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Mazda3 2023 review: G25 Evolve SP hatch

Not all families need or want a big bruiser SUV or wagon to drive, so is this hatchback the answer?

The humble hatchback is usually the choice for 'youngsters' and the older gen who are wanting something that's easy to handle with relatively low running costs.

However, they're gaining popularity with families, too, because space is often at a premium in the city and not everyone needs (or wants) a big bruiser SUV or wagon to drive.

This is where the Mazda3 hatch comes in. Sharing the same aggressive nose as its bigger cousins, the rear end styling and interior has had some updates and it's pretty darn cute.

I've been driving it for the last week with my family of three to determine whether it has enough space to handle our family cruising because, let's face it, families usually come with a lot of stuff and mine is no different!

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What does it look like?

The words 'little' and 'cute' come to mind when you look at it. The front sports the classic Mazda shark-like nose but the black grille and accents, plus the black 18-inch alloy wheels, makes the front look sporty and fun.

Not being the top model means it makes do with halogen daytime running lights but it does sport LED headlights. I preferred the last-generation model's rear-end styling, which had sharp lines and cutaways and made it look aggressive.

The front sports the classic Mazda shark-like nose but the black grille and accents, plus the black 18-inch alloy wheels, makes the front look sporty and fun. The front sports the classic Mazda shark-like nose but the black grille and accents, plus the black 18-inch alloy wheels, makes the front look sporty and fun.

The rear now looks like someone has taken an Instagram filter and blurred all of that lovely detailing away. It's very smooth and coupled with the narrower back windows and large expanse of panelling near the C-pillar, it almost looks… boring, compared to the front.

The interior is quite nice but the driver gets most of the attention. The dashboard sits forward and everything feels within reach, like a true cockpit. It's relatively simple in design but the soft padded leather and red stitching stops it from looking plain.

The partial digital instrument panel looks great and the steering wheel feels lovely under the hands. It's just a shame that the driver's aesthetic hasn't been carried across to the passenger's side, where you're left with a rather bare looking dash and severe rectangular air-vents. Which, curiously, are positioned rather low and aim at your waist.

The rear now looks like someone has taken an Instagram filter and blurred all of that lovely detailing away. The rear now looks like someone has taken an Instagram filter and blurred all of that lovely detailing away.

How does it drive?

The Evolve SP shares its engine with the GT model and it's very fun to drive! It's zippy around town but there's plenty of power on the open road, too. The ride is smooth and it shows a lot of love in handling the corners.

It feels stable, even during high winds, and there's not much roll in it, so you'll feel comfortable tackling winding roads in this.

The Evolve SP shares its engine with the GT model and it’s very fun to drive! The Evolve SP shares its engine with the GT model and it’s very fun to drive!

There are two things that niggle me a little. The first, is that visibility is hindered by the wide B-pillar and narrow windows but the blind-spot monitoring system does help with this. The second, is that the cabin gets a fair bit of wind noise, which can be annoying but it doesn't intrude too much on chatting.

Ooh, and parking. This is where hatchbacks really hold their own against bigger cars. I had a lot more options available in parking because I could simply fit the Mazda 3 in smaller spaces.

The reversing camera is clear and the rear sensors are good. I would have liked to have seen front parking sensors, too, but you can get them as part of an option pack.

You’ll feel comfortable tackling winding roads in this. You’ll feel comfortable tackling winding roads in this.

How spacious is it?

The front passengers will enjoy the most space as the backseat is fairly tight but it would be easy to feel a little boxed-in, in either row. The narrow windows and high door sills contribute to that feeling but the storage up front does help keep gear tucked away.

The glove box and middle console are both a decent size. There are storage bins and a bottle holder in each door, plus two cupholders in the middle console that can be hidden when not in use.

There are additional cubbies/ shelves up front that make the storage feel quite practical for the space you're working with. However, there is little storage in the back seat. There are two cupholders in the armrest plus one map pocket, and that's it.

  • The dashboard sits forward and everything feels within reach, like a true cockpit. It’s relatively simple in design. The dashboard sits forward and everything feels within reach, like a true cockpit. It’s relatively simple in design.
  • The front passengers will enjoy the most space. The front passengers will enjoy the most space.
  • The backseat is fairly tight but it would be easy to feel a little boxed-in, in either row. The backseat is fairly tight but it would be easy to feel a little boxed-in, in either row.
  • There are two cupholders in the middle console that can be hidden when not in use. There are two cupholders in the middle console that can be hidden when not in use.

Since you have to fold yourself in half to slide in and out, the back seat is really only suitable for younger kids or tweens. But adults will manage on a short trip.

The boot isn't massive at 295 litres (VDA) but will fit a large suitcase with a little room to spare. The height of the lip makes it easy to load things into it and the lid isn't heavy to operate.

It also has a slightly deeper floor than its predecessor but that does mean you only get a space saver spare tyre.

