Mazda Australia has taken the bold decision to push its new 3 sedan and hatch upmarket, responding to what it calls customer demand for ritzier choices in the small car space.
The new-generation model sports slinkier and cleaner design, makes improvements in ride comfort and noise-suppression, and packs a wallop when it comes to standard active safety and high-tech interior features. For instance, every version gets a head-up display and 8.8-inch centre screen, plus a raft of crash-preventing electronics like AEB and blind-spot monitoring (see below).
On the flipside, the entry price is now $24,990 before on-road costs, up $4500 over the outgoing Neo Sport base variant. In fact, the newly named and better-equipped G20 Pure entry grade is more expensive than the outgoing mid-range Maxx Sport and Touring, though we should note that Mazda has slashed the price of the optional automatic transmission this time by $1000.
Mazda’s approach follows that of fellow top-seller Toyota (the brands are second and first in-market, in that order) with its new Corolla, which kicks off at $22,970 but costs around $26k before on-roads for the one people generally buy. It’s what Volkswagen has done with the Golf for years.
By contrast, the steel-wheeled Hyundai i30 Go (the other top-seller in the segment) kicks off at $19,990, but unlike the Mazda has a strong focus on fleet deals at the entry grade and a relative lack of luxo features until you jump into something like the N-Line derivative.
The new Hiroshima-made Mazda 3 has a stripped-back, cleaner aesthetic. The hatchback is billed as the ‘sportier’ design thanks to that huge C-pillar and, like the Corolla, de-prioritisation of back seat space (backed up by Mazda’s research showing three-quarters of current 3 owners almost always drive solo or with one passenger), while the sedan is designed to look more traditional.
The interior layout is even more driver-oriented than before, with a cleaner look and more high-grade materials such as leather-like dash padding, to justify the shift upmarket. There’s a narrower-rimmed new steering wheel, plus a new 8.8-inch screen without touch responses (just the rotary dial) running a long-overdue second-generation operating system with brand new graphics and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration.
The cupholders have been moved ahead of the gear-shifter, allowing Mazda to fit a longer centre armrest, the steering wheel has a greater range of telescopic reach adjustment, the A-pillars are said to be slimmer to help forward vision; the windscreen wipers have a wider arc, and the seats are billed as comfier and more supportive.
The new hatch is actually slightly lower and shorter than the outgoing model, but sits on a 25mm longer wheelbase. It also weighs between 39kg and 55kg more depending on spec grade, and its 295-litre boot is 13L smaller than before, albeit better than the Corolla’s.
The sedan is 80mm longer than before (and 200mm longer than its new hatch sibling), has more boot space (a sizeable 444L, up 36L, with the space-saver spare), and weighs about 50kg more than its predecessor. The differences between the four- and five-door bodies is starker now, quite clearly so.
There are two Euro 5 engines at launch, which are largely familiar from the outgoing car.
Models designated ‘G20’ use a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol-fired four-cylinder making a familiar 114kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4000rpm, with start/stop, a 91 RON fuel use claim from 6.1L/100km (actually slightly worse than before), and the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed torque-converter-type auto transmissions on all grades, the latter costing only $1000 more and expected to account for 90 per cent of sales at least.
The other engine in the ‘G25’ models is the current 2.5-litre petrol four with slightly uprated outputs (up 1kW/2Nm) of 139kW at 6000rpm and 252Nm at 4000rpm, attached to the same transmissions, and claimed fuel consumption starting at 6.5L/100km. This engine also has a low-stress cylinder deactivation system to reduce fuel use.
The feted SkyActiv-X petrol engine with world-first mass-production compression-ignition technology – designed to offer signature petrol-engine power and response, with diesel-like torque and frugality – arrives to top the range 'late this year'. Read our prototype review of that here. The 2.5-litre turbo from the Mazda 6 and CX-5? Unlikely.
The Mazda 3’s platform and body are said to be stiffer now, while the suspension has been overhauled. The MacPherson strut arrangement remains at the front, but the old multi-link setup at the rear has been replaced by a cheaper and easier-to-package torsion beam, a similar approach to the new Ford Focus and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which do likewise. Mazda’s bet is that punters won’t mind this, and we suspect it’s correct.
A major focus was on reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). This has long been a Mazda bugbear. More sound-deadening, different seals, plus revised engine mounts and dampers reduce the tyre noise, wind roar and former unpleasantries such as steering-rack-rattle. There’s also 10-times more ultra-high-tensile steel in the body/framework, up to 1310MPa-grade.
Mazda has also fettled its G-Vectoring Plus system that cuts engine torque according to steering input, effectively transferring the car’s weight and improving stability and turn-in, albeit by small degrees. The system now also applies braking force to the outer wheels when you’re returning the steering wheel to centre, apparently easing your transition to straight-line travel. Interesting tech. All are front-wheel drive (FWD) by the way.
The major leap in driving comes in the realm of safety. Every version gets as standard radar-guided active cruise control with stop and go, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitor, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning and forward collision alert. On lower grades you can shell out $1500 to get a (much higher-resolution this time) 360-degree camera, LED headlights with adaptivity, front cross-traffic alert and reverse AEB.
The Mazda 3 will be covered by a five-year warranty with no distance limit and advertised servicing prices with 10,000km intervals between visits (or 12 months, whichever comes first).
Note: we attended a launch event for the new Mazda 3 this week, where only G25 Astina hatch versions were shown. Therefore all the pics used are of the flagship model. For now.
The new Mazda 3 hatch goes on sale in the second quarter (April/May), while the sedan will arrive in dealers around July. Tide yourself over with our overseas-market review here.
2019 Mazda 3 sedan/hatch pricing (before on-road costs):
Soul Red Crystal, Machine Grey and Polymetal Grey paints cost $495 extra.
G20 Pure standard spec:
- Seven airbags
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Driver Attention Alert
- Forward-collision warning
- Smart Brake Support AEB
- High Beam Auto Control
- Lane-departure warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Radar active cruise control
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Traffic-sign recognition
- Tyre-pressure monitor
- Manual air-conditioning
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- 7-inch TFT LCD instruments
- 8.8-inch screen, rotary control
- Reverse camera, rear sensors
- Satellite navigation
- Head-up windscreen display
- DAB+ digital radio
- 8 speaker audio
- Electric parking brake, Auto Hold
- Black cloth seats
- LED headlights
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- Push-button engine start
- Auto-folding side mirrors
- Rain-sensing wipers
G20 Evolve extras (over G20 Pure):
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Dual-zone climate control with rear vents
- Auto dimming rear-view mirror
- Leather gear shift knob, steering wheel
- Paddle shifters
- Rear-seat centre fold-down armrest
G20 Touring extras (over G20 Evolve):
- Proximity key
- Overhead sunglass storage box
- Black leather seats, power adjustment/memory
- Vanity mirrors with illumination
G25 Evolve extras (over G20 Evolve):
- 2.5 engine
- Proximity key
- 10-way power adjust cloth seats
G25 GT extras (over G25 Evolve):
- Front seats with heating function
- Overhead sunglass storage box
- Power mirrors (heated)
- Premium Bose amplifier and 12 speakers
- Black leather seat trim
- Steering wheel with heating function
- Vanity mirrors with illumination
G25 Astina extras (over G25 Evolve):
- 18 inch alloy wheels
- 360-degree camera display
- Adaptive LED headlights
- Cruising & Traffic Support
- Driver Monitoring
- Front cross-traffic alert
- Front parking sensors
- Reverse AEB
- Black leather/Pure White leather/Burgundy leather