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Hyundai i30


Mazda3

Summary

Hyundai i30

Hyundai's first i30 launched to quiet praise in 2007. Hyundai had just come off a rough patch of making pretty ordinary cars with only a few exceptions. At some point in the preceding few years, the Korean giant realised that dull, middle-of-the-road machinery was not going to turn it into the next Toyota. Instead, it was in danger of fading into a  pale imitation of the great white-goods maker.

That first i30 was the moment Hyundai set off on its own path, with a few key positions filled by industry veterans from around the globe. Kia did the same, almost in parallel, and look where it is today.

The third-generation i30 was an instant hit. Building on the success of the first and second generations, the car had built a reputation as dependable, solid and, as the years went by, good to drive. Excellent value has been a core competency for Hyundai since day dot, but adding all that other stuff took a while.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency4.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mazda3

Has anybody ever told you how lucky you are? Well, it’s true because if you’re looking for a small affordable car right now there are at least five different makes which are all so good you could pick any and probably be happy - but some are better than others.

Mazda knows how fierce the competition is and the new Mazda3 has arrived to win you over.

This new Mazda3 is the fourth generation version of a car which has been an Aussie favourite for years. Known for being a more premium feeling, fun-to-drive, small car with a high level of safety technology the Mazda3 was challenged in recent years by new-generation rivals such as the Hyundai i30, Toyota Corolla, Kia Cerato and Ford Focus.

The competition had different strengths – the Cerato offered a low price point, the Focus had Euro looks and a luxury feel, the i30 was refined and great to drive and the Corolla had Toyota’s reputation for bullet-proof reliability on its side.

What could Mazda do to try and fight off that onslaught? Find out below in our review of the new-generation Mazda3.

Read More: Mazda 3 reviews

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Hyundai i307.9/10

The third-generation i30 was a hugely impressive car when it launched last year and continues to impress now. The added halo if the i30 N has rapidly solidifed Hyundai's reputation as a quality car maker.

With the Smart Sense pack fitted, either as an option on lower-spec cars or as standard from the SR up, the i30 is well in front of its rivals as a total package, even if it misses out on some details.

If you had to pick the best of the range, it would have to be the SR, with its bigger wheels and sportier tune, the 1.6 turbo and a cabin full of gadgets (while retaining the better cloth trim), it's sharply-priced and better again than just about anything in the segment or at this price point. It is, quite simply, a car that will make everyone happy.

And if it's outright performance you're after, you can't go past the i30 N.

Is the Hyundai i30 on your small car radar? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Mazda37.8/10

The new-generation Mazda3 may cost a little bit more than some of its rivals but when you consider what you’re getting in return such as standard features including safety tech, craftsmanship and how enjoyable it is to drive, it’s absolutely worth it.  

The sweet spot of the range? The G20 Evolve has a mountain of standard features at a good price. If you are able to stretch the budget I'd go for the G25 Evolve for a bit more power and torque, too. 

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Is the Mazda3 the king of the small car kingdom? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Design

Hyundai i307/10

The i30's basic shape is very clean and far more grown up than the previous generation. While that car had all sorts of interesting surfaces and big headlights, this newer look is more restrained. The segment is starting to converge on a more conservative, pan-European look, with even the new Focus calming down. The i30 puts me in mind of the Peugeot 308, with elements of the VW Golf.

As you move up the range, you'll see chrome, which suggests more gadgets inside. On the SR sports pack, a mild body kit includes a rear spoiler and side skirts but stops short of a rear diffuser. Even the performance version, the N, is reasonably subtle, so the philosophy is common across the entire range, and it looks the business.

Speaking of the N, it's reasonably easy to spot with its big 19-inch wheels, red flashes here and there, N badging and grille and, if you're listening, a poppy-bangy exhaust note from its chunky twin exhausts.

Interior photos show a light and airy space, with all that glass letting in the light. The light leather option on the Premium was bright, even on an overcast day. It's a well-constructed and designed space, with sensible choices all through the cabin and Hyundai's habit of nailing the driving position continues. Some of the materials are a bit ho-hum and in the Go and Active, the plastic steering wheel is pretty dire, but the quality look and feel of the switchgear and the tangible quality feel of including a big screen makes up for that.


