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Mazda3 2022 review: G25 Evolve sedan

In an era of wide-reaching stock shortages maybe it's time to consider the humble sedan. (image: Tom White)

You might also be interested in the Toyota Corolla

image of Toyota Corolla

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Urban score

3.9/5

If you’re having trouble finding stock of a small SUV or even a hatchback in 2022, I’d strongly recommend you look at a sedan.

The majority of buyers will engage in puzzling mental gymnastics to convince themselves they need to pay more for a trendy small SUV.

Yet, it'll have a smaller boot than the Mazda3 sedan you see here. Yes, this car and other attractive small sedans sit, ignored on dealer lots.

You don’t have to wait six months for it. You don’t have to pay more for less, and you might see why being lower to the ground means better driving dynamics.

For this review, we’re specifically looking at the mid-grade Mazda3 G25 Evolve SP, sitting above the base G20 Pure and packing the larger of three engine options.

Is it the sweet spot in the Mazda3 range? Does it have the right ingredients to lure you from a small SUV or out-of-stock hatch? Let’s take a look.

You might also be interested in the Toyota Corolla

image of Toyota Corolla

You might also be interested in the Toyota Corolla

image of Toyota Corolla

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

This Mazda3 sedan is a new addition to the range for 2022. Dubbed the G25 Evolve SP, it currently wears an MSRP of $32,290.

Not so long ago we would have noted how expensive this version of the Mazda3 is. But in a world of consistent price rises this mid-spec car is looking more acceptable.

Still, rivals at this price include the top-spec non-hybrid Toyota Corolla ZR, top-spec Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S, as well as upper mid-grade versions of the Kia Cerato (Sport +), and Hyundai i30 (Elite).

Worth noting the Corolla comes with (arguably) more gear, the Impreza packs leather seats and all-wheel drive, while the Cerato has a seven-year warranty.

This Mazda3 sedan is a new addition to the range for 2022. (image: Tom White) This Mazda3 sedan is a new addition to the range for 2022. (image: Tom White)

That’s not to say equipment on the Mazda3 G25 Evolve SP is poor. Standard features include, 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.8-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and built-in navigation, a 7.0-inch semi-digital dash cluster, eight-speaker audio, cloth seat trim with a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, push-start ignition with keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, and leather highlights for the steering wheel and shifter.

Strikes me as a odd that this Evolve grade costs more than the G20 Touring ($31,390) while stripping out leather seat trim in favour of the blacked-out wheels and body highlights. It presents an interesting choice. Do you value these missing features more than the larger engine?

Like most Mazdas, the G25 Evolve SP comes with a healthy list of safety equipment which we’ll look at in the relevant part of this review.

Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels and an 8.8-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image: Tom White) Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels and an 8.8-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image: Tom White)

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Absolutely. Mazda's swoopy design style has been gently refined for this generation of the 3, to make a car which looks more expensive than it is.

Echoing cars sculpted by the Italian coachbuilding masters of old, this 3 sedan is rare, in that it appears to have been shaped as carefully as its hatch equivalent.

Few examples of non-premium mid-size sedans which look this great still exist. Kia’s overtly sporty Cerato sedan gives the 3 a run for its money, but I think both look infinitely better than the dreary Corolla sedan, safe-to-a-fault Impreza, and polarisingly rhomboidal i30 sedan.

Keep in mind, too, cars like this are counting their days in the Australian market, with Mitsubishi’s successful Lancer and Honda’s Civic sedan already driven into the annals of Australian automotive history.

Mazda's swoopy design style has been gently refined for this generation of the 3. (image: Tom White) Mazda's swoopy design style has been gently refined for this generation of the 3. (image: Tom White)

Why do I like it so much? The wide, swoopy bonnet, delicate light fittings, well-sculpted grille, ideally proportioned and squared-off boot lid, as well as a distinct lack of naff black plastics make for one classy looking compact sedan.

I do worry about the longevity of this car’s expansive, uninterrupted panels. Even a single pockmark dent or light scratch will stand out on the doors or bonnet, potentially ruining the overall look.

Also not a fan of the black wheels, specific to the SP grade. They’re fine in isolation, but I think this design looks better when matched with silver.

