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Kia Cerato


Mazda3

Summary

Kia Cerato

You need a new small car and have $20-30k to spend, max. What do you do? Easy. You take $24,870 and go straight to our sister site autotrader.com.au and get yourself that sweet-as 2015 white Mazda MX-5 convertible with the manual gearbox and 32,141km on the clock. 

What? You need more than two seats? And a proper boot? For about the same amount of money? Oh… well this is awkward. Okay, have you met the Kia Cerato, then?

I did, I’ve met them all - every Cerato from this new generation model. I’ve driven the sporty one – the GT on some of Australia’s best roads, and I’ve driven the rest, the S and the Sport, on some of the worst roads.
 
My family and I lived with them, too. We drove hundreds of kays, did day care drops off, had supermarket car park meltdowns where nobody was talking to each other, singalongs (that was mainly me, by myself), fell asleep in them and did the daily commute in them.

I feel I know the Cerato so well now, I reckon I could almost build one if you gave me the pieces.

Here’s what I learnt about what could be the best value small car buy out there right now. Or there’s the Mazda MX-5.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.1L/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

Kia Cerato8/10

The drive-away pricing and big features list makes the Cerato great value, and then there’s the practicality and warranty. Also, you have choice between something a little hardcore or more comfortable.
 
To me, the Sport Plus is the sweet spot in the range. The leather seats, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, proximity key and heated seats clinch it.
 
The Kia Cerato could be the smartest choice you’ll make this year. Or there’s the Mazda MX-5. 

Do you reckon the Cerato is the best value-for-money small car on the market? 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

Kia Cerato7/10

What a time to be alive: small cars have never looked better. Have you seen the new Ford Focus or the Hyundai i30? Even the current Toyota Corolla looks sexy.

But does the same go for the new Cerato? The sedan is certainly attractive, but the hatch looks hot from some angles and not from others. The hatch has whiffs of BMW X4 around the tail-lights, although its side profile is not as pleasing as the sedan’s. 

Both have the same angry Kia face with signature ‘tiger nose’ grille, while all grades in both body styles have the glossy black diffuser and lower bumper with integrated exhaust.

And that’s a bit of a tip for you right there. See, despite there being four grades and a $12K price difference between the entry level and top-of-the-range Cerato, the difference in styling is almost zilch. 

Really, the only way you can tell the difference visually between an S grade and a GT is the wheels and exhaust (the S has hub caps and one tail pipe, not two). 

All Cerato hatches have that same body kit, including the roof top rear spoiler. The Cerato sedans don’t miss out – they have a little boot lid spoiler.

If it came down to it, I’d say the sedan is a better-looking car than the hatch.

The cabins are also almost identical although the cloth seats in the S and Sport aren’t as premium looking or feeling as the leather ones in the Sport + and GT, and there are other similarly luxurious elements on these grades such as the push-button ignition and soft-touch plastics. Have a look at the interior photos, I took them myself.

What colours can you get your Cerato in? There are 10, but one ('Sunset Orange') is exclusive to the GT. 

Only one is a non-cost option, too – it’s 'Clear White'. The rest are premium paint colours and will cost you extra. You can have 'Aurora Black', 'Gravity Blue', 'Horizon Blue' (which was the colour of my S hatch and looks great), there’s also 'Runway Red' (that was the colour of my Sport hatch and it was hard to keep looking clean), 'Steel Grey', 'Snow White' and 'Silky Silver'. No green and no yellow.

The Cerato is a small car, but not the smallest Kia – that’s the Picanto and it’s tiny. Nope, the dimensions show the Cerato hatch to be 4510mm end-to-end, while the sedan is longer at 4640mm. Both are the same height at 1800mm tall, but their widths are different with the hatch being 1445mm across while the sedan is 5.0mm narrower.


Mazda38/10

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

Kia Cerato8/10

You can get the Cerato as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. They’re the same size, but which do you reckon has the biggest boot? The hatch? Nope.

See, the Cerato hatch’s boot has a luggage capacity of 428 litres and the sedan’s boot space is 502 litres.

Thing is, the hatch is the more practical of the two because of its tailgate which opens high and gives you a big aperture and you can fold those rear seats down to open up the cabin as a cargo area.

