Car Review: New Mazda 3

Inspirational design and high-tech features for the seventh-generation Mazda 3…

With its emotion-stirring design, high-tech features, and luxurious interior finishes, the new Mazda 3 represents a lot of what 2019’s customers are excited by in the premium market. We recently joined Mazda South Africa in Gauteng for the launch of its popular model, and despite the absence of new models from the brand as of late, the wait has been worth it…

The new Mazda 3 is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, the latter of which will likely prove more popular among young South African buyers. Regardless of which trim you go for, all of the Mazda 3’s look identical which is good news for buyers as it means you don’t need to pay extra to make it look this good. We spent the majority of our time at the local launch with the hatch and if you’re familiar with Mazda’s reputation for good design work, there’s nothing short of innovation and dynamic appeal from the new Mazda 3’s exterior and interior. A lack of traditional character lines on its body work is intentional, according to Mazda’s local head of marketing and communications, Claudia Walters, so as to create a feeling of continuity, elegance and “constantly shifting reflections”.

Beauty does indeed come from within in the case of the new Mazda 3, but as elegantly-crafted as its interior may be, it is also neatly laid out and pays tribute to Mazda’s driver-focused intentions. Buttons, levers and dials are kept to a minimum, while comfort and tech-savvy elements are key so that the driver spends more time focusing on the road.

In the case of the hatch, an exclusive red leather seat trim is available as an option, but if you want to keep things sleek and simple, Mazda makes its black interior colour available as standard.

To showcase Mazda’s leap into a new era of tech, the Mazda 3 is the first to introduce an all-new 8.8-inch MAZDA CONNECTTM infotainment screen supporting MZD Connect, which comes standard on all models and offers connectivity features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If you’re one of the very few people who still rely on a vehicle’s Navigation System, you’re in luck, although in keeping with its safety credentials Mazda wants you to be parked (with the hand brake up) in order for you (or the passenger) to operate it.

Personal highlights in the Mazda 3’s cabin include its focus on driver and front passenger comfort. There’s loads of head and legroom, as well as seating ergonomics that make long distances or otherwise mundane traffic commutes pleasant and even enjoyable. Aesthetic touches like a frameless review mirror, loads of soft padding all around and the use of a rotary dial in the centre console – as opposed to a distracting touchscreen – may seem subtle, but perhaps indicate that Mazda knows what customers in this segment are after.

New Mazda 3 drivers have a choice between the latest Skyactiv-G 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre engines, both variants being naturally aspirated. We drove both derivatives at the local launch and although we found the 1.5-litre variant to be somewhat underwhelming for all the excitement, a change in driving style helps to keep things lively and engaging. The 2.0-litre engine has more to offer with 121kW of power and 213 Nm of torque. However, if you’re after the 2.0-litre in the hatchback version, you’re going to need to opt for the range-topping Astina Auto model.

Engine power aside, the new Mazda 3 is smooth and extremely comfortable on the road. Around twists and turns the new Mazda 3 offers quite a bit of playfulness too. The cabin seals out any annoying outside noise so that your favourite tracks are uninterrupted while there is little to no road and wind noise to hinder any deep and meaningful conversations you might want to have with your passengers. Also, the Mazda 3 boasts excellent standards of safety that include a near-perfect 5-Star NCAP Safety Rating, Passive Safety Features that help reduce driver and passenger injury – from its revised framework to new seat and seatbelt design – as well a host of safety tech from Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE (available on Astina trim models).

As one of the best looking cars from the Mazda brand to date, the new Mazda 3 has taken a huge leap in the premium market. It really is just glorious to look at and I suspect it will stay that way for a long time before the next update is due. Adding new high-tech features to its excellent safety credentials is going to appeal to even more trendy families, but this does come at a price.

The most affordable new Mazda 3 starts at R359 900 for the 1.5-litre Active Manual Hatch, and the range-topping 2.0L Astina Auto – Hatch is priced at R474,000.

For more pricing and info click here.