Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
Mazda is making a habit of blurring the line that separates the mainstream from the premium. The chasm between these segments has diminished to the point it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify the jump in price to become one of the Joneses.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Mazda has taken the premium brands to task, Mazdas have always been for buyers happy to spend a little more without taking leave of fiscal responsibility. Just take the current CX-9, it looks at home in any private school carpark.
The Mazda 3 was the foundation of the company’s rise in Australia and is regularly one of the nation’s best-selling passenger cars. Providing more evidence that time does indeed fly, the Mazda 3 is now in its fourth-generation and follows the Mazda trend of heading upmarket.
Savvy buyers know every model range has a sweet spot that manages the marriage between metal and money, and that’s what we have here with the 2019 Mazda 3 G20 Evolve sedan.
Every Mazda 3 variant gets autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control with stop & go, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, keyless entry and start, a head-up display, a 7.0-inch digital information display and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Stepping up a grade to the Evolve adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter, shift paddles, dual-zone climate control with rear vents and a fold-down armrest in the back. If you regularly carry passengers in the back seat, it’s well worth stumping up the $1700 for the Evolve over the base car.
Mazda expects the G20 Evolve to be the best-selling variant of the new 3, accounting for 30 per cent of the sales during its first year Down Under.
The sedan brings a suave look that offers more practicality than the hatch by way of a 440L boot, which is a significant 149L more than the hatch (295L).
While the outside presents well, it’s the sophisticated layout of the cabin that moves the game forward. Mazda continues to embrace minimalism with an attractively proportioned dash, premium materials and controls that provide a level of crispness that was once exclusive to the three-pointed star.
Times have changed. Volkswagen once had a mortgage on offering upmarket presentation and materials without going all-in on a premium marque, we argue, Mazda has taken the mantle. The knurling around the climate control dials points to more attention being paid to the details.
After close inspection of the interior, there are only two areas we would single out for criticism. Firstly, it needs a splash of colour to break up the dark hues, some matte silver accents would work a treat. Secondly, while the steering wheel looks the business, it lacks cushioning underneath the hard leather, so it didn’t offer the tactile experience we were expecting.
Technophiles should note the new 8.8-inch infotainment display isn't a touchscreen, the interface is operated via a BMW-style rotary controller and voice control. According to the research, removing touch controls goes a long way to eliminating gross motor movements, which keeps the driver’s focus on the road where it should be.
The driving position is excellent, it’s ridiculously easy to get comfortable behind the wheel before setting off.
For those wondering about the ‘G20’ descriptor, it refers to the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, which is carried over from the previous model. It’s good for 114kW and 200Nm. There’s enough juice here to move things around effortlessly without setting any segment performance standards.
What makes the drive a pleasant one is the brilliant six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a traditional torque converter that responds instantly to the driver’s inputs. The calibration again points to CVT and dual-clutch transmissions being answers to questions that regular commuters never asked.
The torque converter keeps everything smooth regardless of speed. It’s also important to note the decisive shifts don’t come at the cost of efficiency, our average consumption figure came to rest at 6.8L/100km, not bad after covering 896km during the week.
The Mazda 3’s Achilles heel has always been refinement. As part of a range of measures to improve the cabin’s ambience, the new 3 marks Mazda's first application of a "two-wall" structure that leaves space between the body and carpet which allows engineers to match the characteristics of each wall to the sound-deadening material.
We extensively tested the NVH levels on the Hume Highway to assess Mazda’s claims of greater refinement. It’s pleasing to report, at 110 clicks, the new Mazda 3 is noticeably quieter than the previous model. It could comfortably be driven long distances without leading to bleeding ears.
Overall ride quality is good too. As a result of more high-strength steel used in the body and a new suspension set-up that uses a redesigned MacPherson strut at the front and torsion beam at the rear, everything is nicely controlled on poorly maintained country roads.
Adding to the handling is the G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus), the system cleverly adjusts engine torque according to steering input which optimises traction and stability, leading to an improvement in turn-in. It’s another component that makes the car very easy to live with.
Moving to the 3’s ownership credentials, Mazda now offers a five-year warranty with no kilometre limit. The maintenance intervals are only 10,000km or 12 months whatever comes first, most rivals now have 15,000km intervals. Mazda does offer transparent service pricing, which at time of writing sees costs average $372 for each of the first five services, not exactly cheap when compared to the Corolla.
There’s plenty to like about the way the new Mazda 3 drives, it handles well while greatly elevating the level of cabin comfort. With the base model being so well equipped, there’s no need to climb higher than the G20 Evolve which is why Mazda backs it to be the volume mover.
Standard features, while important, are only part of the equation. It’s the presentation that distinguishes the Mazda 3 from rivals. The air of quality that’s instantly apparent upon entering the cabin is sure to bring new buyers to the brand, buyers who previously would have leaned towards a Golf. Thankfully, that’s now a gamble nobody needs to take.
2019 Mazda 3 G20 Evolve Specifications
Price from $27,690 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol Power 114kW @ 6000rpm Torque 200Nm 4000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Performance 0-100km/h 9.5 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 6.1L/100km Tank Capacity 51L Length 4660mm Width 1795mm Height 1440mm Wheelbase 2725mm Turning Circle 10.6m Kerb Weight 1339kg Service Intervals 12 months/10,000km Warranty five year/unlimited kilometre