Another practicality win for the hatch is the segmented storage area under the boot floor. The sedan doesn’t get this which is a shame because it’s like a big bento box for wet clothes or muddy shoes. 

Storage throughout the cabins of both the sedan and hatch is excellent with two cupholders in the fold-down rear armrest and another two up-front, while the centre console bin is deep (there’s a USB charging port in there, too) and the shelves under the dash were a great place to plonk my wallet and phone. Also hiding in there is a USB charging port, a USB media port and a 12-volt outlet. That top shelf under the dash in the GT also doubles as a wireless charging pad.

Room for people is also outstanding. I’m 191cm tall, and mainly all limbs, yet I had no elbow or legroom issues up front and I can even sit behind my driving position in both the sedan and the hatch with about 20mm of space between my knees and the seatback.

The Sport Plus and GT have directional air vents in the second row, but the lower grades don’t get these. That’s something I find pretty frustrating – my four-year-old sat for two weeks in the back of the Cerato S and Sport through the killer summer of 2019 and it was hot back there.


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

Kia Cerato9/10

You’ve had a look online and you’re a bit shocked to find that your $20-$30k may not go as far as you originally thought, especially when you include the on-roads costs.

There’s the new Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla and the Mazda3. All great, but they can get quite pricey as you step up through the grades. The Hyundai i30, then? Yep, damned fine automobile. 

But, take a look at its ‘cousin’ the Kia Cerato, too, because I reckon it’s the best value-for-money car on the market right now, and one that no doubt keeps its rivals awake at night as it steals buyers away from them.
 
The Kia Cerato sedan and hatch are priced the same and the value-for-money is outstanding. The entry grade S with a manual gearbox lists for $20,990, and at the time we published this review you could have it for $19,990 drive-away.

The same grade with an automatic transmission lists for $23,790 or $23,490 drive-away. Kia’s drive-away deals are long lasting so check to see if it’s still in place.

You’d probably think the ‘S’ stands for ‘Sport’ but it doesn’t because there is an actual grade called the Sport which is the next tier up and lists for $25,790 or $24,190 drive-away. Then there’s the Sport Plus which lists for $28,840 and can be had for $27,740 drive-away. At the top of the range is the GT which lists for $32,990 or $31,990 drive-away. 
 
Standard features on the S include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, cloth seats, 3.5-inch LCD instrument screen, electric mirrors, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and 16-inch steel wheels with 205/55 R16 tyres.

Standard features on the Sport are almost identical to the S. The only difference is the Sport’s premium steering wheel and shift knob, sat nav, plus 17-inch alloys wheels with 225/45 R17 tyres.

The Sport Plus has the Sport’s features and adds leather seats, dual-zone climate control with rear directional air vents, heated front seats, push-button start, proximity key and LED running lights.

The GT has those features and adds wireless phone charging, a 4.2-inch instrument cluster an eight-speaker JBL sound system and 18-inch alloys with 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber.


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

Kia Cerato7/10

So, you can get a Cerato S, a Cerato Sport and a Cerato Sport Plus, but only the top-of-the-range Cerato GT is the true sporty one in the family.

The GT has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol making 150kW/265Nm. It’s a great engine and Kia has given it a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for quick shifts.

The rest of the Cerato line-up shares a 112kW/192Nm four-cylinder petrol engine. If you want a manual gearbox, then you can only have it with the base grade S, otherwise the six-speed automatic, that is standard in the others, does the shifting for you.

Both are good powerplants, the 1.6-litre is smaller but more powerful and responsive and uses less fuel. How much less? Which we’re just about to get to. 


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

Kia Cerato8/10

As mentioned above, the GT with its 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder is the most fuel-efficient member of the Cerato family and after a combination of open and urban roads Kia says you should see it using 6.8L/100km in both the sedan and hatch. 

When I tested the GT at its launch in January 2019 the trip computer said I was using 7.6L/100km after driving the hatch on mainly country roads and 8.4L/100km in the sedan on similar open roads.

