the very clever G-Vectoring Control (GVC).
For keen drivers, the GVC settles the front end of the car through turns by reducing torque loads ever so slightly, to pitch the car forward and put a bit of extra weight on the front tyres. It's something race drivers do to settle the car in a corner, but they have to use their right foot. The 3 does it all itself.
The result is terrific steering and, with its fast gearing, it means you don't have to turn the wheel much at all to get a result.
For not-so-keen drivers, it means you don't have to correct the steering in tricky corners , so you'll feel more confident and comfortable. It's an exceptionally clever system and is very, very Mazda.
The new car is even quieter than before, which is terrific. Mazda has done a lot of detail work to reduce noise as well as to improve the overall experience. The tyres are more compliant, and there's lots of foam packed into the shell to damp down the mechanical noises necessarily produced by the movement of the car.
But I think the coolest thing about the 3 is that it feels and drives like a much more expensive car. While it costs a bit more than most of its rivals, you can see and feel where the extra cash has gone.
The only real problem I have with it is that I'd love to see what a hot 3 is like, but it seems like I won't get my wish. It's almost tragic.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The third-generation 3 developed a reputation for being loaded with safety gear and the fourth continues the trend. It has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward and reverse AEB, lane-keep assist, reverse cross traffic alert, forward collision warning and a blind spot monitor (crucial with that fat C-pillar).
The kids are looked after by three top-tether anchors and two ISOFIX points
The new 3 scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating in May 2019.
Mazda offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is most pleasing. Since the start of April, you also get five years of roadside assist, which is even more than pleasing, as you used to have to pay for it.
The company continues with the weird 12 months/10,000km service intervals, so clearly it doesn't seem to bother its customers too much. The Service Select program lists the price of each service up to the fifth. Total cost over five services is $1581 at an average of $316 per service (you'll pay either $299 or $342, plus extra items listed on the website).
Mazda's A-game has been with us for a while now, which is lucky, because just about every car in this segment is a cracker. The new Focus, Corolla and long-time nemesis, the Hyundai i30 are all excellent.
This 3 is now at the head of that pack, which is saying something when you've even got a few slick Euros in there. It's great to drive, brilliant to look at and is packed with safety gear as well as gadgets.
Comment call to action: Are the new 3's slick looks and technology-laden package enough to haul you away from its Japanese and Korean competition?
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