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Yes, indeedy. The hatch has arrived first while the sedan will be with us in mid-2019 and people seem to be split right down the middle as to which is better looking.

I live in the camp which says the hatch is stunning. I’m really taken by the chunky C-pillar behind the rear door.

Yes, it does affect visibility out the back (I strapped a camera to my head in the video above to show you how much of a blind spot is created), but the aesthetic effect created is worth it, just.

The creases in the panels from the previous hatch have also been ironed out – look at the images of the new car in side profile.

The sedan has a fastback profile and it’s attractive – a rare thing among small affordable four-door saloons.

Both the hatch and sedan share the same new face, too. The previous generation car had a friendly, smiley face – take a look at the ‘nerdy’ emoji – that was it.

The new Mazda3 looks like it wants to eat you with its broad mesh blacked-out grille, sleeker than sleek headlights and the area underneath them has now been smoothed out for a clean look.

The cabin for all new-generation Mazda3s, too has moved to a new level of refinement with a minimalist design using high-quality feel materials, dark colour schemes, with subtle labelling to the controls for climate and media.

The overall effect is a cockpit that looks and feels high-end and sophisticated. Take a look at the interior photos.

The outstanding feature of the cabin is the wide display screen that nestles into an overlapping fold in the dashboard. A huge step away from the old screen which stood like a billboard and looked aftermarket, this new display is elegant and premium.

It’s not a touchscreen, however, which takes some getting used to – especially when it comes to accessing Apple CarPlay through a rotary dial located on the centre console.

The Mazda3 is a small car but the dimensions show it’s not tiny. At 4460mm end-to-end the hatch is 200mm shorter than the sedan; both are the same width at 1795mm and the hatch is 5.0mm shorter in height at 1435mm tall.

There are three optional paint colours and they cost $495: 'Machine Grey metallic', 'Polymetal Grey metallic' and the popular 'Soul Red Crystal metallic'.

Standard colours include 'Snowflake White Pearl', 'Sonic Silver', 'Machine Grey', 'Jet Black', 'Titanium Flash' and 'Deep Crystal Blue' which looks beautiful. The palette is a bit conservative, with not a green or purple in sight.

All cars come with alloy wheels, they’re 18-inch on all but the G20 Pure which has 16-inch rims.'

Picking Mazda3 grades apart from the outside is tricky – the wheels are the giveaway. If you look closely at the images, you’ll see the Mazda3 has a subtle body kit with side skirts, a rear diffuser and front spoiler.

Hatches come standard with a rooftop spoiler, and both body styles have twin chrome exhaust.

Has that translated to improved interior dimensions? In some ways, yes, but even with the longer wheelbase there’s not a whole heap of room in the back. See below for more.

You might be able to option different alloys to spruce up the exterior design, though you’ll have to wait and see if you can get a ‘Kuroi’ style body kit with a front spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser and rear wing spoiler. Just think twice about a carbon fiber roof, eh?

On the high-grade model at launch it looked more like there’d been a luxury pack fitted than a sports pack.

Practicality

Hyundai i308/10

The i30's footprint contains a car with good interior dimensions. Passengers front and rear have plenty of headroom. Those in the back will fit easily if they're under 185cm, although the centre rear passenger might not be so happy if they're that tall.

Storage space varies between the models. Owners of the entry-level Go can expect just two cupholders but four bottle holders. There are also two bag hooks in the 395 litre boot and four tie-down hooks. The boot space dimensions are near the top of the class, easily wiping out the Mazda3 and Golf hatches' much smaller boots.

Step up to the Active and you get another two cupholders for a total of four.

Drop the 60/40 split-fold seats and the luggage capacity jumps to 1301 litres, meaning objects of a decent size will fit from your flat-pack furniture adventures. The Elite, Premium and SR Premium also pick up a luggage net.

Its external dimensions are reasonably compact and the turning circle is 10.6m. Ground clearance is 140mm when unladen.