Inside will seal the deal for anyone wanting a car that punches above its price point. The 3’s interior is one of, if not the best in this class, in terms of ambiance.

I'm not a fan of the black wheels, specific to the SP grade. (image: Tom White) I'm not a fan of the black wheels, specific to the SP grade. (image: Tom White)

The leather-bound wheel, raised centre console, semi-digital dash, and gentle application of chrome look and feel lovely.

This design feels like it was destined to be matched with the leather seats from higher grades. But the hard-wearing weave covering the seats in this G25 Evolve SP is still attractive.

The multimedia screen, nestled distantly on the dash top, looks great. It’s sharp, has great colour, and utilises Apple CarPlay's widescreen abilities.

However, as it’s not a touch unit, it’s not always the easiest system to control, as we’ll discuss in the practicality section of this review.

How practical is the space inside?

Sedans are more practical than most give them credit for, characterised by extra back seat space and boot capacity compared to many small SUVs or hatchbacks, and the Mazda3 is no different.

Starting up front, the driver is treated to a generous space, with good visibility out of the main windows.

Seat trim is cloth, and the addition of power adjust for the driver's seat is a nice touch.

The front of the cabin features soft trims everywhere you’re realistically going to touch, ramming home the brand's increasingly upmarket ambitions.

Bottle holders appear in the doors and centre console in front of the shifter. Behind them there is a small phone-sized tray (perhaps a missed opportunity for a wireless charger).

The centre console box is also large and clad in a nice soft finish to enhance the 3's luxurious feel.

The driver is treated to a generous space, with good visibility out of the main windows. (image: Tom White) The driver is treated to a generous space, with good visibility out of the main windows. (image: Tom White)

There are a few small issues up front, though, which take away from this car’s overall practicality.

First, the 3 has the typical Mazda trait of the wing mirrors being mounted up on the doors and too close to the driver, giving them a limited angle of view.

Second, the multimedia system is not a touch unit, controlled only via a dial in the centre console.

This is great for the car’s stock software suite, which is clearly designed to be used this way, but navigating Apple CarPlay with a dial is beyond clumsy, especially while you’re trying to concentrate on the road.

It’s nice that there’s a separate volume knob, and easy-to-use climate functions, but I also wish the digital portion of the instrument cluster had a few more functions. It looks good but doesn’t really do much.

Access to the sedan's rear seat is much easier than in the 3 hatch as the doors are larger and the roofline stays consistently higher. This means it’s easy to hop in and out of for an adult.

The rear seats feature actual bolstering in their sides, although amenities are only okay. (image: Tom White) The rear seats feature actual bolstering in their sides, although amenities are only okay. (image: Tom White)

Sitting behind my 182cm driving position, I had plenty of leg and decent headroom. The plush door cards continue into the rear with a single bottle holder, plus a drop-down armrest includes two bottle holders.

The rear seats feature actual bolstering in their sides, although amenities are only okay, with dual adjustable air vents for rear passengers, but no power outlets.

In fact, power outlets are an issue in the 3, with two USB 2.0 ports and a single 12V socket, but no USB-C jacks.

For the boot, the sedan version of the 3 offers an impressive 444 litres of space (VDA), an enormous increase on the hatch's 295 litres.

This comes with the caveat that the loading space isn’t as versatile, with a traditional 'three-box' design meaning it can be much more difficult to load larger objects.

Regardless, the 3 sedan easily fit our three-piece CarsGuide luggage set with ample space to spare.

  • The sedan version of the 3 offers an impressive 444 litres of space (VDA). (image: Tom White) The sedan version of the 3 offers an impressive 444 litres of space (VDA). (image: Tom White)
  • The 3 sedan easily fit our three-piece CarsGuide luggage set with ample space to spare. (image: Tom White) The 3 sedan easily fit our three-piece CarsGuide luggage set with ample space to spare. (image: Tom White)

How much fuel does it consume?

The G25 Evolve SP automatic has an official/combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.5L/100km, which sounds a little fanciful for a larger capacity four-cylinder.

But I was impressed with the real-world results, which came back as 7.6L/100km after a few hundred kays.

