Mazda has rationalised the MY24 3 range, with fewer grades and no more manuals, sadly.
The pretty little piece of automotive industrial design you see here is the mid-range Evolve SP Vision, which sounds less like a car and more like a posh hairdryer from Vidal Sassoon.
Priced from $36,520 before on-road costs (or about $41K drive-away before you start haggling), this Mazda 3 is a sporty and well-equipped alternative to the likes of the speedy Hyundai i30 N-Line Premium, spacious Kia Cerato GT Turbo, new Subaru Impreza AWD 2.0R and evergreen Toyota Corolla ZR. All cost roughly the same money.
The thing is, do Mazda’s upmarket aspirations mean the 3 possesses the ride quality and chic to embarrass at times substantially more expensive hatchbacks with premium pretensions? We’re talking rivals like the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Peugeot 308 and VW Golf, here.
Stay with us, because we reckon you might be surprised by how far the 3 has come since its humble 323 predecessors.
Anyway, this version comes with most of the good gear, including a full suite of driver-assist safety tech like front and rear Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), blind-spot alert, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control, as well as keyless start and walk-away lock, powered driver’s seat with memory, 360-degree camera views, a head-up display, digital radio, sat-nav, auto tilt/folding exterior mirrors, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity and 18-inch alloys.
Oh, and for 2023, an upgraded version introduces a smartphone charger and wireless for the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto function, along with USB-C port access front and rear.
What’s missing at the Evolve SP Vision’s price point? Some mainstream rivals offer leather and a sunroof, available respectively in the more-expensive GT Vision, from $40,000, and flagship Astina grades, from nearly $42,500.
Still, that’s quite a lot of small car for the money, given the quality of the presentation and design. Speaking of which…