LIGHTLY REVISED, THE 2016 MAZDA3 RANGE HAS BEEN STRATEGICALLY UPDATED TO KEEP IT FRESH AND IMPROVE ITS ON-ROAD FEEL.
Externally, the changes aren’t so dramatic that it’s obviously new, but one could argue that the fine looking Mazda3 range didn’t need a huge restyle anyway.
The focal point of the update is Mazda’s 'G-Vectoring Control' chassis technology - it's subtle, but it works - and there is also a new safety package and a few interior tweaks to round out the update.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $22,890 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.8 l/100km | Tested: 7.4 l/100km
The Mazda3 range is possibly one of the most comprehensive small car offerings in Australia. A total of six models, each available in a sedan or hatch body style with either an automatic or manual transmission.
We’re taking a closer look at the Maxx model here. It’s one step up from the basic package, and throws in a swag of added safety kit and infotainment technology to offset the moderate price bump.
This car is a manual sedan, but (of course) there’s a five-door hatch and a six-speed automatic available if this one isn’t quite to your taste. We know the auto will be the more popular option, but we’re testing the manual here (partly because it's so refreshing to still find one!).
Though not the most expensive Mazda3 you can buy, the Maxx is far from basic and provides better value than it might seem at first glance.
- Standard Equipment: Cloth seat trim, height adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, auto dimming rear view mirrors, reverse camera
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen display with rotary controller, six-speaker audio, digital radio, internet radio app connectivity, satellite navigation,
- Cargo Volume: 408 litres expandable via 60:40 folding rear seat
Owners stepping up from an earlier, pre-update Mazda3 certainly won’t feel out of place, with most of the major design features left unchanged.
There’s a few new finishes in the cabin the cabin, the seat fabric has been freshened up, and the gloss back details on the centre console have been extended to include the switch plates on the doors.
The most obvious change is a new steering wheel design but areas like the instrument cluster, air-conditioning controls, and infotainment system stay the same - and, as before, there are still no face-level air-vents in the rear of the centre console.
Though it isn’t the most spacious of the small sedans, particularly against some of the larger vehicles in the class, the Mazda3 utilises its available space well.
It's big enough for four adults and comfortable front and rear for travellers of most shapes and sizes.
The Maxx also throws in a few extra luxuries over the base model Neo, including a 7.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, a reversing camera, six speaker audio (instead of four), leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto dimming mirrors, and a swag of extra safety equipment (see Safety, below).
The sedan body style allows a slightly larger boot than the equivalent hatch, measuring 408 litres, though that figure is less than some rivals. Split-folding rear seats free up more space if required, but a high load lip and narrow boot limit practicality slightly.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 114kW/200Nm 2.0 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Four wheel disc brakes, vented front rotors
- Steering: Electrically-assisted power steering
- Towing Capacity: 1200kg braked, 600kg unbraked
Under the bonnet the Mazda3 runs a naturally aspirated 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine from Mazda’s SkyActiv family of efficient engines.
Outputs are unchanged with 114kW of power at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4000rpm.
The car we tested was fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, though an optional six-speed automatic is available, and is likely to be the bigger seller given Australia’s preference for autos.
As a daily commuter the Mazda3 does a perfectly capable job of settling into the traffic flow, with enough zest underfoot to take off smartly, though it lacks the more authoritative urge of some turbocharged rivals.
Out of town, the Mazda3 is an equally competent cruiser, Mazda has made a few changes to reduce interior noise, and though it is quieter than before there’s still a fair amount of road noise thrown up from Australia’s coarse-chip bitumen.
Thanks to the six-speed manual, the Mazda3 is also a little bit of fun when conditions allow. The clutch is light enough for daily grinding traffic, and the gear shift is smooth and well-defined.
There’s an engine stop-start system, called i-stop, which will shut down the engine while the car is at a standstill, and it’s one of the quickest to re-ignite - allowing you to move off without any delay or jerkiness.
And the G-Vectoring Control system adds to the Mazda3's lively and agile feel in corners, increasing cornering accuracy, while also reducing driver load by helping the car track true when travelling in a straight line.
The system is complex (you can read more about how it works here) but at no point is it intrusive or artificial. It certainly helps bolster the Mazda3’s reputation as one of the most dynamic small cars on the market.
There’s also a chance some buyers might find the Mazda3 a little too agile. Though it's never darty or unpredictable, the crisp steering, and connected front end may not appeal to drivers looking for a more relaxed and isolated drive - but there’s plenty of small cars available to cater to that style of driving.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.40 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2014.
Safety Features: Six airbags, Smart City Brake Support (low-speed autonomous braking), ABS brakes with emergency brake assist, blind spot monitoring, rear park sensors, reversing camera, electronic traction and stability control, load-limiting front seatbelt pretensioners, rear cross traffic alert.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals are set at every 12 months or 10,000km Whichever occurs first, service pricing varies from $298 for every odd-numbered service, up to $325 for even-numbered intervals, with extra charges (and a separate interval) for items like brake fluid, spark plugs, cabin filter, air filter, fuel filter, and spark plugs. Consult your local dealer for full details.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Often overlooked, the Ford Focus sedan offers really decent dynamics, refinement, and value and is genuine competition for the Mazda3. Less 'the driver's car', but packing a lot of car for the money, the new Hyundai Elantra is spacious inside, with a modern design and Australian-tuned suspension.
Buyers seeking a more Euro look and feel will find the Volkswagen Jetta brings an upmarket appeal to the small sedan class and feels super on road. The Toyota Corolla, a firm favourite for years, is spacious and well-equipped, drives comfortably (like a larger car) and is perfect for buyers looking for a more relaxed ride.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Mazda3 was already good buying and an appealing small car, so Mazda's revisions have not been heavy-handed.
The biggest lure for buyers is the upgraded safety equipment. It offers high-end safety technology - like low-speed autonomous braking, emergency brake assist, blind spot monitoring, rear park sensors,and reversing camera - among other technologies, in a car priced for younger buyers. And that gets a tick from us.
Dynamically capable, and really enjoyable to drive, this little sedan is a 'more than decent' all-rounder: comfy enough to handle the day-to-day grind, but a pleasure to take out on the open road.
It lands a four-star rating here, but is just a bare fraction off earning an extra half point - the more powerful SP25 range (which we’ll review soon) could be the car to clear that barrier.
So, while it may not fall right at the budget end of the small car spectrum, a healthy level of standard equipment makes the Mazda 3 Maxx a solid-value buy.