Mazda 3 VS Citroen C3
- Great to drive
- Stack of standard features
- High-tech safety equipment
- Boot is now smaller
- Price of entry now higher
- Rear legroom is tight
- Great design
- Unbelievable ride
- Terrific engine
- Awkward centre console design
- Servicing costs
- Upfront costs
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
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Really small cars aren't what they used to be, and there are a number of reasons for that. The first is that, compared to five years ago, nobody buys them. The world of small hatchbacks is a shadow of its former self, mostly because there's so much money sloshing around in Australia that we buy a class up and often an SUV rather hatch.
As usual, Citroen is taking the path less travelled. There's no getting away from the fact that the C3 hatch has always been an a brave choice - there are still a few of the original, arch-roofed version kicking around, a car I was very fond of, despite it not being very good.
For 2019 Citroen has addressed a couple of glaring issues with the C3, namely a lack of safety gear that contributed to a four-star ANCAP safety rating and a couple of little dramas that marred an otherwise impressive package.
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
As you've probably gathered, the C3 is a fun little car with a proper personality. Obviously it's not cheap - Japanese, German and Korean competition are all cheaper - but none of them are as individual as the C3.
And that's probably its strength and weakness. The looks are polarising - you'll spend your entire time with the car explaining the Airbumps to perplexed onlookers. The updated safety package is a huge help to making the C3 more comeptitive at a specification level, but the price of entry is still high - Citroen knows its market.
Would I have one? Definitely, and I'd love to try one in manual, too.
Would you consider a C3 now that it's got better safety gear? Or is that whacky exterior too much for you?
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.
Little has changed in the looks department, and that's a good thing. While the C3 isn't to everybody's taste, it's certainly a Citroen. The car has drawn heavily from the bold-as-brass Cactus, which I genuinely think is one of the greatest pieces of automotive design, certainly for a mass-produced car. Funky and, as it turns out, quite influential - have a look at the Kona and Santa Fe. The only real differences are colour-coded door handles with chrome strips.
All present and correct are the rubber Airbumps down the lower portion of the doors, the stacked headlight and DRL arrangement that is the "wrong" way around. It's chunky and very much aimed at the compact SUV crowd.
The cabin is basically the same and still terrific. Again, lots of Cactus in here, which includes the two of the best front seats in the business. The dash design is a cool departure from the rest of the planet, with lots of round-edged rectangles and a consistency of design across the Cactus and other Citroens. The materials are mostly pretty good, but the central console is a bit awkward-looking and sparse.
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.
The weird French approach to cupholders lingers with the C3. Perhaps to match the name, there are three - two in the front and one in the back at the rear of the centre console. Each door will hold a mid-size bottle for a total of four.
Rear-seat room is acceptable, with good knee room for adults up to 180cm. I toured around in the back and was perfectly happy behind my lanky son's front-seat lounging position. Headroom is very good front and rear as it's quite upright.
The boot isn't bad for a car this size, starting at 300 litres with the seats in place and 922 litres with the seats folded down. There is quite a step in the floor with the seats down. The floor is also not level with the loading lip, but it does liberate a few litres, so it's not a huge deal.
Price and features
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 AEB, blind 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.
Prospective C3 buyers will have to endure a solid price rise on the old car, which landed just over a year ago at $23,480 before on-roads. The 2019 car lists at $26,990 but does come with an overall uplift in spec.
As you did previously, you get cloth trim, reversing camera, auto headlights and wipers, leather steering wheel, trip computer, climate control, rear parking sensors, cruise control, power windows all around, speed-limit recognition and a space-saver spare.
The 7.0-inch touchscreen carries over unchanged and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These are welcome additions, although the basic software is okay on its own. Like other Citroens and sister Peugeots, the screen hosts much of the car's functionality, which makes sorting out the air-con a bit of a memory game.
Engine & trans
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.
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.
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.
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.
Three things work together to make the C3 (see what I did there?) an excellent small car.
The first is the brilliant 1.2-litre turbo triple cylinder. This is such a terrific engine. It's not the quietest or the smoothest, but once you've got things spinning, it's torquey and keeps you rolling very nicely indeed.
In my previous outings in the C3, I've noticed a propensity for the transmission to engage a little too enthusiastically, particularly after waking from stop-start. It now seems to have had a little calibration update that has smoothed things out remarkably. It honestly doesn't feel as slow as its 0-100km/h figure suggests.
Secondly, it's incredibly comfortable for a small car. Even at launch, riding on 17-inch wheels I was impressed, but now on 16-inch wheels with higher-profile tyres, it's even more relaxed. The C3 is no corner-hugging handler, with a bit of body roll and a comfort-biased spring and damper setting, but it's not an understeering duffer, either. Only sharp tranverse bumps upset the rear (nasty rubber shopping centre speed bumps, I'm looking at you) and most of time it feels like a much larger and generously-sprung car.
These two form the basis of a package that seems equally at home in the city and out on the freeway. It's quite something.
Third, it neatly straddles the line between compact SUV and small hatch. Accepted wisdom would suggest sticking to one lane, but the successful blurring of the lines means that you get much of the visual and practical elements of that class while also not paying for, say, the C3 Aircross, which is an out-and-out compact SUV. It's a weird marketing play, but the "What's that?" chats in the shopping centre car parks weren't of the heated kind.
Obviously, it's not perfect. It's reasonably sluggish once you're past about 60km/h and grip is at a premium. The cruise control still needs way too much attention to activate and the touchscreen has too many functions crammeed in, as well as being a bit slow. The lack of AM radio is fixed by the addition of DAB.
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.
There are also three top-tether restraints along with two ISOFIX points in the rear.
ANCAP awarded just four stars to the C3 in November 2017 and at the car's launch, the company expressed its frustation at the low score, which it believed was a result of the lack of AEB.
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.
Citroen provides a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty as well as five years of roadside assist. Your dealer expects a visit every 12 months or 15,000km.
Service pricing is capped as part of Citroen's Confidence program. You'll be confident of paying a fair bit, though. Servicing starts at $381 for the first service, climbing to $621 for the third and moving around until the fifth year.