Narrowing the gap: Driving the Mazda 3
In the past one had to buy a very premium car to get features like electric seats, reverse camera and head – up display. Those days are gone because brands like Mazda are giving their clients the same features at half the price. Does this mean you get half the car in terms of build quality? We managed to answer that question when we drove the Mazda 3 2.0 litre Astina sedan.
Bold and beautiful:
The outward design elements of the Mazda 3’s design are bold and dare we say it, beautiful. The front end is as dramatic as the actual show itself, with sharp lines from the headlights and a large grille meeting up to create an appealing look. The rest of the car is also attractive to look at, on top of that our test unit had the larger wheels fitted to it, making the stance of the car more aggressive.
The interior of the Mazda 3 is where the car shines, the dashboard although simple in design is built very well. Japanese meticulousness can be seen all around through the well stitched leather seats and the overall set up of the interior. The various options that the touch-screen infotainment system gives you, are all easily accessible though the centre console which has been placed in a convenient place for the driver to navigate. Entertainment wise, the Bose sound system we had thumped away to our Bluetooth streamed music, keeping us entertained in traffic. Keeping our eyes on the road was Mazda’s head – up display that projects onto a small screen on the dashboard.
Solid and Spacious:
The ride quality in the Mazda 3 can’t be faulted as the vehicle feels well grounded on the road. The steering of the car is direct and comfort levels are where you would expect them to be, if not better than what you would expect. Occupants will also not battle for space in the car as there is ample room for five to sit and not have backache after a few hours.
The 2.0 litre engine in the Mazda 3 Astina is normally aspirated and quite high revving, which is great for coastal drivers but us inlanders up in the reef may long for more torque, even though the car develops 121 kW/ 210 Nm. The test unit we drove was fitted with the automatic gearbox which did well from a comfort point of view, but it did tend to have a mind of its own when a lower gear was needed to overtake. Despite the Mazda feeling “old – school” in terms of the engine due to the lack of a turbocharger, when it gets going on an open road it does a good job of picking up speed and maintaining it.
At a starting price of R232 000 and R330 800 for the top of the range Astina, the Mazda 3 sedan is a very well priced vehicle. Bang for buck, few cars can compete with what this car offers in its class. To answer the question posed in the beginning, one does not get half the car. What you do get is a well built and well-specified sedan. The gap is narrowing due to cars like these being on the market and with many people tightening their belts due to the economic crisis, cars like the Mazda 3 are going to make much more sense.