Skoda Fabia vs Mazda 2
It's a baby hatch match, playing sportiness against cuteness. Then, says Craig...
Browse over 9,000 car reviews
Sporty German sedans combine class, cred and willing performance. Craig Duff adjudicates.
Misses out on the latest technology, from adaptive cruise control to autonomous emergency braking, but otherwise well equipped. The warranty is three years/100,000km and servicing costs run to a budget-boosting $1240 for five years/80,000km. That’s cheaper than many capped price deals from mainstream brands.
Benz packs more software and standard kit into the C250 and the interior looks and feels special even against $100,000 cars — one of the reasons it is CarsGuide’s reigning Car of the Year. The warranty is better at three years/unlimited km and service intervals are longer, annually or 25,000km. The downside is the cost of servicing, which runs to $4580 for five years/125,000km. That pares back the value equation to put these two on a par.
There was nothing wrong with the looks so the midlife revisions are relatively minor. Front bumper air vents are reprofiled and LEDs illuminate the front and rear. Head-up display (an option on the Benz) is always welcome. The dash has more chrome bling and a sliding cover for the cupholders replaces the inelegant liftout lid that marred the previous interior. Soft-touch plastics enhance more surfaces and leather upholstery is standard.
The C-Class looks classier overall. Matt woodgrain finishes and the relative lack of switchgear mark the cabin as more modern. Adjustable damping gives it a more comfortable default low-speed ride than the BMW yet it will stiffen up and lower the car in the sports setting to handle high-speed corners with finesse and precision.
An eight-speed auto is standard across the 3 Series range, matched to BMW’s modular design engines where each cylinder is 500cc. The 330i shares its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with the 320i but it is wicked up to deliver 185kW/350Nm. Claimed fuel use is a modest 5.8L/100km yet the sporty sedan can hit 100km/h from rest in a more than respectable 5.8 seconds.
As good as the 2.0-litre turbo is in isolation, with figures of 6.0L/100km and a 0-100km/h time of 6.6 seconds it can’t quite keep pace with the BMW for economy and is smoked on acceleration. Torque is identical to the 330i but power drops to 155kW and is fed to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic.
The physical safety of the 3 Series can’t be argued. ANCAP tested the 320d in 2012 and it scored 36.76/37. The 330i steps that up with blind-spot monitoring, lane departure alert and light emergency braking to minimise impacts at up to 60km/h, backed by six airbags. The 3 Series will also steer itself into a parallel or right-angled parking spot.
Stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, steering assist, blind spot, lane-keeping and rear cross-traffic alerts are supplemented by nine airbags. ANCAP tested the car last year and gave it an overall score of 36.46/37. The autonomous braking works from 7-250km/h for moving vehicles and 7-70km/h for stationary objects, including pedestrians. The Benz will self-park if required.
Adaptive dampers are the default setting and underbody changes have helped restore the balance between comfort and cornering. It still isn’t as convincing over low-speed lumps and bumps as its rival but it is great through the corners. The engine is a willing collaborator in everything from cruising the ’burbs to cranking it on the back roads. The eight-speed auto is also a touch smoother on the early upshifts than the Mercedes seven-speeder.
A match for the BMW in cornering prowess, it trails on outright pace. The steering is precise, with a near-perfect balance between weight and feedback. For those who aren’t in the mood to tap the dynamics themselves, cruise control helps negate the frustration of traffic snarls and the steering assist enhances freeway driving by automatically keeping the Benz in its lane.
The Beemer’s sportier intent best satisfies the need for speed; the Benz’s more supple suspension, classier interior and more advanced safety software make it the better daily driver and give it the edge ... at least for now.