A cynic, by definition, is someone who is skeptical by nature, especially when, say, a car company comes out with a new model that promises to be all things to all people and is lapped up by the public in large droves, which is more or less what happened when the latest Mazda3 was released. However, although a cynic, after living with said car for 6 months, I can say “Brace yourself folks”, because it deserves the praise that it gets.
To be honest I wasn’t considering it at first during my search for a new car, (was aiming more towards the likes of the 86/BRZ, Fiesta ST, and Proceed GT), so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that it combined the sporting nature of the aforementioned with real world practicality.
Take for instance the appearance. Outwardly it has a slinky profile reminiscent of the J-a-a-a-g-s~ of old but with Mazda’s legendary build quality, while the interior achieves the right level of class, technology and subtlety, cleverly laying out the chutzpah of accessories in such a way that it is intuitive to use but doesn’t conspire to make the centre console look and feel cluttered. The fact that the instrument cluster is similar in layout to that of a modern McLaren or Ferrari, i.e: large centre dial framed by two LCD displays, reinforces the sportiness factor, combined with an incredibly precise slick shifting 6 speed manual and 2.5 lt skyactiv engine that actually keeps the promises it makes both on power and efficiency. The end result is that you get to have your cake and eat it.
On the road this dynamic continues, with the 3 feeling at home whether you’re in the cut and thrust of city traffic, a winding twisty road, or cruising the freeway, with just the right balance between agility, responsiveness and comfort. Admittedly it may not be VW golf quiet inside but the road noise issue isn’t anywhere near as bad as some make it out to be. While compact enough that it doesn’t feel barge-like it has been cleverly packaged space-wise to allow five adults of all sizes to sit in relative comfort, and has a generously sized boot (at least for the sedan version anyway). If I had to make a minor grumble it would be that the location of the front edge of the car or front quarter panels can be difficult to judge when parking. This quibble however is vastly offset by the Heads Up Display, sublime BOSE Audio system and the heated seats, something I initally wrote off as gimmicky but came to really appreciate during the antarctic vortex that swept over Adelaide and the rest of the south east coast this winter.
Of course, we can’t talk about this car without mentioning the MZD Connect Infotainment System, which to my experience has been quite the gem for the most part. Navigating the functions is easy and stress free with various options at your disposal, be it the BMW iDrive-style centre console control dial, shortcut buttons or the touch screen itself (which, it should be noted, can only be utilised while the car is at a standstill; a sensible precaution to prevent driver distraction). The satellite navigation is clear and easy to read and provides useful information such as relevant speed limits and upcoming pedestrian- and railroad-crossings, among others, and syncing one’s phone up to the system is a breeze as well. That said, there have been a couple of times when the entire Infotainment system resets itself or the navigation function fails to boot up but these are, thankfully, very rare.
Being a Mazda, it continues that brand’s reputation for Black-Box-Flight-Recorder-level reliability.Throw in the capped price servicing (which is for the lifetime of the car) and reasonable running costs, as it doesn’t require premium fuel like its European counterparts, and you have yourself a very attractive package indeed.
Many have aspired to the Goldilocks zone of “Just Right”– the perfect combination of luxury, practicality, economy and fun – but few have achieved it. Until now.