Mazda has launched the seventh-generation Mazda3 in SA, in hatchback and sedan derivatives. Boasting improved refinement with additional safety and technology, the Japanese-sourced vehicle has moved a step upmarket and has price tags to match. The new 12-model range now retails for between R359,900 and R474,000, a steep range-wide increase over the R274,700 to R432,800 that was asked for the outgoing sixth-generationMazda3. You read that right; the cheapest Mazda3 is now priced R85,200 more than the previous baseline version.
It’s part of the brand’s strategy to position itself as a more premium offering than traditional rivals like the VW Golf and Hyundai i30, and move itself more into the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series realm. The range-topping Mazda3 is in fact priced considerably higher than an entry level 1 Series, which goes for R446,980, and the cheapest A3 which retails for R442,000.
The Mazda’s cabin is not dissimilar to an A3’s in terms of its minimalist design and upmarket feel, including a soft-touch dashboard with double stitched leather.
The classy cabin is wrapped in an appealingly styled body, with the five-door hatch presenting a sporier look and the sedan styled with more elegance.
Specification levels across the range are generous, with even the most humble derivative sold standard with LED headlamps, auto headlights and wipers, head-up display, multifunction steering wheel, eight-speed audio system, a partially digital instrument panel with a configurable display, and infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The infotainment diverts from modern convention by not being touch-screenoperated, but using a controller much like BMW’s iDrive.
The range-topping 2.0 Astina models come fully loaded with adaptive LED headlamps, navigation, reversing camera, dual zone climate control with rear air vents, 12-speaker Bose sound with subwoofer, leather seats, keyless entry, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic alert to name a few.
All versions get seven airbags, ABS brakes, hill start assist, and stability control, and the Mazda3 scored a maximum five stars in EuroNcap crash tests.
There’s disappointment on the engine front in that the much-anticipated Skyactiv-X powerplant is not part of the South African line up due to the quality of our fuel not being up to scratch. Skyactiv-X is an innovative new compression-ignition petrol engine that blends the best aspects of petrol and diesel powerplants to make it up to 30% more fuel efficient than a regular petrol engine. There’s also no high-performance MPS version on the cards, and Mazda is opting out of the hot-hatch wars.
Instead, SA buyers get a choice of two regular normally-aspirated petrol engines: a 1.5 with outputs of 88kW and 153Nm, and a 2.0 wielding 121kW and 213Nm. The 1.5 is paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto while the 2.0 is offered only with the auto – thankfully there’s no CVT.
The 2.0 feels fairly lively and free-revving without knocking your socks off, while the 1.5 labours somewhat more in Gauteng’s thin air. Both engines become rather vocal when revved harder, in contrast to the car’s otherwise very quiet demeanour with minimal road or tyre noise.
Smooth ride quality and sharp cornering define the new Mazda3’s nature, and it’s a fun to drive car that invites vigorous direction changes. It feels solidly built too, as it should at the price.
Mazda3 1.5 Active 6MT 5-Dr – R359,900 88kW and 153Nm
Mazda3 1.5 Dynamic 6MT 5-Dr – R374,200
Mazda3 1.5 Dynamic 6AT 5-Dr – R387,000
Mazda3 1.5 Individual 6MT 5-Dr – R421,900
Mazda3 1.5 Individual 6AT 5-Dr – R434,700
Mazda3 2.0 Astina 6AT 5-Dr – R474,000 121kW and 213Nm
Mazda3 1.5 Active 6MT 4-Dr – R357,000
Mazda3 1.5 Dynamic 6MT 4-Dr – R371,300
Mazda3 1.5 Dynamic 6AT 4-Dr – R384,100
Mazda3 1.5 Individual 6MT 4-Dr – R418,800
Mazda3 1.5 Individual 6AT 4-Dr – R431,600
Mazda3 2.0 Astina 6AT 4-Dr – R470,800
Prices include a 3-year unlimited mileage warranty and service plan.