Mazda first launched the 323 back in 1977 to sales success and the various models over the ensuing 42 years that have followed have all been popular with buyers.
My sister included who had an early model 323 and drove it for nearly 500,000 kilometres without a problem.
Mazda3 is ready to release the next gen model and I attended a special preview in Melbourne. We only had a brief drive, because there are only two examples in the country and the Mazda executives were justifiably nervous about damage as these were the cars that are being used for all the marketing material.
The latest design is actually quite stylish, more so in the flesh than photos. The subtlety of the lines shows through up close. The hatchback has a sporty and sleek appearance, possibly aimed at the more adventurous buyer. It displayed a graceful, sleek exterior, forsaking the trend for exaggerated character lines. There is the familial nose and grill, with accentuated slope and adopts a new lamp design in the front as well as the rear, displaying simplified beauty.
The hatch is further distinguished by a unique body colour offering called Polymetal Grey Metallic, which fuses the hard appearance of metal with glossy smoothness. In the flesh, it looked better in the burgundy though.
Mazda has always presented quality interiors. They built their reputation in the 70/80.s with the fully imported tag, with a build quality far beyond its pricing. That continues today with this generation Mazda3. When I sit inside the cabin immediately it feels comfortable, with quality materials and focused on me as a driver.
I really liked the matt style burgundy interior colouring that contrasted with the glossy black lacquer-look finish of Next-Gen Mazda3’s shift panel. The seat material texture, featured stitching on the seats and dash and soft touch points all contribute to the quality ambience.
The redesigned front seats feel firm and supportive in the important areas under the knees, side bolster and lumbar as well as upper back. The steering wheel now has more range of adjustment so it’s easier to find the perfect driving position.
The steering wheel, three-dial instrument cluster and ventilation louvers create symmetry in the cockpit, angled inward to face the driver. Overall driver ergonomics are excellent. The centre console has been revised for easier operation and improved driver and passenger comfort;
Although I didn’t spend much time in the rear seats, they are also very comfortable and suited for two occupants, probably slightly smaller than this large bear. There are air conditioner vents, USB ports and food visibility for passenger comfort. Boot space is as you would expect, with a space saver spare located under the boot floor.
Mazda’s research shows that for 75% of trips there is only one driver on board and the rest there is 1, possibly two passengers on board, 1-2 times a week. Hence the refined focused on driver ergonomics.
Mazda has redesigned the Human Machine Interface (HMI) for a clearer display. Now standard across the range, the newly added TFT LCD meter, windscreen projected Active Driving Display and the larger 8.8-inch infotainment display are streamlined and have uniform visual language.
Mazda’s infotainment system, Mazda Connect, has also been reworked from the ground up. Enhanced system performance is more intuitive and has a display quality befitting the advanced Next-Gen Mazda3. It also now adds Apple® CarPlay™ and Android® Auto™ as standard.
The audio system was completely overhauled and optimised to provide clear sound for all occupants. An eight-speaker system is now standard while higher spec models get a premium 12-speaker Bose sound system.
One exceptionally important new feature is that Mazda is now transforming the owner’s manual into a function of the car providing a level of convenience that can only be found in a digital format.
Drive and Engine
Next-Gen Mazda3 offers three advanced Skyactiv petrol powertrain options, firstly available with Skyactiv-G 2.0 and Skyactiv-G 2.5 petrol engines, with Mazda’s innovative and revolutionary Skyactiv-X available before the end of 2019.
The 2.0L engine offers 114kW/200Nm. The 2.5L maximum power output of 139kW/ 252Nm. Skyactiv-X will feature the world’s first implementation of a new combustion method, called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI). Transmissions are a 6-speed manual (Skyactiv-MT) or 6-speed automatic (Skyactiv-Drive).
I took a brief ten minute drive around the streets of St Kilda in Melbourne. There were a couple of things that stood out. As soon as you closed the door, the level of quietness was apparent and was enhanced when driving. The steering was responsive and direct, the ride was smooth, compliant over the inner city road irregularities and speed bumps and more luxurious then expected for the price range.
Like everything else about the next gen Mazda3, safety has had a significant upgrade. There is new, advanced i-Activsense safety technology, an upgraded list of standard equipment and passive safety improvements.
Next-Gen Mazda3 introduces advanced i-Activsense technologies as standard on the top spec and are also available as part of a $1500 Vision Technology option that can be added to any grade
- 360° View Monitor
- Adaptive LED Headlights (ALH)
- Cruising & Traffic Support (CTS)
- Driver monitoring
- Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA)
- Smart Brake Support [Rear Crossing]
Mazda has upgraded safety across the range with standard features including:
- Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC) with Stop & Go,
- Smart Brake Support,
- Lane-keep Assist System (LAS),
- Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and
- Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW),
- Plus more.
Mazda3 Range and Pricing
|Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint||$495|
|Machine Grey Metallic paint|
|Polymetal Grey Metallic paint|
Next-Gen Mazda3 delivers new levels of quality in design, driving performance, dynamics, safety, and NVH. In a buyer’s world that is seemingly on an unstoppable path towards SUV’s, many buyers of smaller SUV’s would do well to drive the Mazda3, especially the hatch, before they decide.
Facts and Figures: 2019 Mazda3 Range
- Engine: 2.0L Skyactiv four-cylinder petrol producing 114kW/200Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed MT or AT
- Warranty: 5 years/ Unlimited km
- Safety: TBA
- Origin: Japan
- Price: from $24,990 MLP*
*Includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of options.