Mazda3 Maxx Sedan road test and review
IT IS difficult to argue with five million global sales, more than 460,000 of those last year alone, but even the popular Mazda3 cannot declare the job done.
This refresh, two and a half years after this second-generation model made its appearance in Australia, is vital to keep it current in a small-car market bursting with competitors.
We put the Maxx, which Mazda expects to be the volume seller, to the test.
Changes to the interior of the new Mazda3 are more telling with a jazzier multi-function steering wheel, more cohesive instrumentation and a new tablet-like screen to front the user-friendly MZD Connect infotainment system.
As usual the cabin feels more upmarket than most competitors with good use of tactile materials and modern functional design. Storage is now more considered too, the USB port practically placed in the front of the centre console and the door pockets are now big enough to hold a bottle.
The CD player is a thing of the past - a moment's silence here please - the nostalgic relic probably languishing in a pile somewhere with video machines and Walkmans.
I've always felt the seats in the '3 are not as comfortable as those in other Mazda offerings, a bit too hard and flat for me and these are no different.
There is a fair bit of leg and headroom, even for a couple of adults in the back while the boot in this sedan (408 litres) is practical and generous enough to deal with common storage asks.
On the road
The Mazda3 is always a sweet little offering to drive, an easy uncomplicated drive. Our test car sported the naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 2.0-litre 114kW/200Nm petrol engine, one of two offerings in the range, paired with an accommodating six-speed auto transmission.
It is smoother and quieter - thanks to extensive work with sound deadening materials - and while no demon off the mark, it is quick to catch up.
New here is the G-Vectoring system that adjusts the torque delivery to the front wheels in response to steering inputs giving the car greater straight-line and mid-corner stability and traction.
While not revolutionary, it is noticeable and combines nicely with the changes made to the chassis and dampers to enhance the overall ride. This updated '3 is tuned for efficiency over performance but handling dynamics are pleasing and the steering accurate and more natural.
What do you get?
Our Maxx grade sedan is one up from the base-model Neo but comes well equipped with all those conveniences to which we have quickly become accustomed.
There is push button-start and the MZD system with sat nav and reverse camera with rear parking sensors, leather steering with paddle shifters as well as excellent safety features gets blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and Autonomous Emergency Braking at low speeds and in reverse.
The Mazda3 is tuned for efficiency and real-word figures are close enough to the official 5.8 litres/100km to keep you happy. Mazda has an extensive dealership network and support services.
Warranty is three years with unlimited kilometres with service intervals at 12 months or 10,000km.
Aside from the Toyota Corolla SX ($22,990) and Hyundai Elantra Active ($21,950), the Mazda3 also has to contend with the likes of the Ford Focus Trend EB ($24,390), Honda Civic VTi ($22,390) and Kia Cerato S ($19,990 drive-away).
With its good value, stylish looks and excellent ride and handling, it is easy to see why the Mazda3 is a popular choice among private buyers. The new interior changes will add to its appeal as will the standard safety features and the extensive range means you are likely to find a model to suit your needs.
Easy manoeuvrability allows for nifty progress around the CBD but it still has enough zoom for an easy transition to highway driving. It is still a touch loud on the road though - despite the added sound deadening materials - which can be a bit inconvenient.
It feels like not much has been done to the exterior but Mazda will point out the revised grille, new headlights, LED fog lights, altered front air intakes and new wheels. Nothing to offend but little to impress either.
There is no doubt the Mazda3 is a good car, in sedan or hatch form.
This revised offering is well equipped, comfortable, safer and quieter with improved dynamics. It will no doubt find a warm welcome among small car buyers even with fresher revitalised rivals pushing it to state its case.
Model: Mazda3 Maxx Sedan
Details: Four-door front-wheel drive small sedan.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 114kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 200Nm @ 4000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic (as tested) or manual.
Consumption: 5.8 litres/100km (combined average for auto); 5.9L/100km (manual).
Bottom line plus on roads: $24,890 (manual from $22,890).
What matters most
What we liked: Dynamics and handling, value for money, safety.
What we'd like to see: Better cockpit for base models, more kick off the start.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is capped for the life of the car, average price for the first five services is about $325. Schedule for servicing is every 10,000km or annually.
Driving experience 18/20
Features and equipment 18/20
Functionality and comfort 18/20
Value for money 18/20
Style and design 17/20