2019 Mazda3 G20 Evolve Review
Isaac Bober’s 2019 Mazda3 G20 Evolve Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Practicality, Infotainment, Ownership, Safety, Verdict and Score.
In a nutshell: New Mazda3 improves quality inside and out, takes a big step forward where driving dynamics are concerned but a small back seat and boot knocks off some of the shine.
2019 Mazda3 G20 Evolve Specifications
Price $26,690+ORCs – manual / $27,690+ORCs (tested) Warranty five-years unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 10,000km/ 12 months Safety Not tested Engine 2.-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 114kW at 6000rpm Torque 200Nm at 4000rpm Transmission six-speed manual/six-speed automatic (tested) Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4460mm long, 1795mm wide, 1435mm high, 2725mm wheelbase Turning Circle 10.6m Seats five Boot Space 295 litres Weight 1338kg Spare space saver Fuel Tank 51L Thirst 6.2L/100km claimed combined
The Mazda3 has been Mazda’s best-seller for some time and this new fourth-generation model is the biggest transformation since the model was launched back in 2004. And while it’s only available as a hatchback at the moment, a sedan is on its way later this year.
It’s worth noting there’s a new engine on its way too, called Skyactiv-X but for now the 2.5- and 2.0-litre petrol engines are carried over from the old model but with some minor tweaking. Beyond that, everything else is new. And so too is naming which sees Mazda adopt G20 and G25 to represent the two engines. The range kicks off with the Pure, Evolve, Touring, GT, and Astina.
In terms of design, the all-new Mazda3 borrows heavily from the Vision Coupe concept from the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show and, on the hatchback at least, Mazda said the ‘distinctive’ C-pillars were intended to give “the appearance of drawing the cabin and body together as a strong, solid single mass when viewed from behind”. The Internet has been vocal in its condemnation of the C-pillar treatment and I’m inclined to agree. Design is always in the eye of the beholder but for me, standing still, the slabby rear looks good but from a practical point of view it restrict rear vision and creates a cave-like back seat, but do let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
What’s the price and what do you get? Our test car was a G20 Evolve so, one wrung above entry and with the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and it had an automatic transmission which sees the pricing jump from $26,690+ORCs for the manual G20 Evolve to $27,690+ORCs for our tester with a six-speed automatic. Mazda expects the G20 Evolve we tested to be the volume-seller in the range, accounting for around 30% of sales.
You get a decent amount of kit for your money, including but not limited to 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning, rear directional air vents, rear folding arm rest, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear lever, auto dimming interior rear vision mirror and paddle shifters for the automatic models. And Mazda’s gone heavy on the active safety with things like autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring as standard as is rear cross traffic alert with automatic braking, but we’ll go into more detail in the safety section.
What’s the cabin like? The interior even on our one-up-from-entry Evolve variant shows the leap ahead in quality Mazda’s made from the old car. And you can clearly see the trickle down in terms of materials and design from more expensive vehicles, like Mazda6. The general feeling when you climb inside the cabin is that this is a more expensive car than it is.
There’s soft-touch materials across the dash with real stitched edges and beautiful contrast trims too, and the partial digital instrument cluster is a nice, premium touch. There’s good storage space and the layered dashboard with its shadow lines creates an incredibly elegant interior. And that carries right through the vehicle. As far as quality of design and feel, the Mazda3 takes the fight to the very best in the segment and in many ways, surpasses them raising the bar against key competitors.
What are the infotainment and controls like? It’s not all perfect. For me, the layered dash looks great but it throws a shadow over the too-small climate controls which can be hard to use on the move. And the lack of touch functionality on the 8.8-inch infotainment screen is annoying, especially when you’re trying to navigate around something like Apple CarPlay which can become frustrating indeed via the rotary controller. This is because you find you’ve got to twist and turn more than you think to land on the right icon and often you find you have to hit the Home button to go back to the main screen and switch between, say, podcasts and music. Still, the audio controls on the steering wheel and the switchgear in general all feel very high quality, much higher than you might expect.
What are the front seats like? The driver and passenger front seats are more comfortable than they at first appear. The driver’s seat on our G20 Evolve offers manual adjustment only (you’ve got to step up to the G25 Evolve to get powered adjustment and convenience niceties like smart key entry) but the forwards and backwards movement is huge to the point where at its rearmost setting I could only just reach the pedals. There’s okay movement up and down and in and out on the steering but drivers of all shapes and sizes will be able to get comfortable behind the wheel.
It’s worth noting the driving position is very sporting and, unless you raise the seat base you’ll get the sense that your backside is almost dragging along the road. And vision around the vehicle isn’t amazing thanks to the swoopy exterior design and the thick-ish A-pillars. Rear vision is particularly restricted thanks to the slab-like rear three-quarters and letterbox-sized rear windscreen. Fortunately, the reversing camera is excellent with a god wide view and the rear cross traffic alert does a good job of picking up traffic and warning you about it before it becomes a problem. The rear parking sensors are well placed too to pick up objects you won’t see.
