2014 MAZDA3 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $25,890 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 138kW/250Nm 2.5 4cyl petrol | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.5 l/100km | tested: 7.8 l/100km
The great appeal of the previous-generation Mazda3 SP25 was the way it balanced civility and performance in a nicely styled and fun-to-own small car.
It found a lot of acceptance with buyers looking for a comfy daily driver, but who didn’t want something boring.
It's those attributes - dynamism, style, breezy charm - that sat behind the Mazda3’s sales dominance in its segment.
The new SP25 that has replaced the previous-gen model is a little different.
It’s still a capable machine in all respects, but is perhaps less about driving excitement and more about practicality and comfort.
But don't let that put you off, there's still plenty to like in this much-improved new model.
- Standard equipment: Keyless ignition, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, foglamps, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer
- Infotainment: 7-inch touchscreen with rotary controller, sat nav, six-speakers, single-CD, USB/aux audio input, Bluetooth telephony and audio integration, MZD Connect internet connectivity
- Cloth upholstery, tilt and telescopic steering column, steering wheel controls for cruise control, audio.
- Boot capacity: 308 litres seats up.
The cloth upholstery may look a little uninspiring (you’ll need to stump up $30,590 to get into the leather-clad seats of the Mazda3 SP25 GT) and the centre stack’s plastic texture doesn’t quite match up with the rest of the dash, but the Mazda is a reassuringly well-built car.
There’s also leather on the steering wheel and gearlever, and though the carbon fibre-ish trim pieces don’t look anything like the real thing, they do have a nice texture.
The SP25’s seven-inch touchscreen can also be controlled via the iDrive-like rotary controller on the centre console.
It’s a great system, and the crisp graphics and clear, easy-to-navigate menus make it an intuitive system to use.
The SP25 also features MZD Connect, which allows the infotainment system to use your smartphone’s data connection to stream audio off the internet, either via Pandora, Stitcher or Aha Radio.
That’s in addition to the usual radio/CD/USB/Bluetooth functions. As far as infotainment is concerned, the SP25 comes well equipped.
Comfort is good. The front seats are nicely shaped for long hours at the wheel and shoulder room is good.
The back seats are also fine and there is ample space there, though not class-leading.
One comfort complaint we do have, however, concerns the lack of face-level air vents for rear passengers.
When competitors like Kia and Hyundai are starting to put such a feature in their small cars, it’s odd that Mazda still doesn’t.
ON THE ROAD
- 138kW/250Nm naturally aspirated 2.5 petrol inline four
- 6-speed manual, front wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension
- 18-inch alloy wheels, 215/45R18 tyres
- Disc brakes
The car we tested came in the most enjoyable configuration for keener drivers: the 2.5 litre engine, manual transmission and larger 18-inch alloys.
On the right kind of road, there is a European sophistication to the road feel that is very satisfying.
The old car’s neutral chassis balance was fun when driving at ten-tenths, but the new car’s more benign chassis is better balanced while still enjoyable at the wheel.
In a suburban setting, it’s more than agreeable. There’s a slightly hard edge to the way the suspension responds to broken tarmac and expansion gaps, but otherwise ride comfort is good.
The direct and well-weighted steering is also a strong point.
Mazda has done a great job of tuning the new Mazda3’s electrically-assisted system.
There is good on-centre feel and a smooth, progressive increase in weighting as you wind on lock at higher speeds.
The 2.5 litre engine produces 138kW and 250Nm, both very healthy numbers.
It’s noticeably faster than the 2.0 litre in the new Mazda3 Neo and Maxx, but somehow the new SP25 doesn’t feel as brisk as the previous-generation model.
Still, it’s more than rapid enough in everyday driving and rowing through the slick six-speed manual is a delight.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.4 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, eight airbags (dual front, front and rear side, full-length curtain).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While the new model is not quite as sharp-edged as the older car, the new Mazda3 SP25 is arguably the better car to live with.
The cabin is a massive step up in functionality, comfort and quality, and though it doesn’t quite have that “detuned hot-hatch” feel, the new SP25 is still a dynamic drive and very handy around a corner.
To our thinking, this car has right balance of driving excitement and liveability.
Certainly, the new Mazda3 deserves its market success.
And this new SP25 adds more than a dollop of on-road dynamism and robust engineering at a very reasonable price.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Mazda3 Neo - 2.0 litre petrol - 6M - $20,490
- Mazda3 Neo - 2.0 litre petrol - 6A - $22,490
- Mazda3 Maxx - 2.0 litre petrol - 6M - $22,990
- Mazda3 Maxx - 2.0 litre petrol - 6A - $24,990
- Mazda3 Touring - 2.0 litre petrol - 6M - $25,490
- Mazda3 Touring - 2.0 litre petrol - 6A - $27,490
- Mazda3 SP25 - 2.5 litre petrol - 6M - $25,890
- Mazda3 SP25 - 2.5 litre petrol - 6A - $27,890
- Mazda3 SP25 GT - 2.5 litre petrol - 6M - $30,590
- Mazda3 SP25 GT - 2.5 litre petrol - 6A - $32,590
- Mazda3 SP25 Astina - 2.5 litre petrol - 6M - $36,190
- Mazda3 SP25 Astina - 2.5 litre petrol - 6A - $38,190