Mazda37/10

If you’re buying the Mazda3 to use as a family car, then you’ll want to read this. The boot space of the Mazda3 hatch has been reduced in this new generation car. The cargo capacity of the hatch is now 295 litres (VDA), while the previous car has 308 litres of room. the sedan has a cargo capacity of 444 litres.

If you have a pram, then see if it fits into the boot before you buy. As a parent myself, that would be a deal breaker and I’d look at stepping up to a Mazda CX-5 SUV which is a more practical family car.

Those backseats in the hatch are a bit squishy, too. At 191cm tall I can only just slide my legs in behind the driver’s seat when it’s in my position and headroom is getting tight for me back there, too.

I reckon kids will outgrow those seats quickly and if you plan on hanging onto the car for a while, you’re going to have complaints from lanky, cranky adolescents about space. Again, the answer is something bigger such as a CX-5 if you want to stay with Mazda.

Up front space isn’t a problem – I found I had plenty of shoulder room and headspace, and while those seats are impressively comfortable and supportive, more cuddly people (ahem, bigger folks) might find them tight.

Cabin storage space is excellent with a giant centre console bin under the armrest between the front seats and places to put keys, wallets, purses and phones under the dash around the shifter.

There are two cupholders in the front and two in the back and decent-sized bottle holders in all the doors.

Price and features

Hyundai i308/10

There are six distinct trim levels in the i30 range. Our price guide is purely based on rrp - how much you pay will depend on drive-away deals and the cost of any options and accessories.

Our model comparison takes you through each of the specifications to help you find which one suits you best.

The price list opens with the bargain basement Go. The manual petrol kicks off at $19,990m with the twin-clutch auto diesel weighing in at $24,990, via a manual diesel and petrol auto. 

Standard features include 16-inch steel rims, air-conditioning, reverse camera, cloth trim, remote central locking, cruise control, trip computer, auto headlights, power windows front and rear, heated powered door mirrors (auto only) and a full-size spare tyre.

The sound system is the same in every i30. With six speakers, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth and USB at a minimum, the system is controlled via a dash-mounted 8.0-inch touch screen. iPhone and Android users will be pleased to know all i30s have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so if there's no GPS, you can use your phone for satellite navigation. There is no CD player or DVD player in any of the cars.

Tailored floor mats are available as part of the $320 interior-accessory pack which also includes a dash mat and fabric rear bumper protector.

Move on to the Active and you can get a 2.0-litre petrol manual ($20,950), auto ($23,250), diesel manual ($23,450) and twin clutch ($25,950). In addition to the Go's spec, you get 16-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, navigation system, park assist (a graphical display in the dash), folding heated mirrors and a full-size alloy spare.

The infotainment system also gains DAB radio.

The first of what you might call the sport editions is the SR manual and auto, starting at $25,590 for the six-speed manual and $28,950 for the seven-speed 'DCT' dual-clutch auto. Sporting the 1.6-litre turbo petrol, the SR has 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, the advanced safety features of the Smart Sense pack including lane assist, active cruise control, a bit of chrome here and there and sports pedals, 

Next up is the Elite for between $27,790 and $30,490. Added to the Active's spec are fake-leather seats, steering wheel and gear shifter and keyless entry via smart key technology. The Elite also has 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Premium Auto jumps to $32,790 for the auto petrol and $35,490 for the DCT diesel. This machine picks up further styling changes - including a lot of chrome detailing - front parking sensors, electric driver's seat, auto LED headlights, sunroof and electrochromatic rear vision mirror.

The SR Premium auto goes back up to 18-inch alloys and again runs the 1.6-litre turbo petrol. The price is identical to the Premium diesel at $33,950 and is basically the same spec.

The final step is an important one - the i30 N. The N brand is Hyundai's performance arm and this is the first fully fledged performance car from Hyundai. The N has most of the same goodies as the SR Premium but rolls on 19-inch alloys, has bigger performance brakes, its own specification of Pirelli P-Zero tyres, an extra selectable drive mode known as N, dual-mode exhaust, sports front seats, mechanical limited slip diff, torque vectoring, auto rev matching and active dampers. 

The N starts at $39,990 and you can add a 'Luxury Pack' for $3000, or a Luxury Pack with panoramic sunroof for $5000, both of which include keyless entry, auto wipers, electric heated fronts seats and front parking sensors.