As for the other grades Kia says the combined fuel consumption for the S, Sport and Sport Plus grades with their 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines and six-speed auto is 7.4L/100km. My own testing in the Sport hatch saw me measure bang-on 7.4L/100km (measured at the petrol pump), while the S hatch did 8.6L/100km (also measured at the bowser).

A manual gearbox is available on the S and Kia says you should see it using 7.4L/100km in the hatch and 7.6L/100km in the sedan. Along with that good mileage it's nice to know both engines are also happy to run on regular unleaded petrol.


Mazda37/10

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

Kia Cerato7/10

This is simple. There are only two types of Cerato when it comes to driving. There’s the fast and hard one, or the comfy and easy one.

If you’re looking for a Cerato which is pretty quick and has great handling, then it’s the GT for you. The catch is, the GT’s ride is firm and jarring over potholes and speed bumps.

If you’re looking for something which has a comfortable ride and is fuss-free to drive then the S, the Sport and Sport Plus are for you.

See, Kia set out to make the GT a bit more hardcore – it has a more powerful engine, firmer suspension (the torsion bar set-up in the other grades was swapped for a multi-link system in the rear of the GT), it also sits lower and rides on 18-inch wheels with low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres. The result is a hatch which is knocking on the door of Golf GTI territory.

I drove the GT in hatch form at its launch on twisty country roads and it felt planted, with excellent body control and impressive grip. The only thing lacking was more grunt.

This chassis is now so good it feels like it’s in search of a more powerful engine to match it. The steering also felt a bit ‘lumpy’ in places. Still it’s accurate and not a deal breaker.

That lumpy steering feel is also present in the S, Sport and Sport Plus, too but it becomes irrelevant because these grades don’t have the performance bent of the GT. Instead they have a ride which is composed and comfortable, with an engine that provides plenty of oomph for highway cruising, overtaking and city sprints – especially when you select 'Sport' mode which sharpens throttle response.

And while they don’t have the handling and agility of the GT, I was impressed by how controlled and planted the Sport felt when I tested it over the route I normally take sport cars on.
 
More importantly, the S, Sport, and Sport Plus are easy and enjoyable to drive. I clocked up hundreds of kilometres in the S and Sport and found the seats to be wide at the base and supportive around my back, and they could be adjusted to find a great driving position.

Kia tunes most of its cars for Australia roads and the job its local engineering team has performed on these lower grade Ceratos is outstanding – the ride is compliant and comfortable and the car has good body control over bumps and corners.

If I could change anything it would be to improve visibility in the rear corners – those tiny porthole-like windows aren’t big enough.


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

Kia Cerato8/10

The Kia Cerato GT and Sport Plus hatch and sedan scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2019, but the Sport and S were given four stars because while they do have AEB it doesn’t detect pedestrians and cyclists like the version on the top two grades.

You can effectively turn a Sport or an S into a five-star car by optioning the $1500 safety pack which adds that version of the AEB plus blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.

The Sport Plus and GT come with all of that advanced safety equipment already. The GT also comes with LED headlights which are much brighter and more intense than the halogen units in the other grades.

As you'd expect all Ceratos come with a suite of airbags, ESP and a reversing camera. There are also three top tether anchor points across the second row – they’re easy to use, I’ve installed my four-year-old’s seat in both the hatches I had. There are also two ISOFIX anchor points.

Under the boot floor is a space saver spare.


Mazda39/10

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

Kia Cerato10/10

The Cerato is covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited km warranty. Most carmakers are only just making the move to five-year warranties, but Kia has had this offering in place for years. The Cerato also comes with seven years of roadside assistance.

There’s also seven years of capped price servicing. Kia recommends you service the Cerato S, Sport, Sport Plus annually or every 15,000km. You can expect to pay $275 at the first service, $469 at the second, $339, $623, $309, then $596 and finally $328 for the seventh.

It’s good to know that after seven years of regular servicing you can expect to pay no more than $2939.

As for the GT Kia recommends servicing it every 10,000km or annually. Servicing is capped at $282 for the first service, $476 for the next, then $346, $630, $317, $604, then $640 for the seventh.

The aftercare Kia offers is outstanding and so the Cerato gets full marks for its cost of ownership.


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.