MAZDA3 REVIEW: 2014 SP25 GT AUTOMATIC
What’s hot: Great all-round driving dynamics; better car, better-value 3
What’s not: Head-up display can be obscured, 18-inch wheels a tad harsh
X-FACTOR: Premium Euro-quality throughout... oh yes, and it’s the 3, the car young-Australia loves.
Vehicle style: Small hatchback and sedan
Engine/trans: 138kW/250Nm 2.5 litre petrol four | 6spd automatic
Fuel economy listed: 6.0 l/100km | tested: 7.8 l/100km
Little wonder the new Mazda3 has the people at Mazda Australia over the moon.
Such is buyer interest, more than 74,000 people have registered on the company website for information about the new car.
For this review we chose the second from the top in the pecking order - the well-priced and well-featured $32,590 SP25 GT.
There’s a value-for-money story in this model’s pricing: it replaces the SP25 ‘Luxury’, but adds a raft of extra features with $2680 of additional value compared to its predecessor.
It is also a superior drive - superior, in fact, in nearly every way.
Quality: The fit and finish, trim and materials throughout the cabin in the new GT is top-notch.
Throughout, there is a classy blending of soft and hard plastics, and a really nice two-tone look with contrasting cream leather in our tester.
It feels satisfying to the touch, rock solid at the wheel, and with a premium feel that betters the slightly cheaper equivalent Golf Highline.
Comfort: The leather seats are well-shaped and bolstered ‘about right’ (not too deep, not too flat) and even the two outer rear-seat positions are shaped for comfort.
Legroom is good, and the hatchback shape means there is good headroom in the rear. A negative though is the lack of air-vents for passengers there.
Equipment: This is a very well-equipped car. It’s in the features - what you get as standard fit - where the European competitors are soundly beaten by the new 3.
Standard kit for the GT includes a height-and-reach-adjustable multi-function steering wheel, paddle shifters, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, automatic-dimming rear-vision mirror, trip computer, head-up speed display, seven-inch colour touch-screen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a premium Bose 232W amplifier, AM/FM/CD (single-disc), nine speakers and internet integration.
Storage: There is 308 litres of boot space and a 60/40 split for the rear-seat backs adds to cargo-carrying flexibility.
Other storage cubby holes include front-and-rear door pockets for bottles (they’re quite small), an under-armrest bin on the centre-console, sunglasses holder, cup holders, a good-sized glove box and an open tray at the base of the centre stack.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: It’s hard to fault this new Mazda in the driveability department. In fact, the longer you’re with the new 3, the more it impresses.
While not as slick as a dual-clutch DSG, the GT’s six-speed automatic provides brisk up-and-down changes, and the steering-wheel-mounted paddles add to the driving enjoyment.
The power and torque characteristics of the engine (138kW and 250Nm are healthy numbers in a smallish car) match perfectly to the six-speed automatic.
In everyday driving, we couldn’t find a ‘hole’ in it anywhere.
And while the 2.5 litre Skyactiv engine loves to rev, fuel economy for the new SP25 is 30 percent better than for the outgoing model. (It’s helped by a slippery drag co-efficient of just 0.26cd.)
Low- and mid-range torque has also been improved - up 15 percent - and the result is that the new SP25 GT feels more spirited than its predecessor.
On-road, while not in hot-hatch territory, it’s certainly quick, and overtaking or firing into a lane of freeway traffic is effortless and safe.
Refinement: While in our hands, we were very impressed with the new GT’s new-found refinement (the old 3 could be a tad coarse on-road).
A lot of work has gone into insulating the cabin from wind and road noise and, largely, it’s paid off.
Certainly, on some roads, the 18-inch wheels on the GT made the ride a tad harsh, but my passengers commented a number of times on how quiet the new 3 drives.
Ride and handling: The GT rides on a MacPherson-strut front-suspension set-up with a revised multi-link arrangement at the rear. The car’s dampers have also been tweaked for improved compliance.
The chassis is beautifully tuned: the overall ride and handling is outstanding for a small car.
The electric power steering has an excellent feel to it and the weighting right.
When pointed at a set of corners, the GT turns in supremely well. In our hands, even when pushing hard, we could find little sign of understeer (and, being a front-driver, a quick lift-off will tighten the line).
Braking: The GT runs 295mm ventilated discs at the front and 265mm solids at the rear. Both pedal feel and stopping power are excellent.
ANCAP: (Not yet tested.) Euro-NCAP 5-Stars (and an HHS Top Safety Pick+ in the United States).
Safety features: The GT’s safety features includes six airbags, ABS brakes, stability and traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, electronic brake assist, hill-launch assist and an emergency stop signal.
Buyers can also specify the optional i-Activesense package that includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and smart city-brake support.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: The new 3 heralds Mazda’s new Service Select program of 10,000km or no longer than 12 months, with the price of servicing capped for the life of the vehicle.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Golf 103TSI Highline ($31,990) - A tad cheaper than the GT’s $32,590, but while the Highline has a knee airbag and parking sensors (not found on the GT), the new Mazda3 is better featured, more powerful and a match on-road.
The Mazda also has killer resale value that the Golf can’t match. (see Golf reviews)
Toyota Corolla 1.8 Levin ZR hatch CVT ($30,490) - The top-spec Corolla is a couple of grand cheaper than the Mazda3 GT and is also very strong in resale.
That said, its 103kW/173Nm 1.8litre engine is well down on the Mazda’s figures of 138kW and 250Nm and is less-involving on-road.
With a small 280litres of boot space, the Corolla is also behind the GT’s 308litres. (see Corolla reviews)
Audi A3 1.4TFSI Attraction S tronic ($35,600) - This Audi has the super-click dual-clutch S tronic transmission and, while that engine is good for 90kW and 200Nm - also well down on the Mazda3 GT’s numbers - it can deliver a better claimed fuel-consumption figure of 5.0 l/100km.
The Audi is perhaps more stylish, and has a way bigger boot than the Mazda - 380 litres versus 308 litres, but the Mazda is more potent on road and the better overall package. (see A3 reviews)
Note: All prices are Manufacturers’ List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
In all respects, it’s an impressive package. We’ve got no doubt that it will continue the sales success of its predecessor in this market. Buyers will certainly enjoy this car.
Ride and handling, and the overall refinement the new Mazda3 offers, has traditionally been the preserve of the premium European badges.
No longer. The new Mazda3 is right up there.
We can only hope the company has a hot MPS version in the pipeline. That would be really sensational.
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