Colours include 'Phantom Black', 'Intense Blue', 'Marina Blue', 'Iron Grey', 'Fiery Red', 'Platinum Silver', and 'Polar White'. All but the white attract an extra $495 cost. SR-badged cars score 'Sparkling Metal', 'Lava Orange' and 'Phoenix Orange' as extra colour options. The N also has its own colour schemes - 'Performance Blue', 'Clean Slate', 'Engine Red' and 'Micron Grey'. Brown is, sadly, off the menu.

Also off the menu are a self-parking function, bull bar, heated steering wheel, subwoofer, nudge bar, roof rails, design pack, xenon light bar or a launch edition (you're probably a bit late anyway).

Dealer accessories include things like tinted windows, roof racks, a cargo barrier, towbar and a cargo liner. No doubt they'll also try to saddle you with rust and paint protection.


Mazda38/10

How much is a Mazda3? Well, the Mazda range has five grades to pick from: Pure, Evolve, Touring, GT and the Astina.

Then there’s a choice of two engines: the G20 and the more powerful G25, which you can get with a manual gearbox or automatic transmission. The thing is you can’t get all grades with both engines. I’ll show you.

Here are the list prices (RRP) for the manual versions with the G20 engine – just add $1000 for the automatic: the G20 Pure is the entry-point into the line-up and lists for $24,990; above it is the G20 Evolve for $26,990 and then the G20 Touring for $28,990.

Now, here’s what you’ll pay for the grades with the G25 engine, and again these are for the manual cars, but add a grand for the auto: the G25 Evolve is $29,490, above that is the G25 GT for $33,490 and then at the top of the range is the G25 Astina for $36,990.

The hatch has arrived first and the sedan will be in dealerships by mid-2019 – both cost the same.

As for drive-away prices – speak to your dealer at the end of the month and see what they can do.

The level of standard features across the range is seriously good. Coming standard on all cars is a head-up display, an 8.8-inch screen, reversing camera, sat nav (GPS), adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital (DAB+) radio, Bluetooth and steering wheel mounted controls.

All Mazda3s come loaded with advanced safety equipment such as AEBblind spot monitoring and lane keeping assistance which you can read about below. All come with rear parking sensors, too, while the Astina has front ones as well.

The G20 Pure and G20 Evolve have cloth seats, while the rest have leather with a power adjustable driver’s seat.

Only the G20 misses out on paddle shifters and dual-zone climate control, but has single-zone air-conditioning instead.

The only difference between the G20 Evolve and G25 Evolve (apart from the engine) is the G20 has cloth seats while the G25 comes with proximity unlocking and a power adjustable driver seat.

The G25 GT and G25 Astina come with a 12-speaker Bose stereo but the eight-speaker sound system which is standard on the rest of the grades is excellent.

All have push-button start and only the G20 Pure and G20 Evolve don’t have a proximity key.

The top of the range G25 Astina is the only Mazda3 which comes standard with a sunroof.

It’s great that all cars have LED headlights and LED tail-lights.

Is it good value? Yes, absolutely. Sure, getting into the line-up costs more than some of the rivals such the Kia Cerato or Hyundai i30, but the base grade Mazda3 is better equipped than the entry-level grades of those cars.

Engine & trans

Hyundai i308/10

Engine specs vary across the range but all i30s are front-wheel drive.

The Go, Active Elite and Premium come with Hyundai's 2.0 GDi developing 120kW and 203Nm, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or traditional automatic transmission. The 0-100km/h acceleration time for the Go and Active is around nine seconds.

The 1.6 CRDi diesel engine is available in the Go, Active, Elite and Premium with either a six-speed manual (Go and Active) or seven-speed twin-clutch automatic (all variants). The 1.6-litre turbo diesel produces an even 100kW and delivers 280Nm in the manual and 300Nm in the twin clutch. Performance figures appear leisurely - the race to 100km/h is a calm 10.2 seconds. Clearly it has less horspower and more weight, but once you're up and running, the in-gear acceleration is impressive. Emissions are kept in check with a diesel particulate filter.

