Mazda3 2019 Review
Toby Hagon’s First Drive Mazda3 2019 Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.
In a nutshell: The fourth generation Mazda3 is more expensive than ever but it’s also more convincing than ever, upping the depth of driving talent and comfort in a car with class-leading safety.
Mazda3 2019 Specifications
Price From $24,990+ORC Warranty 5 years, unlimited km Service Intervals 12 months, 10,000km Safety TBC Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol; 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 114kW at 6000rpm; 139kW at Torque 200Nm at 4000rpm; 252Nm at Transmission six-speed auto Drive Front-wheel drive Dimensions 4460mm (L), 1795mm (W), 1435mm (H), 2725mm (WB) Ground Clearance 150mm Kerb Weight From1339kg Towing 1200kg Towball Download 80kg Boot Space 444L Spare Space saver Fuel Tank 51L Thirst From 6.2L/100km
It’s long been the top seller in the Mazda showroom, loved for its reliability, style and driving substance. But now the Mazda3 has undergone its biggest transformation since the original in 2004. While engines are carried over from the previous model, the body, suspension and interior are all new.
For now, it’s only the hatchback on offer, a sedan arriving in mid-2019.
What’s in the range and how much does it cost? Getting behind the wheel of the new Mazda3 is more expensive than it’s ever been. There are two engine choices, the G20 being a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, and the G25 being a 2.5. Each can be had as a manual or automatic across a range of new model variants.
The opening price for is $24,990+ORC, a full 22% hike over the model it replaces. Factor in discounts and on-road pricing and the difference between old and new is even greater. At least it’s only a $1000 step up for the auto transmission most people choose, about half the premium most rivals charge for a self-shifter.
That new base model, called G20 Pure, is also bulging with standard gear, including a head-up display, traffic sign recognition, digital radio, satellite-navigation, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, Apple Carplay and Android Auto on an 8.8-inch touchscreen. It also gets all the active safety gear increasingly being fitted to more affordable cars. That includes a forward facing radar and camera for full auto emergency braking (AEB), active cruise control to lock onto the car in front and lane departure warning with mild self-steering. There’s also 16-inch alloy wheels with tyre pressure monitoring.
Next step up is the Evolve, the only model to be offered with both engine choices. It’s a modest jump to G20 Evolve ($26,690/$27,690+ORC for G20 manual/auto) and a tad more for the G25 ($29,490/$30,490+ORC manual/auto).
The Evolve picks up 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning, rear 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. The G25 Evolve also gets smart key entry and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat.
From there it’s the most expensive of the 2.0-litre models, the G20 Touring ($28,990/$29,990+ORC for manual/auto). They get leather trim, smart key entry, electric driver’s seat with memory storage, an overhead storage compartment near the mirror and lights for the vanity mirrors.
Next step up in the G25 models is the GT ($33,490/$34,490+ORC). Its drawcard is a 12-speaker Bose sound system as well as some smaller additions, some of which suited to cold climates; front seat heaters, heated exterior mirrors and a heated steering wheel.
Topping the range is the G25 Astina ($36,990/$37,990+ORC), with a sunroof and alloy wheels with a unique colour finish. That Astina also picks up the Vision Technology pack that includes front parking sensors, a 360-degree camera view, driver monitoring and front cross traffic alert to warn of cars approaching from either side. It is a $1500 option on other variants.
The GT and Astina can be optioned with red (Burgundy) or white (Pure White) leather. The deep metallic red (Soul Red) and two of the grey hues also cost another $495.
What’s the interior like? Many popular small cars have leapt up in price but the Mazda3 backs it up with an interior that’s made a huge leap forward in attention to detail and ambience. From the moment you slip inside there’s an upmarket atmosphere in the new 3, its layered dashboard, leather touches and stitching standing out from the slabs of plastic common at this price. From the restrained use of metal highlights to quality plastics and dark hues there’s an elegance few mainstream cars get close to. A three-spoke steering wheel and partial digital instrument cluster continues the theme.
Storage is also well catered for. Large binnacles in the centre console and broad door pockets ensure ample space for trinkets, with a small coin pocket a neat touch near the driver’s right knee.
What are the controls and infotainment like? There’s a familiarity with fresh thinking in the 3’s controls.
There’s no longer a touchscreen, all controls done with the circular controller that sits aft of the gear selector. Mazda continues with the rotary controller surrounded by four main menu buttons, each making it quick to divert to navigation, audio or the home screen.
What’s different, though, is that the partial touchscreen of the previous car (it was only touch sensitive when the car was stationary) is no longer, the screen moved out of reach of the driver. For the most part it works fine, although the newly added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto isn’t always as slick, requiring some extra twists and turns to land on the right icon. Still, a proper volume knob and logical buttons on the steering wheel ensure easy operation of most infotainment functions.
The cluster of ventilation buttons are also well presented and logical. Everything looks and feels quality, too, living up to that upmarket flavour. Even the indicator has a more upmarket click to it, with hints of Range Rover subtlety.
What are the front seats like? The front seats are impressively comfortable, providing support in all the right places while delivering on comfort. In developing the car Mazda went to extraordinary efforts to understand movement of the human body and how the spine, in particular, could be better supported – all of which seems to have worked.
