Honda Civic sedan 2019 review: VTi-S
With the recent arrival of the all-new Mazda3 and the ever-evolving Korean offerings - not to mention a resurgent, fun-to-drive Toyota Corolla - has the three-year old Civic still got what it takes?
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Once dominant in the Australian new car market, sedans are now a niche option, typically preferred by traditionalists who aren’t even on the hatch bandwagon, let alone the SUV train.
It swims in a small but turbulent pool of similarly sized sedans from half-a-dozen on-point competitors, and the question is, can this newcomer mix things up in the same way its hatchback sibling has?
|Mazda 3 2019: MAZDA3 G20 TOURING|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
For close to a decade Mazda has devoutly followed its distinctive ‘Kodo – Soul of Motion’ design philosophy, and the Mazda3 sedan takes the theme down a slightly more conservative path.
Matching the hatchback from the A-pillar forward, the sedan maintains the new 3’s charismatic expression built around a large ‘seven-point’ grille with a signature chrome wing defining its lower edge, and menacingly focused LED headlights either side.
But where the hatch has divided opinion with its extended C-pillar section and relatively small rear window the sedan displays a more conventional three-window side glass treatment while retaining a similar slim-line, twin-ring tail-light design.
Not as adventurous, but nicely balanced and well proportioned. A critical factor when thinking about the car’s intended audience.
Inside, the front half is another case of hatchback deja vu with the same flowing design and premium feel showcasing a neatly integrated “widescreen” media display in the centre of a sleek, split-level dashtop.
Soft-touch surfaces combine with the leather trim on this Touring grade’s seats to enhance the quality impression. The uniformly grey colour palette is relatively sombre, and if you want to step up to something more extroverted like white leather, you’ll need to shell out another eight grand for the top-spec G25 Astina where it’s an option .
At just under 4.7m long, a fraction less than 1.8m wide, and a little over 1.4m high, the sedan is the same width as the hatch, and not surprisingly sits on an identical wheelbase.
But the four-door is fractionally taller than the hatch, and its most impressive party trick is an extra 20cm of overall length.
So, let’s cut to the chase. What does that mean in practical terms? Which means starting with the boot, because that’s why we’re here, after all.
And the short story is that at 444 litres (VDA) it’s 149 litres larger than the hatch’s 295-litre volume (with rear seats up). That’s 35 per cent more capacity.
But, I hear you say, the big plus with a hatch is its flexibility. No hard shelf panel behind the rear seats means you can open the load space right up.
Fact is, the sedan swallowed our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres) with heaps of room to spare. You’ll just need to be mindful of the type of stuff you’re likely to carry in the boot because the aperture is definitely more restrictive than the five door’s giant opening.
There are tie-down hooks in the boot floor and convenient pull handles under the aperture’s top lip to drop the 60/40 split-folding rear seat, liberating even more room.
The spare is a speed-limited space-saver, and towing capacity sits at 1200kg for a braked trailer and 60 0kg unbraked.
But what about people? Turns out the extra length in the body isn’t all about cargo capacity, because sitting behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm frame I had marginally more legroom than in the 3 hatch. Headroom’s pretty handy, too.
Even though the sedan is capable of seating five the three rear seat passengers will need to be good friends, or small, because shoulder room for a trio of full-size adults is tight.
There’s plenty of storage provided with a fold-down armrest incorporating two cupholders, large door bins with enough room for bottles, and adjustable air vents (in the rear of the front console) are always welcome.
The front offers plenty of space, with a large lidded storage box (which doubles as a centre armrest) between the front seats, door pockets with bottle room, an overhead sunglass holder, two cupholders in the centre console, with an oddments tray in front of them, as well as a decent glove box.
Pricing for the six model Mazda3 sedan range covers a $12,000 spread from $24,990 for the G20 Pure to $36,990 for the G25 Astina. That’s dollar-for-dollar the same price as the hatch, and amazingly, a six speed-manual gearbox is standard on all models, with a six-speed auto adding $1000.
The G20 Touring sits in the lower half of that spectrum with a $28,990 price tag, before on-road costs, our test example featuring the six-speed auto transmission ($1000) and ‘Soul Red Crystal Metallic’ paint ($495). Five of the seven colours offered are no cost.
Although the 3 remains a key part of its model mix, Mazda Australia acknowledges small car sales are being swamped by an SUV wave and has made a conscious decision to push the small hatch and sedan further upmarket.
It sits in line with small sedan competitors like the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Cerato, Skoda Octavia, Subaru Impreza, and Toyota Corolla. A group that until recently included the Holden Astra, now axed in sedan and wagon form.
The standard equipment list is lengthy, including 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seat trim, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshift, 10-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat (including lumbar and two-position memory), dual-zone climate control air (with rear vents), eight-speaker audio (including digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry and start, auto rain-sensing wipers, auto LED headlights, an 8.8-inch hi-def colour media display (controllable through the ‘MZD Connect’ rotary dial), 7.0-inch digital read-out in the instrument display, wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the auto transmission, a reversing camera and satellite navigation.
Then there are the mirrors. The interior rear-view mirror features auto dimming, as does the driver’s side exterior unit. Both outside mirrors boast a reverse tilt down function and position memory, and of course the vanity mirrors are illuminated.
