The Mazda 3 has been quite the game-changer in the small-car segment since its arrival in 2004 (replacing the 323), and quickly establishing itself as one of the most sought after small hatchbacks in the market. Mazda continues its success with the Mazda 3 in the guise of the SP25 GT.
I bought my Mazda 3 SP25 GT BN series in September 2016. First and foremost, I found online vehicle-review sites and YouTube gave me helpful influence in my decision-making process. Another reason I purchased the Mazda 3 SP25 GT was the cost/benefit ratio that I use when researching a car. For me, it needs to meet the following requirements:
- Total cost of the vehicle at point of purchase (Under $40K)
- What it will cost to maintain each year (fuel, insurances, maintenance etc)
- The technology needs to meet the demands of my day to day commute (DAB, Bluetooth connectivity, voice assist, etc)
- Resale value of the vehicle
- Manufacturer's after-sales support and service
For me, this car was fantastic to drive. I loved getting behind the wheel and it's fairly smooth to drive. The willing and punchy 2.5-litre SkyActiv engine gets off the line well.
The leather seats sourced by Mazda are very comfortable, and the heated front seats make life easier on those cold mornings (okay, we don't get it as bad as the Europeans do).
The Bose Audio nine-speaker system is crisp and fairly clear, with easy adjustments via the MZD Connect infotainment system. Plus, Bluetooth connectivity makes taking calls a lot easier and safer without having to take your eyes off the road when using the buttons mounted on the steering wheel.
I cannot fault the 8.0-inch centre display unit, and at no time did I have any issues with live traffic or re-routing my trips with Mazda's sat-nav.
Another great benefit in terms of technology is Mazda adding the new colour head-up display with prompted turn and lane symbols (great benefit when you're driving in an unfamiliar area of Sydney's concrete jungle).
You can feel when the G-Vectoring takes over in small tiny turns to large sweeping corners (only need to go on the Cahill Expressway northbound to experience it in its entirety).
Power for the Mazda 3 SP25 GT comes from a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with outputs of 138kW at 5700rpm and 250Nm at 3250rpm. Though it can’t match the kind of punchy torque that makes modern turbocharged small cars feel so engaging and fun (the Hyundai i30 SR is one to note), the Mazda's 2.5-litre engine and its quite responsive six-speed automatic work well, and acceleration from a standstill is more than enough to get me ahead in city-based driving.
The exterior of the Mazda 3 keeps in-line with Mazda's design philosophy of kodo – 'soul in motion' – in which Mazda wishes to convey its products as a 'work of art'. To a certain degree, I'd have to say it has nice sweeping lines and great front-end design, however I must say the rear end of the SP25 GT is missing something unique to distinguish itself from the less-sporty versions of the Mazda 3 (Neo and Maxx).
The negatives regarding the Mazda 3, and in particular the SP25 GT, for me include ongoing issues with regard to cabin NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness). Tyre noise travels into the cabin as if there are no door panels or baffles to deaden the sound whatsoever.
Secondly, surely by now all the top manufacturers would've integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, or at least offer it as an optional cost? For Mazda, both are not available, which is unfortunate.
Finally, I need to note paint application issues, in particular with my SP25 GT. There were black paint spots under the clear coat. Now, this led to my vehicle being taken back and receiving a full refund of the purchase price of the vehicle (inclusive of accessories).
Note: The paint issues were discovered by myself at the pre-delivery phase and we decided (Dealer principal and I) it was best that I took the vehicle, while the matter would be looked at further and investigated. But also so I wouldn't be without a car, which in conclusion worked out well for me as it didn't leave me without a mode of transport until they found a solution for the problem.
Okay, back to the positives! This is what's so great about Mazda – its after-sales customer service is quite responsive to take any issue with the seriousness that it deserves. With the right attitude, a clear mind and politeness, many doors will open and a solution will be found (being reasonable and diplomatic helps).
Would I recommend the Mazda 3 SP25 GT? Absolutely! Why? 'You just said you had issues with the condition of the paintwork?', you ask. Of course, I had issues with the paintwork, yet Mazda took it in its stride, addressed the issues, and kindly offered a solution that benefited all parties concerned.
There's little reason to doubt the Mazda 3 and the sportier SP25 GT won't continue their popularity and positive sales growth, particularly with people who want something more without paying over $40K (for SP25 GT and Astina buyers). It's not perfect, and it still has the noticeable tyre/cabin noise and known paint application issues.
In the Mazda 3 you’ll find a car that’s comfortable and all too happy for the long and loathsome daily commute, but enjoyable and ready to connect with you when the road and traffic avail itself to you to enjoy all that this little punter can offer.
Hopefully I'll buy another one when the new Mazda 3 with the SkyActiv-X is unveiled later this year at the Tokyo Auto Show.
What needs to be addressed going into the future for Mazda? Firstly, Mazda needs to address quality-control issues, in particular the paint application/inspection process. Secondly, yet equally as important, Mazda needs to find a solution to the NVH issues that plague almost all Mazdas available today.
The ball is now in Mazda's court.