What are the back seats like? Less impressive is occupant space in the rear. Sure, there are air vents to keep kids well ventilated, but adults will rue the limited head room, the sloping roof line taking its toll on space. Legroom, too, is tight once there’s a long-legged pilot up front.
The rising rear window line also means smaller folk might struggle for a view (the longer sedan looks less compromised on that front). At least those in the rear get the same level of materials and trim, a single map pocket a rare whiff of cost cutting.
What’s the boot space like? Boot space is compact but useful, the 60/40 slit-fold adding to its functionality with up to 444 litres of storage space on offer.
Does it have a spare? There’s only a space saver spare tyre, something that limits the recommended top speed to 80km/h. Tyre pressure sensors help warn of any punctures early on.
What’s the performance like? This is where the Mazda3’s excellent run loses some lustre. While there’s an all-new, much-hyped SkyActiv X engine arriving late in 2019 – it gets a new partial compression ignition petrol engine that brings big efficiency gains – for now the two engine options are carryover.
There are minor tweaks claimed to improve efficiency, for the most part they’re almost identical to the engines they replace, albeit with different nomenclature. They’re denoted by G20 for the 2.0 and G25 for the 2.5. The 2.0-litre makes the same 114kW and 200Nm as the car it replaces. Hooked up to the optional six-speed automatic it makes for respectable around town performance but has to work harder to maintain pace on an undulating country road.
The biggest difference is how refined it is, the extra efforts gone on quietening the cabin paying dividends in that it’s not as noticeably when you’re pushing the engine harder. Fortunately, the engine has crisp throttle response and the transmission makes assertive gear changes, although they’re occasionally too frequent if you’re calling for more.
The extra torque of the 2.5-litre ensures it more closely meets expectations. It’s had a very mild 1kW/2Nm increase in outputs to 139kW and 252Nm. Where the 2.0-litre feels undernourished, the 2.5 is more convincing, using its extra muscle across the rev range to good effect.
It still gets the good points of the 2.0 – most noticeably good throttle response – but in an engine that’s overall more relaxed in building pace. That extra go also means the transmission isn’t as likely to kick down searching for power.
Respectably low fuel consumption also adds to their appeal; the 2.0 hatch uses a claimed 6.2 litres per 100km and the 2.5 6.6L/100km, the latter helped with its cylinder deactivation system that temporarily stops firing two cylinders to save fuel during gentle driving.
Both engines also benefit from stop-start technology that can turn the engine off when stationary. Figures flashed up on the trip computer during our predominantly country drive suggested somewhere around 7.0L/100km is easily achievable.
What’s it like on the road? Where the engines tell a familiar story, the driving experience is anything but, taking a giant leap forward. The big focus has been to refinement and keeping the cabin quiet.
Mazda touched everything from the carpet and underfloor insulation to glass, tyre design and rubber seals to lower unwanted noises in the cabin. There are even specially placed rubber components to absorb sound. All of which works, some unwanted road noise the only obvious challenge on some more aggressive surfaces.
Basically, it feels like it’s grown up and been given a big dose of maturity, something that’s important given the price rises. Dynamics have also taken a step forward, with the focus still on easy agility. Steering is responsive, but not darty, the emphasis instead on predictability mid-corner.
It’s backed up by excellent body control, the car subduing bumps beautifully; you’ll still feel them, but everything is dealt with in one clean motion. Both of the variants we drove – a G20 Essence and G25 Astina – were riding on 18-inch tyres, which displayed high grip levels. All of which adds up to a car that’s easy to manoeuvre around town but engaging through curves.
Can you tow with it? Towing is best left to box trailers and small boats, because the 3’s tow limit tops out at 1200kg and the towball weight is limited to 80kg.
What about ownership? The latest 3 benefits from Mazda’s five-year warranty coverage, which is commensurate with key rivals (the Kia Cerato is one exception, offered with a seven-year warranty). There’s also a capped price servicing schedule that gives you up to five years’ of services for $1778 with the 2.0-litre cars and $1802 for those with the 2.5. However, Mazda service intervals stipulate check-ups every 12 months or 10,000km. That kilometre limit is lower than many rivals, and if you exceed 10,000km annually you’ll be paying for more services.
What safety features does it have? Safety is one area Mazda has improved markedly with the new Mazda3. 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.
It hasn’t yet been tested by ANCAP, although Mazda targeted five stars. Active safety is where the real improvements have been made, with Mazda adding to its i-Activsense suite.
Blind spot warning is now on all models, as is autonomous emergency braking (AEB), the latter using a radar and camera to spot obstacles ahead and apply full braking pressure if required. There’s also auto braking in reverse, which pairs with rear cross traffic alert to alert and react to cars approaching from the side. Lane departure warning and lane keeping assist have the familiar issues of being over-active in warning when you’re near lane markings and applying steering too early or late.
Cost optional on other models and standard on the Astina are some additional features, including front cross traffic alert; it could prove particularly handy when poking out of alleys or side streets where vision is limited, the radars able to warn of approaching vehicles. There’s also a terrific 360-degree camera with an impressively clear picture, as well as a camera focused on the driver to monitor drowsiness on inattention.