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Mazda 3 2013 review: road test

EXPERT RATING
8
The small car segment had better look out because there's a new Mazda3 just around the corner that will likely show them all up.

The small car segment had better look out because there's a new Mazda3 just around the corner that will likely show them all up. Looking similar to a slightly scaled-down Mazda6 in sedan form and a bit Alfa-ish around the tail on the hatch, the new Mazda3 brings with it a rash of advanced technology including one of the better multi-media systems in a car in this price bracket.

Design

This is a ground up new model from Mazda with the full gamut of efficiency optimised SkyActiv technology. Not one part is shared with the current model. The car is the same length as the current model but has a longer wheelbase, is lower and wider. The two body shapes, a four door sedan and five door hatch will be available, using more high strength steel in the chassis and saving some weight into the bargain.

Technology

New 3 ushers in what Mazda calls i-Active Sense  -- code for driver assist features like smart city brake support, auto brake function, blind spot monitoring, pedestrian safety system and a host of other technology designed to either avoid a crash or minimise injury. A five star crash rating is assured.

Then there's MZD-Connect, with a driver info-zone featuring the latest generation connectivity system for entertainment and information. The audio has digital radio as well as internet streaming, Aha and Stitcher internet radio, Facebook and Twitter.

A heads-up display will be fitted to the higher range models while the centre pod with touch screen, voice control and dial-select is similar to an iPad complete with apps. The HMI Commander satnav system will deliver traffic reports as well as general information (speed and red light cameras), speed limit monitoring and radar cruise control will be available on some models.

Engines / Transmissions / Suspension

The Mazda 3 arrives with a choice of two naturally aspirated four cylinder petrol engines and two transmissions. The 2.0-litre is capable of an impressive 5.7-litres/100km fuel economy (a 25 per cent improvement) while the 2.5 consumes 6.0. Power outputs are 114kW/200Nm for the smaller capacity engine and 138/250Nm for the larger. Fuel saving i-Stop is fitted as is push button start on some models. Both transmissions are six speed, both optimised for efficiency and compact size.

The suspension geometry is calibrated for local driving - the "rest of the world" setting from the factory which translates into sporty, linear, controlled and responsive. Other dynamics are similarly selected for local consumption. All models share the same calibration and both engines run on 91 octane fuel.

Driving

We had a drive of the 2.5 sedan auto and the 2.0-litre hatch manual and can report the new 3 is a big step up on the current model. It's smoother and quieter and looks striking in the metal, inside and out. The 2.5 has excellent performance and feels more planted than the smaller engined car for some reason. Noise and vibration is minimal even at high engine revs thanks in part to aerodynamics rated as low as 0.26Cd. The interior is a much better space than before with better seats and a more attractive look. It's also easier to use. There's more leg room and a larger boot in both models.

Verdict

Is it as good as a Golf 7? Unequivocally, and will cost less into the bargain.

Pricing guides

$12,975
Based on 450 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$6,990
Highest Price
$20,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Diesel 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $9,600 – 14,410 2013 Mazda 3 2013 Diesel Pricing and Specs
Maxx 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,100 – 13,750 2013 Mazda 3 2013 Maxx Pricing and Specs
Maxx Sport 2.0L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $7,800 – 12,100 2013 Mazda 3 2013 Maxx Sport Pricing and Specs
MPS 2.3L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $12,500 – 18,150 2013 Mazda 3 2013 MPS Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8