The 1.6 turbo petrol is the same engine size as the diesel, spinning up 150kW and 265Nm. That engine is available in the SR and SR Premium along with a six-speed manual or the seven-speed DCT. The sprint to 100 is said to be around eight seconds, but independent testing has clocked it closer to seven.

The N's engine is a firecracker 2.0-litre turbo producing 202kW/353Nm, with 378Nm when the overboost function kicks in. That means a 0-100km/h time of 6.1 seconds, although it felt slightly quicker to me. In true Australian style, we don't get the lower-powered version of the N because we don't buy entry-level cars any more.

Across the rest of the range, the petrol vs diesel argument is fairly straightforward - the diesel is a happy, frugal cruiser while the petrols are a bit more rev-happy, particularly the turbo.

Oil capacity and type varies between the engines and it's all in the owner's manual if you need a top-up on the run. There are no 4x4/AWD/rear-wheel drive, LPG or plug-in hybrid versions.

Towing capacity for the 2.0-litre petrol is 600kg unbraked and 1300kg braked.


Mazda37/10

We touched on this earlier, but let’s go into a little more detail. There are two engines available: the G20 and G25. Both are four-cylinder petrols with the G20 being a 2.0-litre making 114kW/200Nm, while the G25 is a 2.5-litre making more grunt with 139kW/252Nm. The G25 has cylinder deactivation which lets the engine run on two cylinders when not under load to save fuel.

Having driven the G20 Evolve and G25 Astina with automatic transmissions back-to-back I can tell you the difference feels huge when it comes to steep hills and fun driving on the winding bush backroads where I tested the cars.

That said, the G25 isn’t particularly sporty either, so if it comes down to budget and you’re not fussed by having a little less oomph, the G20 is perfectly fine.

A timing chain, rather than a timing belt should make many out there happy.

All cars can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

Some countries will be able to get all-wheel drive (AWD) Mazda3s, but Australian ones are front-wheel drive.

A diesel isn’t offered on the Mazda3, and the hybrid version may not make it to Australia.

As for the 'Skyactiv-X' Mazda3, that super fuel-efficient petrol car will come to Australia soon.

Fuel consumption

Hyundai i307/10

Fuel mileage depends on the capacity and gearbox and varies between the different combinations.

As always, the official fuel-economy figures are only a guide, but Hyundai's numbers seem closer to reality than other manufacturers, at least in my experience.

The 2.0-litre's petrol consumption is listed at 7.3L/100km for the manual and 7.4 for the six-speed automatic. My most recent experience with an automatic Active resulted in a figure of 8.2L/100km in mostly suburban running.

The 1.6 CRDi's diesel fuel consumption is listed at 4.5L/100km for the manual and 4.7L/100km for the seven speed.

Moving on to the 1.6 petrol, the combined cycle is listed at 7.5L/100km for the manual and the seven-speed DCT dual-clutch auto. 

The N's 2.0-litre turbo has a claimed combined figure of 8.0L/100km and it's worth noting that it requires 95 RON fuel. If you drive it like I did, you'll find that the 50-litre tank is a little on the small side.

Fuel-tank size is 50 litres, whether diesel or petrol.


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Mazda says the 2.0-litre engine in the hatch with the six-speed manual should use 6.4L/100km (6.3L/100km for sedan) while the auto will use 6.2L/100km (6.1L/100km in the sedan) after a combination of urban and open roads.

My own testing in the G20 Evolve with that 2.0-litre engine saw me use 6.7L/100km after 85.2km according to the trip metre. That was over a combination of city streets, motorways and country roads.

As for the 2.5-litre engine, Mazda says in the hatch with the six-speed manual it should use 6.3L/100km (6.2L/100km for sedan) while the auto will use 6.6L/100km (6.5L/100km in the sedan) over a combination of urban and open roads.

When I swapped into the G25 Astina after it had completed the same journey as the G20 Evolve the trip computer was saying 7.6L/100km.

As for towing the Mazda3 has a braked towing capacity of 1200kg. Not bad and enough for trailer or small caravan.