What are the back seats like? Here the Mazda3 loses some shine. The rising rear window line and slabby rear three-quarters and, indeed, sloping roof makes for a very closed-in feeling back seat space. It’s almost cave like. With the front seat set to suit me my knees were just about touching the front seat and my head was just about brushing the roof. The backseats are comfortable enough and the directional rear air vents are nicety that not all vehicles in this segment offer but for adults the space is tight.
What’s the boot space like? The boot is small on the hatchback offering just 295 litres of storage space. The sedan, when it arrives, will offer a more substantial 444 litres of space.
Is there a spare? Yes, a space saver spare tyre beneath the boot floor. It’s speed and distance limited.
What’s the performance like? Being the G20 Evolve means our tester ran a carried-over 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 114kW of power at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4000rpm. There’s the choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic; our tester ran a six-speed automatic.
This engine is largely identical to the one in the old Mazda3 although Mazda said it came in for some tweaking to improve fuel efficiency returning a claimed combined 6.2L/100km; our week with the Mazda3 saw us average 6.8L/100km with an even mixture of around town and highway driving.
The engine itself doesn’t feel underdone (until you’re on a twisting road) with plenty of zip for keeping up with traffic whether you’re on your own or with the family on-board, but the transmission is a bit disappointing once you get out of town. Indeed, away from a steady throttle (on the highway) or at lower around-town speeds, the transmission is constantly working, with occasionally abrupt gear changes, as it seeks to maintain momentum. And overtaking can see some big gear changes as it searches for extra oomph upsetting the otherwise refined nature of the new Mazda3. Our launch drive impression of the G25 variants is that that engine is the better choice.
While plenty of people moan about stop/start systems there’s no doubt that system in the Mazda3 is one of the better ones with a quick response to re-start the car’s engine. Indeed, the slightest lift action off the throttle is enough to fire up the Mazda3.
What’s it like on the road? Mazda said it put a lot of effort into the things like noise insulation and improvements to ride and handling. And it shows. If the engines are a little same-same then the way the new Mazda3 rides and handles is a revelation.
To make a more sporting and refined driving experience, Mazda touched everything from the thickness of the carpets, to underfloor insulation, tyre design, adding more and thicker seals around doors, and even used acoustic glass to weed out unwanted road noise. And it worked. The cabin is impressively hushed with only some hard-working engine noise leaking into the cabin but this quickly subsides again once the speed evens out.
The Mazda3 is the latest small car to show that a well-tuned torsion beam rear end can ride and handle just as well as anything with a multi-link rear. And while it’s not quite as good as the new Ford Focus, it’s pretty darn close. The ride is impressive with a bump smothering ability and quietness to the suspension you don’t expect in a small car. And body control is excellent with a mid-corner balance that places the new Mazda3 right at the pointy end of the segment.
Our G20 Evolve road on 18-inch alloys and quite often the trade-off to improved grip can be some hardness to the ride but that’s not the case with the Mazda3. And the steering too has been improved; it’s quick but not darty and the weighting is consistent throughout the steering movement and there’s good straight-ahead stability too.
Pedal performance is equally impressive with a short-travel brake pedal (so you’ll need to get used to it) offering decent progression once you’re used to the feel of it. And the throttle too offers good progression and response.
In all, the new Mazda3 is easy to drive around town, as you expect from a town-oriented small car, but what’s most impressive about it is just how engaging it is on a twisting road. This is a car that will put a smile on your face and shows that while the market is flocking towards SUVs, car makers are still investing plenty in making excellent and, often, more practical than an SUV, small cars.
Can you tow with it? We’d suggest you don’t. Sure, Mazda rates it up to 1200kg but with a towball download of just 80kg you’re limited to box trailers at best but even then it would likely place unnecessary strain on such a small car. If you need to tow, consider buying a larger SUV.
What about ownership? The Mazda3 benefits from a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and five year’s capped price servicing which on the G20 variants will cost you $1778. Unfortunately, the service schedule is more frequent than most competitors, with the Mazda3 requiring a visit to the service centre every 10,000km or 12 months.
What safety features does it get? The Mazda3 still hasn’t been tested by ANCAP but the brand is clearly targeting a five-star rating. There are seven airbags, with a driver’s knee airbag added to the list that already includes side curtains, side thorax airbags and dual front bags. Then there’s the usual traction and stability controls, automatic high beam, smart locking doors, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitoring, traffic sign recognition (but no intelligent speed limiting like the Ford Focus), an excellent reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
And Mazda’s gone heavy with active safety. For instance, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert are all standard as is lane departure warning and lane-keep assist (which will gently nudge you back into your lane but immediately release the steering once you’ve been straightened up). The list grows as you move higher up the food chain, but the G20 Evolve we tested is impressively equipped, although to match the top-spec cars you can add the cost-optional Vision Technology Pack which includes a 360-degree surround camera, front cross traffic alert, rear automatic braking and front parking sensors.