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Mazda 3 SP25 Astina 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Paul Gover road tests and reviews the Mazda3 SP25 Astina with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

Paul Gover road tests and reviews the Mazda3 SP25 Astina with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

Subtle changes to the popular Mazda bring a more relaxed ride.

Two weeks of local testing has worked wonders on the updated Mazda3.

There are only tiny visual tweaks on the 2016 model but the dampers and suspension mounts among other things show the benefit of on-road testing in Australia.

The update is about safety and technology, with some small exterior cosmetic changes.

All models also get new technology called G-Vectoring Control, which uses engine torque to improve balance in cornering.

The result is a car that is just as enjoyable to drive but is smoother, gentler and quieter in all conditions.

Mazda bangs on about improved safety and holding the price line from $20,490 — which means an effective value boost up to $1550 — but it's the drive time that unwraps the real improvements in one of Australia's favourite cars.

Even so, it's good to see the likes of speed-sign recognition, cabin updates with a new wheel similar to the MX-5 and extra safety tech including auto emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance on the higher-end models.

There is digital radio in all variants, for places where it works.

"The update is about safety and technology, with some small exterior cosmetic changes," says Mazda Australia marketing chief Alastair Doak. "We took a similar approach with the Mazda6 at the beginning of the year, embedding the safety as standard."

Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric, Mazda has left a reversing camera off the cheapest model.

The diesel Mazda3 has been dropped from the range, which means the line-up includes sedan and hatchback bodies with two engines — 2.0 and 2.5-litre petrol fours — and six trim levels from Neo to SP25 Astina.

  • 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan. 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan.
  • 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan. 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan.
  • 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan. 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan.
  • 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan. 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan.
  • 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan. 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan.
  • 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan. 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan.
  • 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan. 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan.
  • 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan. 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan.
  • 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan. 2016 Mazda 3 Astina sedan.

Pricing is from $20,490 for a manual Neo through to $34,490 for the automatic SP25 Astina.

On the road

In the past, the Mazda3 has generated its sporty driving response with taut suspension and aggressive chassis settings.

It was good for keen drivers, but not for people who like a little more relaxation in their driving and a quieter cabin. We've had a lot of complaints recently from Mazda3 owners who are unhappy about road noise, particularly at the rear.

The fresh approach for 2016 brings a car that's just as much fun in corners but more compliant in the ride and noticeably quieter inside.

It's not as go-kart sharp as it was but it's just as quick and easier to hustle down a twisty road and there is none of the skipping and thumping that I remember as characteristic of the earlier car.

It's at least partly down to the test and development work done in Australia last year and definitely attributable to the vectoring tech.

It uses engine torque to settle the chassis and stiffen the suspension at the right end and right side for optimum grip and balance.

My drive time is focused on the SP25 Astina, which allows me the maximum exposure to the update efforts.

It carries over the smooth 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. Cabin accommodation and boot size are pleasingly familiar but there are lots of other little improvements.

There is, happily, no need to try the auto safety braking but the traffic sign recognition works well, the coloured head-up display is handy and the radar cruise control is superior to some I have tried.

The new steering wheel is pleasing and — for a little while in Brisbane — the digital radio reception is good. However, the lane-keeping assist is overly eager all the time, pushing me away from white lines on every road. I would consider leaving it switched off, except on trips where fatigue might be a factor.

Verdict

I keep coming back to the driving enjoyment and the quieter cabin. It's impossible to measure without instruments but subjectively it is a more pleasant place, particularly on the coarse-chip bitumen roads that have generated the bass drumming in the back that annoys many Mazda3 owners.

Are the updates to the Mazda 3 enough to put it on your shopping list? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more Mazda 3 pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$19,888
Based on 582 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$12,990
Highest Price
$29,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Maxx 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $12,999 – 19,990 2016 Mazda 3 2016 Maxx Pricing and Specs
Maxx Safety 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $13,970 – 18,370 2016 Mazda 3 2016 Maxx Safety Pricing and Specs
Neo 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $12,990 – 17,995 2016 Mazda 3 2016 Neo Pricing and Specs
Neo Safety 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $12,760 – 16,940 2016 Mazda 3 2016 Neo Safety Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Pricing Guide

$17,999

Lowest price, based on 53 car listings in the last 6 months

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