August 27, 2014
What’s Hot: Oodles of torque, great chassis, loaded with equipment.
What’s Not: Still a little noisy on-road, no powered passenger seat, quite pricey.
X-FACTOR: Perhaps the most well-rounded Mazda3 ever, the XD Astina is an exceptional drive.
Vehicle Style: 5-door small sports hatch
Price: $40,230 (MT), $42,230 (AT)
Engine/trans: 129kW/420Nm 2.2 turbo diesel 4cyl | 6sp manual or 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.0 l/100km (MT), 5.2 l/100km (AT) | tested: 8.3 l/100km
Costing $40,230 for the manual and $42,230 for the automatic, the XD Astina is priced like a hot hatch, but isn't being pitched by Mazda as a performance car.
If you were expecting something like a diesel MPS, this isn't it.
So what is it, then? A quasi-luxury hatch? A diesel "warm" hatch?
Perhaps more importantly, is it priced right at a range-topping $40k? We travelled to Tasmania to put the Mazda3 XD Astina to find the answer.
- Standard equipment: Dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps, LED foglamps and daytime running lamps, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, proximity key, powered drivers seat.
- Infotainment: sat-nav, MZD-connect infotainment interface, USB audio inputs, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming
- 308 litre boot, expandable via 60:40 split rear seat.
As the flagship of the Mazda3 family, the XD Astina is bulging with equipment.
The full list of standard equipment is above, but highlights include the full suite of Mazda's i-Activesense safety gear that incorporates active cruise control, blind spot monitoring and auto-braking.
There are also 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and ignition, sat-nav and online apps when synced with a smartphone, as well as the same head-up display featured in the SP25 Astina.
There are only a few differentiating features between the XD Astina and its petrol-drinking counterpart, but the most noticeable one is the half-suede, half-leather upholstery.
It looks and feels great, and the sports seats do a decent job of holding you in.
There’s also Skyactiv-D badging on the floormats and a diesel-specific instruments cluster, but besides that the XD Astina’s interior is the same as an SP25 Astina’s
ON THE ROAD
- 129kW @ 4000rpm, 420Nm @ 2000rpm, 2.2 litre turbo diesel inline four
- Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with shift paddles
- Front wheel drive
- Macpherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension
- Brakes: 295mm front, 265mm rear rotors. Sliding calipers
- Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres, 215/445R18
Just like the petrol-powered Mazda3 range, the steering in the XD Astina is exceptional.
Tactile, responsive and direct, the Mazda3 is a delight at the wheel and wonderfully chuckable.
You can have quite a lot of fun without worrying it's going to 'bite' you unexpectedly; the new diesel 3 is certainly one of the more neutral-handling FWD hatches around.
But while it's sharp, it is not really on the same level of dynamic capability as similarly-priced hot hatches like the Golf GTI.
The XD Astina's suspension tune is - bar different rear dampers - otherwise identical to that of an SP25, and is geared more towards comfort than corner-carving performance.
What's truly remarkable about the XD Astina, though, is its engine. We know it from the CX-5 and Mazda6, but when transplanted into the Mazda3's compact, relatively lightweight chassis, it's transformed into a cracking performance engine.
Not only is it capable of revving to 5500rpm (stratospherically high for a diesel), it's perfectly happy being pushed that far.
It also sounds remarkably petrol-like at high rpm. The exhaust note is augmented by sound piped through the car's stereo, but it doesn't sound artificial. The opposite, in fact.
But as easy-going as this diesel is at high rpm - and as wonderfully precise as the manual gearshift is - you really don't need to work the engine hard to extract good performance.
Peak power might arrive at 4500rpm, but peak torque is on tap from just 2000rpm.
And it's this twist (all 420Nm of it) that makes the XD Astina so tractable and bestows it with brilliant in-gear acceleration.
No other small hatchback has this much torque, and certainly not any of the current crop of hot hatches. Golf GTI? It makes do with 350Nm. The Megane RS has 360Nm, but even that doesn't hold a candle to the Mazda.
However, torque is only half of the performance equation, and though it generates a substantial amount of shove, the XD Astina's power output and taller gearing makes it slower to 100km/h than the petrol-powered SP25 Astina.
The official stats tell the full story. While the XD manual’s 0-100km/h time of 7.7 seconds is fairly brisk, the SP25 out-sprints it by 0.6 seconds.
But while the XD Astina won’t dominate the SP25 in a drag race, it’s easily a far more flexible machine out on the open road..
All of that torque equates to excellent rolling acceleration, and it’ll pull cleanly up steep hills from just 2000rpm.
The gap between second and third gear is pretty wide, but the XD’s ample torque helps you around it. The best strategy for speed is to just leave it in third and let 420Nm pull you out of corners.
It might not have a performance suspension, but the combination of boundless torque, crisp steering and neutral chassis means the XD is both quick and great fun to drive.
And that was a pleasant surprise. The last “sporty” diesel hatch we drove was the last-generation VW Golf GTD, and that was a sterile experience compared to the XD Astina.
The XD was certainly put through the wringer as well. The launch route linked together several Targa Tasmania stages, including the Sideling, Elephant Pass, Weldborough Pass and Pyengana, and the XD Astina excelled on each one.
The lowlight? Lots of road noise from the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres when travelling on coarse-chip roads, which are everywhere in Tasmania.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.4 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Active radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, autonomous city braking, reversing camera, ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control, traction control, 6 airbags (front, front side, full-length curtain.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
It’s tricky to compare the XD Astina with other small hatches at its price point, as it’s not really a luxury car, nor is it really a hot hatch. It is, it seems, a car without a category.
Though there’s no real direct competitor for it, here’s what you can find for similar money:
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Does the XD Astina exist in a category of its own making? Yes. Is it a great car? Also yes.
But is it worth the $40k asking price?
If you’re looking for a small hatch that packs a heap of equipment, is frugal on fuel, and a brilliant drive, the XD Astina will impress.
If you expect a car with more badge snobbery than a Mazda for your not-insignificant $40k spend, similarly-priced options from Audi, BMW and Mercedes may be more enticing.
Likewise if you’re after pure performance. There’s no shortage of hot hatches right now, especially at that price.
But what the XD Astina does that none of the above do, is balance equipment, performance, comfort and size.
Yes, $40,230 is a lot of money to pay for a Mazda hatchback, but you certainly get a decent car for your money.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Neo - 2.0 litre petrol 6MT - $20,490
- Neo - 2.0 litre petrol 6AT - $22,490
- Maxx - 2.0 litre petrol 6MT - $22,990
- Maxx - 2.0 litre petrol 6AT - $24,990
- Touring - 2.0 litre petrol 6MT - $25,490
- Touring - 2.0 litre petrol 6AT - $27,490
- SP25 - 2.5 litre petrol 6MT - $25,890
- SP25 - 2.5 litre petrol 6AT - $27,890
- SP25 GT - 2.5 litre petrol 6MT - $30,590
- SP25 GT - 2.5 litre petrol 6AT - $32,590
- SP25 Astina - 2.5 litre petrol 6MT - $36,190
- SP25 Astina - 2.5 litre petrol 6AT - $38,190
- XD Astina - 2.2 litre diesel 6MT - $40,230
- XD Astina - 2.2 litre diesel 6AT - $42,230