  • The boot isn’t massive at 295 litres (VDA). The boot isn’t massive at 295 litres (VDA).
  • The height of the lip makes it easy to load things into it and the lid isn’t heavy to operate. The height of the lip makes it easy to load things into it and the lid isn’t heavy to operate.
  • It will fit a large suitcase with a little room to spare. It will fit a large suitcase with a little room to spare.

How easy is it to use every day?

I can see why people like hatchbacks, they're just easy to handle and this one is no different. Anyone can jump in and go, which is a big plus.

The dashboard feels quite intuitive to use but the rotary operating wheel for the multimedia system can get annoying when you want to do something quickly.

There are two ISOFIX mounts and three top-tether child seat mounts but you probably won't fit three side-by-side, and honestly, you won't want to, anyway.

The low height of the car means you’re bending over a bit to buckle in the kidlets. The low height of the car means you’re bending over a bit to buckle in the kidlets.

The kids will be in each other's space and annoying each other (and you). The low height of the car means you're bending over a bit to buckle in the kidlets, so I wouldn't love to be strapping in an infant every day.

In the back, I would have liked to have seen some USB ports, as there aren't any creature comforts for adults or teenagers. The directional air vents have air control but not climate. Although, the front enjoys dual-zone climate control.

It's an easy car to drive and park, so city dwellers will benefit from its size.

How safe is it?

The Evolve SP comes with a good line-up of safety features, like: front and rear AEB, with pedestrian and cyclist detection (operating between 4.0-80km/h), lane keeping tech, blind-spot monitoring, and the ever-handy, rear cross-traffic alert.

You can get an optional 'Vision Pack' for $1500, which adds some desirable things like a 360-degree view camera, front parking sensors and front cross-traffic alert. Having those additional features would be worth the extra money for me.

The Mazda3 has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from testing done in 2019 and, while not paving any new roads, it does have seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag.

There are ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats and three top-tether child seat mounts but you probably won't fit three side-by-side. Front occupants' space and comfort is compromised when a 0-4 rearward facing child seat is installed.

I couldn't have it behind my driver's position, so this does limit on flexibility for parents with infants.

What's the tech like?

The tech isn't 'blow-your-socks-off' cool but it will more than suffice for everyday use. The dashboard is headlined by an 8.8-inch multimedia system which looks nicely nestled, although, depending on your driving position the bottom of the screen can be cut off at times.

It is a system that's relatively easy to use and has built-in sat nav but like other Mazda models you can't use it as a touchscreen, because it doesn't offer that proper seamless smartphone mirroring.

The tech isn’t ‘blow-your-socks-off’ cool but it will more than suffice for everyday use. The tech isn’t ‘blow-your-socks-off’ cool but it will more than suffice for everyday use.

It has wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and it was simple to connect my iPhone 8 Plus to it. I like that the USB-A ports are inside of the middle console because it means there isn't a trailing cable, everything is tucked away neatly.

The head-up display is great and my eyes were more on the road than the instrument panel, which is how I like it. This model enjoys keyless entry and push-button start plus paddle gear shifters on the steering wheel.

The electric driver's seat with lumbar support and memory function is a nice touch but it isn't extended to the passenger side, which is still manual.

How much does it cost to own?

The Evolve SP is the top Evolve variant before you jump into the GT class and will cost $32,290, before on-road costs. It competes with other small hatchbacks like the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30 but it does represent reasonable value-for-money.

The official combined cycle fuel economy figure is 6.6L/100km and I achieved 8.5/100km on mostly city driving and some longer open road trips. The fuel economy was higher than I expected but I guess that's the compromise to get the extra power of the 2.5L engine.

The official combined cycle fuel economy figure is 6.6L/100km. The official combined cycle fuel economy figure is 6.6L/100km.

It comes with Mazda's five-year/unlimited km warranty, which is pretty standard for the class but it does come with an impressive five-year roadside assistance.

There is five-years capped price servicing and the average annual cost is $347 per service, which is competitive. Servicing intervals are every 10,000 kays or 12 months, whichever occurs first, which could be annoying if you put above average kays on your car every year.


The Wrap

I've grown quite fond of this car. It's small and I certainly got some squats in this week getting in and out of it but it drives very well. I like how easy it is to handle, especially around town, but the back seat is squishy and even my five-year old felt a bit cramped back there. There isn't a lot of in the boot, either, but for the families who are out of the 'pram' stage, this could be a great town runabout. So, this gets a 7.5/10. My son wasn't super excited about this one but was surprisingly fascinated by the boot and wanted to make a cubby in it (go figure) and he gave it a 7.0/10.

Likes

Sporty design
Good safety & tech features
Easy to drive

Dislikes

Cramped back seat
Limited visibility with narrow windows/ wide pillars
High fuel economy

Scores

Emily:

3.5

The Kids:

3.5

$31,888 - $47,768

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