MAZDA3 – A SEDAN WITH STANCE

MAZDA3 SEDAN takes a stylish step above. We put it to the test

We’ve had two bites at the Mazda3 cake since the smart newcomer arrived a year ago. Both times we tested hatches. This time we had a week with the new sedan. Identical to the five door from the C-pillars forward, this four-door adds a big, lockable boot in place of the hatch.

This one rather gets a secure 444 litre lock-up boot that will better suit the rep and most family folk. It’s neatly rendered too – the trunk is finely integrated. It doesn’t look like a hatchet job. ‘Scuse the pun! Enough to cause one observer to ask if it was an Alfa. She had good reason – this is one damn good looking car.

Normal is a cycle in a washing machine

It’s all part of Mazda has quietly evolving as a brand. It’s cars as something quite special in the realm of what we have become acceptable as normal. Normal of course being a cycle in a washing machine. All its recent models have impressed — CX-3 and CX5 are among the better utes out there. Now the Three moves that ’normal’ car expectation forward too. And we loved the hatch.

This new seventh generation Mazda3 sedan sets a new milestone as it leads the brand into a bold, contemporary new era. That commences at first sight. Mazda’s Kodo design language is so well proportioned and balanced – its long, low bonnet blends into a slick glasshouse in an elegant, stance. Boot and all. We’re told that Kodo embodies the essence of the Japanese aesthetic as light and reflections glide over the body In a rich and powerful stance. Nice!

This sedan pops splendidly in its ruby-red coat. Its Smart silver wheels feel more relaxed than the black-wheeled hatchback’s Batman get-up. So it’s more sophisticated. To better suit a likely more reserved owner and driver in this company car niche.

THERE’S NOTHING SPIN CYCLE ABOUT THIS MAZDA3

There’s nothing spin cycle about this car. Step inside and you’re greeted by an equally minimalist, connected and driver centric cabin. All styled more like a Maserati than a Mazda.

The new Three also lacks for little — packing everything you’d expect from that Maserati too. That includes all the latest infotainment, Apple and Android mirroring and the kitchen sink. Its a significant premium step forward for Mazda .

Powered by Mazda’s familiar 121kW 213Nm 2-litre, this Astina automatic impressed on the road too. This high compression Skyactiv engine is mechanically rortier than its turbo rivals, but we felt that added an enjoyable edge. Performance is impressive. Not quite GTI quick. But mid-8 seconds to 100 and a decent quarter-mile sprint come with impressive tractability. And its frugal enough, too.

Handling is positive and enjoyable and 3 rides well. There’s a little trade-off between the two. But that thumps home the big message of Mazda3 quality, quality, quality.

Yes, it carries a premium versus it’s obvious rivals. But the Mazda 3 Sedan also steps away from the normal to present a car more premium than you’d expect in this neck of the woods. It doesn’t compete with Corolla or Elantra. It rather steps in a rung up. To make them feel a tad normal. — Michele Lupini

Images — Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Mazda3 2.0 Astina Sedan
Engine: 121kW 213Nm 2-litre petrol I4
Drive: 6-speed auto FWD
TESTED:
0-60km/h:         3.92 sec
0-100km/h:        8.72 sec
0-160km/h:        21.48 sec
400m:             16.1 sec @ 1412km/h
80-120km/h:       5.83 sec
120-160km/h:      9.66sec
CLAIMED:
VMax:             205km/h
Fuel:             6.2 l/100km
CO2:              144 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y unl/3y unl
LIST PRICE:       R481K
RATED:            8
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