That’s a competitive batch of features for a small sedan in the high $20k bracket, and that’s without considering the sky-high standard safety spec, covered in the Safety section.
The G20 Touring is powered by Mazda’s all-alloy ‘Skyactiv-G’ four-cylinder petrol engine. The naturally aspirated 2.0-litre features variable valve timing and direct-injection, producing 114kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4000rpm.
Drive goes to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, optionally fitted to our test car. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 6.1L/100km, emitting 144g/km of CO2 in the process. But despite the standard ‘i-stop’ stop-start system, over 300km of city, suburban and freeway running we saw numbers in the nines up to 10.0L/100km.
Happily, the 2.0-litre engine drinks 91 RON standard unleaded, of which you’ll need 51 litres to fill the tank.
We already know the Mazda3 hatch delivers in terms of comfort, refinement and driving dynamics. Question is, has anything been lost in the sedan translation?
First up, you can expect 0-100km/h acceleration in around 10 seconds, which isn’t exactly fast, but it’s not slow either.
Maximum torque of 200Nm arrives at 4000rpm, and you’d love that peak to be a thousand or so revs lower, as would be the case with a turbo equivalent.
But we’re not in sports car territory here, and there’s more than enough performance to get the job done without stress around town and on the freeway.
One distinct upside to a naturally-aspirated engine is linear power delivery and the 3’s electronic ‘drive-by-wire’ throttle delivers quick and smooth progress through the rev range.
The highest compliment you can pay to an auto transmission in this context is that you quickly forget it’s there, and the Mazda3’s six-speed is smooth and the ratios well sorted.
The Touring grade’s wheel-mounted paddles are a plus for those who prefer to do the shifting themselves, but in full auto mode the transmission keeps things on the boil nicely.
Suspension is strut front, torsion beam rear, which sounds like a step backwards from multi-links at the back of the previous 3, but Mazda believes it’s a simpler and less vibration prone arrangement. And a lot of pre-production suspension tuning work was carried out in Australia.
During our week with the G20 Touring sedan the chassis felt firm, and notwithstanding the fact we weren’t driving them back-to-back, ride comfort gives away a couple of points to the hatch.
But overall, we’re splitting hairs. The 3 sedan is quiet and civilised (various cavities are foam filled to reduce noise and vibration), the front seats are supportive and comfortable, and all-around visibility is excellent.
The steering is quick without being abrupt and delivers good road feel. Mazda’s ‘G-Vectoring Control Plus’ is standard, which connects the power steering and engine control computers to subtly fine-tune steering angle, as well as braking and acceleration inputs pre and post cornering.
Standard Bridgestone Turanza T005A (215/45) rubber is quiet and grippy, the brakes are strong with a progressive pedal feel, and ergonomics are top-shelf with crystal clear (partially configurable) instruments, user-friendly controls, and intuitive switchgear.
The fact the wide dash-mounted media display isn’t a touchscreen will be an annoyance for some, because the beauty of mobile mirroring tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is that it operates ‘just like your device’. But Mazda’s concerned about driver distraction and opts for control via the MZD Connect rotary dial in the console.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
The Mazda3 was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in April this year, and safety remains a massive plus for the sedan.
All models feature a solid suite of active safety tech including the usual suspects like ABS, plus stability and traction controls, as well as more recent developments like blind spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, and ‘Smart Brake Support’ (Mazda-speak for AEB) with rear crossing and reverse functionality plus pedestrian and cycle detection.
Also included are ‘Driver Attention Alert’, a forward obstruction warning, auto high beam control, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
If all that doesn’t keep you out of trouble, the airbag count runs to seven - driver and front passenger, side front, curtain, and a driver’s knee bag.
There are three top tether points for child seats/baby capsules across the rear seat, with ISOFIX anchors in the two outer positions.
Mazda’s standard warranty is five years/unlimited km, with five years’ roadside assistance thrown in.
Service is required every 12 months/10,000km (whichever comes first), with visits one, three, and five costing $294, and the second and fourth trips to the workshop set at $338.
That’s an average of $311.60 per year, with brake fluid ($67) required every two years/40,000km, and a cabin air filter ($90) every $40,000km.
|MAZDA3 G20 EVOLVE||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$27,690||2019 Mazda 3 2019 MAZDA3 G20 EVOLVE Pricing and Specs|
|MAZDA3 G20 PURE||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$25,990||2019 Mazda 3 2019 MAZDA3 G20 PURE Pricing and Specs|
|MAZDA3 G20 TOURING||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$29,990||2019 Mazda 3 2019 MAZDA3 G20 TOURING Pricing and Specs|
|MAZDA3 G25 ASTINA||2.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$36,990||2019 Mazda 3 2019 MAZDA3 G25 ASTINA Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|
“The Mazda3 sedan offers an interesting alternative to its funkier hatchback sibling. For many, it’s the most attractive design with a more refined personality. It’s also beautifully built and well equipped, with standard safety a category benchmark. And despite some niggles in terms of ride quality this new 3 is the cream of the small sedan crop.”
Is a Mazda3 with a boot your cup of small car tea? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.