Driving

Hyundai i308/10

One of the areas in which the i30 stands out is its dynamics, whether the bottom-of-the-range Go or the SR Premium warm hatch or the N. While you're probably bored witless of motoring journos mentioning Hyundai's crack team of local engineers, much of the praise must go to them for making the i30 the best in the segment and a standout car in its own right.

Front susenpsion is by MacPherson struts and the rear is a choice of a sophisticated multi-link setup (SR and SR Premium) or torsion beams (everything else). The torsion-beam cars are very well planted and mostly fitted with eco-style tyres. That means a pretty good ride and little in the way of road noise.

When you go for the warm SR hatch with its sportier tune and multi-link rear suspension, you really do notice the difference. While the other cars are excellent as they are, the SR's tune is a bit firmer but also lots of fun to drive.

The electric power steering is weighted just so, even  when you switch out of the laughable Eco mode, which ruins the throttle response (who really uses that, anyone?).

At speed, the i30 is quiet and composed, the multimedia system barely ticking over to cover what little noise invades the cabin. It's equally at home in the city and on the open road, with the diesel making long highway drags even longer with its impressive fuel economy.

On the downside, the diesel does feel a little heavy and firm around town,so unless you're super-keen for an oil burner, the cheaper petrols are the go.

If you were to score the driving experience solely on the i30 N, the 8/10 would become a nine. Hyundai has entered a space previously unknown to the Korean carmaker by racing headlong into the hearts and minds of Golf GTi wannabes. Except, it isn't a wannabe, it's a genuine GTi-beater - cheaper, more powerful, better-equipped and even more fun to drive. The N sends a loud message that Hyundai is after VW's mantle.

Again, Hyundai's local team took a super-hard riding, Nurburgring suspension spec and made it suitable for our rubbish roads. While still no magic carpet, the N is more than liveable in Comfort mode but supremely capable in N mode. It's completely unflappable down a mountain road on a cold morning and able to do things the Veloster SR Turbo - the closest thing Hyundai previously had to a hot hatch - could only dream of. It's fast, it's fun and, like the rest of its range, it leads its market segment.


Mazda38/10

Mazda’s schtick is fun driving and the brand is super keen to tell everybody it meets about how much work it puts into making its cars enjoyable to pilot.

That’s good news for you if you see driving as more than just getting from A to B, but even if you don’t, you’ll benefit from changes made in the new Mazda3.

I found the previous Mazda3 to be up there with the best affordable small cars to drive, but when the new generation i30 appeared the Hyundai’s refinement and suspension tune delivered a serious threat with great ride and handling.

Also look at the Kia Cerato, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus if you want to do a model comparison.

Now Mazda has done it again – this new generation car is the most comfortable and engaging Mazda3 made.

You may have heard a bit of hubbub about the rear suspension changing from a multi-link to a torsion bar in this fourth generation Mazda3.

Even we at CarsGuide called it “an apparent technological backward step” but having now driven the new car on Australian roads I can tell you its ride and performance haven’t been damaged. If anything this car feels more composed and dynamic than ever.

I was able to drive two versions of the Mazda3 at the Australian launch – the G20 Evolve and the G25 Astina.

The drive route from Sydney airport to the NSW Central Coast and back couldn’t have been better in that it represented normal driving, not just a blast on great roads through the country which doesn’t give you much real-world information.

Starting in the G20 Evolve and snaking through the city towards the M2 Motorway was a good way to get used to the car’s layout of controls. I did find it tricky at first to read the stylishly subtle labelling on buttons.

Just locating the fan speed switch was difficult, for example, because it sits flush under the small climate screen. But that minimalist styling is also something I love about that cabin and an owner will instinctively know where everything is after a while.

And ergonomically the cabin is great. Yes, the display isn’t a touchscreen, but it’s too far away to reach anyway, even if you had arms as crazy long as mine.

I drive on those same roads every day. I know how the hundreds of cars I’ve tested react to the bumps and bruises of Sydney’s arteries which stretch north to the Central Coast and the Mazda3 impressed me with how comfortable and composed it stayed.

Steering is direct, meaning you turn the wheel and the car turns almost instantly with it. That sounds silly but some cars have slow steering that lags a little.

