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by Tim Beissmann

Read CarAdvice’s review of the Mazda3 SP20 SKYACTIV.

The updated Mazda3 has landed in Australian showrooms, headlined by a new, fuel-efficient petrol model, added standard features and better value across the range.

The line-up has been revised to accommodate the all-new model, the Mazda3 SP20 SkyActiv, which sits between the Maxx Sport and the SP25 models.

The Neo continues as the base model and enjoys a $1000 price reduction compared with the previous model. With a starting price of $20,330 for the six-speed manual four-door sedan and five-door hatch variants, the entry-level Mazda3 undercuts it key rivals, including the Holden Cruze, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Elantra, and the new Ford Focus. The five-speed automatic transmission adds $2000 to the price.

As well as being cheaper than before, the base model Neo now comes with 15-inch alloy wheels as standard, further strengthening its value equation. Standard features on the Neo include manual air conditioning, 3.5-inch multi-information display, single-disc CD player, auxiliary jack and tilt/reach steering wheel. The base 108kW/182Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine carries over unchanged, using fuel at a rate of 7.9 litres/100km combined for the manual and 8.2 litres/100km for the automatic.

The Maxx model has been discontinued, meaning next up is the $24,490 Maxx Sport. It’s price has come down a considerable $1870, although the jump from base model to the next model up is now $4160, compared with $2425 previously.

New to the Maxx Sport are auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers, joining the already standard features including satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity, dual-zone climate control, leather wrapped steering wheel and gearknob, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps and side skirts.

The price of the diesel model – now simply called Mazda3 Diesel rather than MZR-CD – has also fallen $1870. The mechanical specifications of the Diesel are unchanged (110kW, 360Nm, 5.7 litres/100km combined). The new Diesel model also benefits from auto headlights and wipers, and adds LED taillights over the Maxx Sport.

Then comes the SP20 SkyActiv model, which is priced from $27,990. This model features the new SkyActiv-G 2.0-litre petrol engine and SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission combination. The SP20 SkyActiv promises combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.1 litres/100km, making it the most fuel-efficient small automatic car on the market.

On top of the Diesel, the SP20 SkyActiv gets a sports grille, overhead sunglasses storage box, stainless steel scuff plates and a driver’s seat with lumbar support. For an extra $3000, the $30,990 SP20 SkyActiv Luxury adds Bi-Xenon headlamps, sliding centre armrest console, leather seats, and a premium 10-speaker Bose audio system.

Next up is the sportier SP25 model, which scores the larger 122kW/227Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine. Its combined cycle fuel consumption is unchanged at 8.6 litres/100km for both manual and auto models. The automatic transmission option in the SP25, which includes paddle shifters, adds $2180 to the price.

With the SP25 Luxury model now discontinued, the SP25 sits at the top of the standard Mazda3 range. At $31,490 for the manual model, it’s $2235 more than the previous SP25, but $1630 less than the old equivalent SP25 Luxury. New features include Bi-Xenon headlamps, smart keyless entry and push-button start, and auto headlights and wipers. The SP25 is equipped similarly to the SP20 SkyActiv, but adds a sunroof, side mirror indicators and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The range-topping sports model, the Mazda3 MPS, is now available in just one spec level. Priced from $39,490, it’s $1055 more than the old MPS hatch, but $2425 cheaper than the equivalent MPS Luxury. Like the rest of the range, the MPS’s 190kW/380Nm 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is unchanged, and continues to drink 9.9 litres/100km combined, while sprinting from 0-100km/h in under seven seconds.

New to the MPS are Bi-Xenon headlamps with AFS, auto headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and the Bose premium audio system.

The Mazda3 update brings a softened exterior appearance, with a revised front bumper, grille and fog lamp shape, a shortened rear bumper (hatch only), and new alloy wheel designs. The SkyActiv model is differentiated by its deep metallic blue-painted engine cover, transparent blue headlamp rings and rear SkyActiv badging.

The upgraded interiors feature new cloth upholstery materials; silver-painted trim elements; white text for the meters, Multi Information Display (MID) and LCD screens; and model-specific instrument illumination colours: blue for SP20 SkyActiv, red for MPS, grey for all other models.

Mazda Australia expects to sell equal numbers of Mazda3 sedan and hatch models, with an average of 2800 total sales per month. It anticipates the Neo will account for almost two in every three purchases (65 per cent), with the new SP20 SkyActiv to be the next most popular at 15 per cent. The Maxx Sport (12 per cent), SP25 (five per cent), and Diesel and MPS (both 1.5 per cent) will make up the remaining sales.

After the first eight months of 2011, the Mazda3 is the highest-selling car in Australia, leading the Holden Commodore by 471 units (28,736 vs 28,265).

Mazda3 manufacturer’s list prices (excluding government and dealer charges):

  • Neo six-speed manual – $20,330 ($1790 added value)
  • Neo five-speed automatic – $22,330 ($1790)
  • Maxx Sport six-speed manual – $24,490 ($1815)
  • Maxx Sport five-speed automatic – $26,490 ($1815)
  • Diesel six-speed manual – $27,360 ($1815)
  • SP20 SkyActiv six-speed automatic – $27,990 (new model)
  • SP20 SkyActiv Luxury six-speed automatic – $30,990 (new model)
  • SP25 six-speed manual – $31,490 ($2885)
  • SP25 five-speed automatic – $33,670 ($2885)
  • MPS six-speed manual – $39,490 ($2175)



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