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What is it?

It’s been 16 years since the Mazda3 first zoom-zoomed its way on to the market.

The success of the car can be measured in sales: more than 6 million at last count.

There have been several generations and many strangely named advances, such as SkyActiv, Kodo and Jinba-ittai, that baffled brains, but attracted buyers.

The latest changes include some more names — and a lovely new shape.

The hatch has what the maker calls a ‘sporty and seductive’ backside, which we found decidedly sporty and seductive.

Up front is a smoother snoot and the latest model is a fraction lower and shorter than before, although it has a slightly (25mm) longer wheelbase — the overall effect is a five-door hatch with a coupe-like look. 

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What’s it cost?

Gone is the base Neo, replaced by an up-spec’d one called ‘Pure’ – with prices starting from $24,990. 

Then comes Evolve, Touring, GT and Astina, the latter, as reviewed, topping out at $37,990.

Engine choices are a 114kW/200Nm G20 or the G25 that displaces 2.5 litres and puts out 139kW/252Nm, and 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

The 2.5 also boasts cylinder deactivation to improve fuel economy. 

Common to all are multiple airbags, satellite navigation, hill start assist, tyre pressure monitoring and a comprehensive safety package that includes active cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking.

Our Astina had the full works: 18-inch black alloys, climate control, powered and heated front seats, keyless entry, 12-speaker Bose audio, sunroof, 360-degree bird’s eye-view camera, and a rather annoying front cross-traffic alert that ding-dongs to let you know something has crossed your path while you wait at the traffic lights.

It’s part of a ‘vision technology’ package, standard on the Astina but a $1500 option for other models, that includes the 360 degree view monitor, adaptive LED headlights, cruising and traffic support, driver monitoring and Smart Brake Support.

Another Astina exclusive is the burgundy leather interior finish. Tres lovely.

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What’s it go like?

The cabin is well-styled and includes a heads-up display, a big centre infotainment screen whose many functions are controlled by a rotary dial, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections.

In short, it encompasses Mazda’s ‘Human Machine Interface’ to add to the brand’s penchant for strange terminology. 

Accommodation is excellent up front, but a tad less wonderful in the back — and the 295 litres of cargo space is a bit smaller than last year’s model. The sedan has a comparatively massive 444 litres.

The suspension has undergone a bit of change too, retaining a Macstrut set-up in front, but the tail is now suspended by a torsion beam.

It seems a retro step from last year’s multi-link suspension, but it works just as well.

The drive is pleasant, with the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated motor and sharp auto shifter providing plenty of smooth power and the stiffer platform and firmer suspension making for impressive stability.

In acceleration runs, it stopped our clock at 8.2 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint. 

At cruising speeds we couldn’t feel the cylinder deactivation, but we were pretty chuffed with the fuel economy.

The maker claims 6.5L/100km. We got close at 7.1. And it runs on 91 octane plonk.

The steering’ has also had a going-over by the jinba-ittai or whatever technos, resulting in a near-perfect system. 

However, styling aside, there’s been a big leap forward in interior ambience.

The Astina cossets its occupants in a magnificent cabin and road and engine racket has been reduced to next to nothing. It’s blissfully quiet inside. 

The Mazda 3 has a five-year, unlimited distance warranty and roadside support.

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What we like?

  • Looks
  • Comfort
  • Quiet, confident ride
  • Fuel economy
  • Classy interior
  • Lots of features

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What we don’t like?

  • Smallish cargo space
  • Limited rear passenger space
  • Front cross traffic alert

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The bottom line?

A smart premium category hatch with a fine pedigree. Easy to live with.

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Mazda3 Astina hatch, priced from $37,990
  • 8.5/10
    Looks - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Safety - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Thirst - 8.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Comfort - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Value - 8/10
8.3/10

Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.