2015 Mazda3 Maxx review
Mark Higgins’ first drive 2015 Mazda3 Maxx review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
AFTER THE CX-5 and Mazda6, this new-generation Mazda3 is the third model to receive the complete KODO design treatment.
The Mazda3 Maxx looks surprisingly big and although its length is identical to the outgoing model (4580mm), it’s 40mm wider (now 1795mm) 15mm lower (now 1445mm) and most telling, the wheelbase of 2700mm, is up by 60mm on its predecessor. The Mazda3 gets a blunt nose with a large smiley-face grille (although not so smiley as it was), big swept back headlights and a long bonnet. The multi-contoured side profile features large wheel arches with little overhang at the front or rear. The rear is dominated by the oversized cats-eye tail-lights.
Inside, a combination of hard and soft textured black plastics are used throughout the interior, with silver trim highlights. The steering wheel, with cruise, phone and audio functions plus paddle shifts is comfortable and adjustable for rake and reach.
The relatively flat dash features a centrally mounted upright seven-inch touch screen that looks like an afterthought and the instrument binnacle has a mix of analogue and digital gauges. Strangely, the two middle dash fascia air vents can’t be shut off but the outer ones can. The centre console features the audio system, HVAC controls, two cupholders and a large storage box (with two USB ports and 12-volt charger) under the armrest. Next to the gear lever is the toggle mouse that operates the in-car infortainment system that is displayed on the dash touchscreen.
The soft, striped cloth trimmed seats have a flat profile, but provide reasonable upper body support and comfort, although under thigh support could be better. And there’s no lumber support for the driver.
Inside, it’s not as spacious as you’d expect given its outer dimensions, but head and legroom in both rows was acceptable and in line with its visually smaller competitors. A deep 408-litre boot with a narrow opening and space robbing J-hinges grows substantially by folding down the ISOFIX-equipped 60:40 split-fold rear seat.
NVH has been an achilles heel of Mazda for some time and although the engineers have improved it on the new Mazda3, road noise still permeates the cabin across many surfaces and it’s not as quiet as the recently reviewed Hyundai i30. Road noise aside, it’s on the road where the Mazda 3 shines.
The controls are quite light to operate yet return good levels of feedback. At low speeds, the electro-hydraulic steering is effortless and as speeds rise, a bit more muscle is required with the reward being a nice level of communication with the driver. The same goes for the brakes, light in operation with the pedal having a progressive, reassuring feel and even after several hard downhill stops, there was no fade to report. The Maxx’s ride is reasonably taut even though it is set more to comfort than sporty, nevertheless, it showed its pedigree time and time again, through dips, potted roads, bumps, over rail lines and even speed humps that all failed to upset it.
Handling was equally competent. On our regular test loop the Maxx’s McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension never felt unsettled with uphill, flat and downhill opening and closing radius bends all dealt with efficiently, giving the driver a good level of confidence and assurance. Although the 205/60/16 Toyo Nano Energy tyres did make a bit of a din, they do have good grip levels.
The Maxx’s Skyactiv 2.0-litre, 16-valve, DOHC engine produces 114kW (at 6000rpm) and 200Nm (at 4000rpm) and running on standard unleaded, has an official combined fuel consumption of 5.7L/100km, an improvement of 30% over its predecessor. We weren’t a long way from that returning 6.4L/100km. For added fuel saving the Maxx is fitted with the i-stop (start/stop) engine cut off system. It shuts off the engine the moment you stop and a lift of the brake pedal or slight movement of the steering wheel instantly kicks the engine back into life. We were running the air-con constantly which resulted in the engine turning itself on and off every few seconds while sitting in traffic. If it’s not to your liking, the system can be overridden.
Engine power delivery is smooth and progressive throughout the rev range and especially strong in the mid–range, helping with overtaking and acceleration. This Maxx featured the optional six-speed auto transmission that adds a premium off $2000 over the standard six-speed manual box. The auto has a seamless action and there’s no hesitation when shifting from drive to reverse. For a sporty touch paddle shifts have been tacked onto the steering wheel. They work well with the gearshifts responding immediately to the hand grab.
It’s not just on the road the Mazda impresses; generous equipment levels are up with the best at this price point. The Maxx builds on the entry-level Neo and adds fog lamps, power windows and mirrors, leather trimmed steering wheel, gear lever boot and handbrake cover, voice command for audio and phone, sat nav, reversing camera, a six-speaker CD, AM/FM audio system with MP3 compatibility and traffic monitoring, as well as Bluetooth for phone connection and audio streaming.
Fitted to our test car was the cost-optional $1500 Safety Pack that includes Smart City Brakes, which automatically brake the car if it detects vehicles or obstructions, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. Standard safety features are six airbags, stability and traction control, anti lock brakes with brake force distribution and emergency brake assist. The Mazda3 has a five-star ANCAP rating.
The Mazda3 Maxx Auto comes with a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Roadside assist is an extra cost. Servicing the Maxx 3 Auto to 60,000kms (excluding additional items) will cost approximately $1845.