That steering is great for sporty driving, but around town it can feel a little ‘on edge’, but again owners will grow to love its quickness, I think.  

What’s not particularly quick is that Evolve with the G20 engine, with well-sorted suspension and direct steering the weak link is a lack of oomph from the 2.0-litre.

Still, if it came down to money and the 2.5-litre engine was out of the price range (because you can get the Evolve with a G25), then the G20 shouldn’t be seen as a deal breaker – it just didn’t feel like it had long legs.

Whereas, the G25 Astina did when I swapped into that car – the difference in grunt while not huge on paper felt plainly noticeable as we took to bush backroads through to the coast. That 2.5-litre engine is a better match for the good dynamics of the new Mazda3.

A criticism of the previous generation car was the amount of road noise that found its way through into the cabin and NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) was a major focus for Mazda on this new car.

Some of the lengths Mazda went to to reduce noise included padding in the steel structure of the car itself to act like a shock absorber during flexing; creating suspension components which change the direction of the forces on the car over speed bumps to keep the driver’s head as motionless as possible; tyres which ‘squish’ more so they don’t transfer the jolt over a speed bump; and carpet and floor mats designed to trap sound.

Even the seats have been designed to not just provide a good driving position but be good for your back by keeping your pelvis upright and your spine in the natural S-shape it takes when you walk.

The driver’s seat was one of the most comfortable and supportive I’ve ever sat in and that’s including prestige cars. I’m also talking about the cloth seats in the G20 Evolve which seemed to expand a bit more to fit me than the leather ones in the G25 Astina.

The overall effect of the work Mazda has put in means the Mazda3 provides one of the best driving experiences you can have for a car under $40k.

Safety

Hyundai i308/10

The basic safety package on the Go and Active inludes seven airbags, stability and traction controls, ABS, brake assist, hill-start assist and brake-force distribiution.

As part of the 'Smart Sense' pack (auto and DCT cars only, $1150 extra), Go and Active owners pick up forward AEB, forward collision warning, blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert and active cruise. These features are standard on Eite, Premium, SR, SR Premium and N.

Two ISOFIX points take car of the baby car seat or you can use one of the three top-tether child seat anchor points.

All i30s carry a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, even without the advanced safety features. It's annoying that the basic safety package on the Go and Active doesn't have AEB, though, while natural sales rival the Mazda3 has both forward and rear AEB.


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This fourth-generation Mazda3 is yet to be tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but we’re expecting it to perform well.

All cars come equipped with a high level of standard safety technology including AEB which works forwards and backwards, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance and blind spot monitoring. The G25 Astina also comes with front cross-traffic alert.

Mazda was one of the first brands to make AEB and other advanced safety tech standard across its line-ups and it continues to be a leader, where many other carmakers, including prestige ones, make safety tech a pricey optional extra.

For child seats, you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the rear row.

There’s a space saver spare tyre under the boot floor.

Ownership

Hyundai i309/10

Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which used to be the benchmark but is now slowly becoming the standard across the industry. The five-year warranty is accompanied by roadside assist for the first year. Capped-price servicing applies for the life of the vehicle and if you return to Hyundai for a service, you get another 12 months of roadside assist for flat battery or tyre incidents.

Resale value appears strong, as it has been for each version of the i30.

I'm often asked if the i30 engines use a timing belt or chain. All of Hyundai's engines use their own silent timing chain system, with the happy upside of lower service costs and no issues with snapping belts. The i30's reliability rating is impressive as a result.

As the car is still fairly new, no obvious six-speed automatic gearbox problems or seven-speed auto tranmission problems seem to have appeared. Gearbox issues have never really been a big problem with Hyundai and common diesel problems have long since been banished to history.

A quick search for any other common faults yielded nothing in the way of persistent problems or complaints.


Mazda38/10

The Mazda3 is covered by Mazda’s five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Servicing is recommended at 10,000km/12-month intervals. While Mazda doesn’t have capped price servicing the price calculator on its website says Mazda3s with the 2.0-litre engine will costs $991 over three years and $1778 over five years; while the 2.5-litre car will cost $1006 for the three years and $1802 for five.