Many turbo engines or stressed 2.0 litres will match or exceed this, and even though I stuck to largely urban use in my week, it still fell below the ‘urban’ claim of 8.5L/100km. I suppose this car is proof that sometimes simple is best.

Too add a little icing, the 2.5-litre engine is capable of consuming entry-level 91RON unleaded. The Mazda3 has a 51-litre fuel tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Safety equipment on Mazdas is generally excellent, and this grade of the 3 sedan is no different.

Standard tech includes auto emergency braking (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), lane keep assist (with lane departure warning), blind spot monitoring (with rear cross-traffic alert), the rare addition of front cross-traffic alert, rear auto emergency braking, driver attention alert, and traffic sign recognition.

It also features a radar-based adaptive cruise control system, although not with full stop-and-go capability as per some rival systems.

The only things missing, available elsewhere in the Mazda range, is full driver monitoring and a 360-degree view parking camera (although a wide-angle reversing camera is standard).

Safety equipment on Mazdas is generally excellent, and this grade of the 3 sedan is no different. (image: Tom White) Safety equipment on Mazdas is generally excellent, and this grade of the 3 sedan is no different. (image: Tom White)

It’s one of the best suites on a car in this class and features extras like vectoring control and an auto hold parking brake on top of the standard array of electronic stability, traction, and brake systems.

The Mazda3 features seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtains, plus a driver’s knee bag).

The entire range is covered by a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating to the 2019 standard, where it scored highly across all categories.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

All Mazdas are covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, on par with its primary rivals, which includes roadside assist for the duration.

Mazda includes a ‘base scheduled maintenance’ program with indicative costs for the first five years, with each visit estimated to cost either $322 or $367 on alternating years for an average of $340 a year.

This seems about right to us. Toyotas are cheaper, but Subarus are more expensive.

What's it like to drive around town?

The Mazda3 is generally a very nice car to drive. Mazda is keen on delivering a specific drive experience, designed to be consistent across its range.

And this car has been refined nicely relative to the previous 3, which handled well, but was a bit noisy and rough in the cabin.

Handling is excellent. The car feels secure with solid and direct steering feel, a firm but controlled ride (with more forgiving dampers than its predecessors), and good off-the-line responsiveness from the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine.

The engine pairs well with the six-speed torque converter transmission, ahead of the rubbery CVTs or glitchy dual-clutch autos found in some competitor offerings.

The engine is up and running and ready to go before you have time to think about it. (image: Tom White) The engine is up and running and ready to go before you have time to think about it. (image: Tom White)

Keen drivers are likely to prefer it, however there's something dated about the experience.

The 2.5-litre engine is sufficiently powerful but feels lacklustre in its mid-range delivery compared to more modern turbocharged or hybrid alternatives. And it’s a bit noisy, to boot.

Road noise has improved from this car’s predecessor, but still isn’t stellar, and one thing which helps define the Mazda driving experience is a firmness which works its way through the whole vehicle.

It’s not just that the ride can be a little hard at times, it’s that you feel every bump through the steering and body of the car.

Road noise has improved from this car’s predecessor, but still isn’t stellar. (image: Tom White) Road noise has improved from this car’s predecessor, but still isn’t stellar. (image: Tom White)

It’s worth calling out Mazda’s emissions-reducing stop-start system as easily one of the best executions of the tech on the market.

The engine is up and running and ready to go before you have time to think about it. Unlike some contemporary systems from rivals like VW, you never have to consider switching it off out of annoyance.

This leaves the G25 SP as an interesting option in the crowded mid-size hatch and sedan space. One which leans further into the sporty driver-oriented realm than the semi-luxury one seemingly promised by its design.

The Mazda3 G25 SP is one of the best-looking small sedans on the market, with a lovely cabin ambiance, a driver-oriented road feel, and a stellar safety suite.

It falls a little short on value compared to top-spec competitors at a similar price point. And the engine and transmission leave this great-looker in danger of feeling a bit out-of-date with no turbocharging or electrification.

But if you’re looking for a small SUV or a hatch, and you’re having trouble finding stock, don’t look past this sedan, which offers a big boot and back seat, as well as a drive experience superior to most.

$32,290

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.9/5

Urban score

3.9/5
Price Guide

$32,290

Based on new car retail price

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.