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Juliet McGuire

First drive in the new Mazda3

The 7th generation Mazda3 has just arrived and damn, I am excited. I popped up to a very brown Gauteng to test drive the new hatch and sedan versions and now I bring you my thoughts…

Before I kick off about the Mazda3, you need to know that I am a huge Mazda fan. I love all of this brands products and have for some time now. We haven’t seen many new models arrive of late, but finally, the 7th generation models will start to hit our shores. Starting, of course, with the new Mazda3.

HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID

How good looking is this car? The Mazda3 is hands down one of the best looking cars in its segment. If not THE best looking. From every single angle this car looks gooooood. Like, really gooooood. I can hear Terence saying, “Jeez, just get a room why don’t you?!” Well, Terence, maybe we will.

Something quite tricky to achieve is getting the sedan to look as good as the hatch. But Mazda have managed to do this. The hatch is the more sporty and youthful looking option, whereas the sedan is the more mature looking one with a graceful and elegant air about it.

Mazda3 hatch and sedan

OBJECT OF DESIRE

Mazda South Africa’s head of marketing and communications, Claudia Walters, says that the Mazda3 is the best Mazda to date. The vision for this car was to make people fall in love with it and so the theme for development was an object of universal desire. I can confidently say, Mazda nailed the brief.

Mazda3

ON THE INSIDE

Even inside is desirable. It is clean and uncluttered. The ‘less is more’ philosophy is evident. The reason is that focus should be on driving and not on distractions. My only bugbear with the interior is with the navigation system. To be fair, it is a completely unnecessary feature in a car these days, especially if you have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay (which this does). Nevertheless, Mazda has integrated it in to the new 8.8-inch infotainment display, which is faster to boot up now by the way.

I am not sure why manufacturers put a navigation system in to a car and then only allow it to be operated when the car is standing still. I get the safety aspect here, but in South Africa, if you are lost and need to find your way somewhere, chances are you are not going to pulling over anywhere. And if you have a passenger in your car, they should be able to operate it. The Mazda3 requires you to be stationary with the handbrake activated in order to search for an address. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

WHAT ARE THE INTERIOR CHANGES?

The centre console has been redesigned with the shift knob, new commander control and armrest moved forward, while the cupholders are repositioned to the front. The new Mazda3 offers two interior colour options. First is the recognised black interior colour and the other, exclusive to the Mazda3 hatch, is the new optional burgundy red leather seat trim. It is not my vibe, but I can see others really loving it.

Mazda3 interior

MODEL RANGE

The model line up has been simplified yet you still have the choice of four trim levels, namely the entry-level Active, the mid-level Dynamic, Individual, and topping the range is the Astina. 

You have a choice of two engines, both naturally aspirated. The 1.5-litre, which replaces the 1.6-litre unit in the predecessor, produces 88 kW and 153 Nm. Your second option is that of a 2.0-litre producing 121 kW and 213 Nm. Important to note is that the 1.5-litre engine in the Active model is only available with a 6-speed manual gearbox. But you can opt for this engine and the 6-speed auto transmission in the Dynamic or Individual derivatives.

WHICH ENGINE TO CHOOSE?

This is the only area where the Mazda3 falls short. Both engines lack in power and especially when up in Gauteng, you notice the sluggish behaviour of these units. It’s a real shame because a turbo would be the simple answer here. When considering this car competes with the golden child, Volkswagen Golf, and the Audi A3, it really needs to shine in every area. And unfortunately, performance is not a shiny area in the Mazda3.

With that said, however, the ride is glorious. Not to mention the steering, lack of road noise, refinement and so many other points that make this an incredible product. If performance is not an issue for you, and you are happiest in relaxed driving mode, this new Mazda3, easily competes with the segment leaders.

Mazda3 hatch

SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?

Absolutely you should! As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I am a big Mazda fan, and the Mazda3 continues to impress me. What it might lack in performance it makes up in refinement and quality, you will have to weigh these things up for yourself. Do you want something with a bit more oomph? Or do you want something that is easy and comfortable to drive?

The choice is yours. But you should always do what I say 😉

PRICING

Mazda3 1.5L Active Manual Hatch – R359,900 | Sedan – R357,000

Mazda3 1.5L Dynamic Manual – Hatch R374,200 | Sedan R371,300

Mazda3 1.5L Ind Manual – Hatch R421,900 | Sedan R418,800 (Incl VAT)

Auto 1.5L – Hatch R434,700 | Sedan R431,600 

Mazda3 2.0L Astina Auto – Hatch R474,000 | Sedan 470,800

1 Comment
  • Henro van Rooyen
    says:

    Mmmmmmmm….. I am going to wait for 2020 (READ: Golf 8) and then decide….. I really think that it will boil down to price. If the 3 will be less than 15-20% on the Golf (including the same spec’s) I will leave my loyal brand VW (for the past 3 cars and 8 years) for something new (albeit without a turbo 🙂 )

    I tested the 1.5 manual (dynamic) last week, and wow, super super refined.

    Best,
    Henro

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