SMALL PACKAGE, BIG ON FEATURES: The 2014 Mazda3 might be the 'baby' of the new Mazda tribe in SA but. depending on model, it's not short on equipment.Image: Mazda SA
Historically, the Mazda3 models have been around in South Africa since the first generation in 2003 – a popular alternative to a very similar Ford product. The latest range, arriving as part of the brand’s resurgence, is vastly different.
The 3, like all other models in the 2014 range, are made in Japan and arrive as fully-assembled units. The cars are retailed in more than 120 countries globally and, the automaker says, account for more than 30% of Mazda’s annual sales.
'SOMETHING NEVER SEEN'
David Hughes, Mazda South Africa’s new managing director, said: “There is no doubt that the Mazda3 represents the Mazda brand but take this key model to the next level. We’ve made it our mission to deliver a product that will exceed the expectations of both long-standing fans and potential new customers.
IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Mazda3
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“We knew that, in addition to further enhancing the vehicle’s basic performance, it was essential to offer something new... something never seen in the segment.
“We made innovating the sports compact our theme and set about achieving this by considering the vehicle from the customers’ point of view. Our aim was to appeal on two levels: a stunning first impression and a deeper appeal that customers will come to understand and appreciate more fully over the years of ownership.
“The soulful design, packaging, high-quality interior and outstanding environmental and safety performance all incorporate this quest to make the vehicle something more akin to a life partner than a simple possession.”
The SkyActiv-G two-litre engine, Mazda says, uses the full suite of SkyActive technology which is said to deliver responsive driving and “outstanding environmental performance” even though the low- and mid-range models use a carried-over MZR 1.6 engine. All models carry a three-year unlimited distance factory warranty (excluding those sold to fleets and for commercial use), three-years of roadside assistance, a three-year service plan and a five-year no-rust-through warranty.
Design and craftsmanship
The cars are undoubtedly modern in design – Mazda calls it the KODO design – with the five-point grille now adopted by all Mazda cars, “sleekly slanted headlights”, wide-stance, character lines and unique tail-light clusters.
Standard are 16” full-covered steel wheels; 16 and 18” alloy wheels appear on more expensive models.
Interior featuresThe new Mazda3 is the first vehicle to feature Mazda’s all-new “active driving display” – at least on the top model, the revived Astina… a model many in South Africa will remember as a coupe-like four-door.
The display appears on a clear pop-up panel mounted behind the instrument hood that displays speed and navigation directions among other functions. It puts the info directly in the driver’s line of sight, Mazda explains.
The unit folds back into its concealed position when the ignition is shut off.
SATIN SILVER FACIA
The normal meter cluster has a central analogue gauge flanked by a pair of wing-shaped digital displays with three-dimensional metallic numerals; its red-ring border pulses as soon as the driver’s door is opened.
A decorative satin silver facia panel extends from the gauges with piano black trim around the centre console and front-door inserts.
Upholstery, depending on model, comes in black cloth or black leather.
Body and cabin styling
Mazda says this latest 3 is lower and leaner than its predecessor, this third-generation Mazda3 shares little more than its name with its older siblings – is “all-new from the ground up”.
The 2700mm wheelbase is 60mm longer than the previous generation under a body that is 10mm at 4580mm. Height is 1450mm, width 1795mm – 20mm lower and 40mm wider with rear legroom maxed at 909mm. Front and rear shoulder room have grown to 1452mm and 1382mm, respectively.
TWO PETROL ENGINES
Shoulder room for all passengers has also increased and these latest models arriving as part of Mazda’s resurgence in South Africa come with “the next-generation “hhuman-machine interface” that uses a head-up design to, Mazda says, “help drivers to maintain proper posture, concentrate on the road and drive more safely”.
A choice of two petrol engines comes with the new Mazda3: the previous MZR 1.6 and a new SkyActiv-G two-litre.
The MZR makes 77kW at 6000rpm / 144Nm at 4000rpm. Fuel consumption is given as “more than adequate in typical driving” through the car’s five-speed manual or four-speed auto gearbox.
The two-litre, however, is a much more exciting animal: 121kW at 6000rpm / 210Nm at 4000rpm driving either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto equipped with a stop/start fuel-saver.
A light material with a high capacity for noise absorption is used on the face and in the mats – just one of a number of insulation systems that our test drive showed to be very effective in creating a truly quiet ride
Stay connected while on the go
The 3’s infotainment is all new on this the latest model. It has a full range of tablet and phone connections via Bluetooth and, Mazda says, is fully updatable.
It also comes with AM/FM radio, auxiliary and USB ports and a CD slot. The top Astina model adds Bose sound equipment and can handle text-to voice communication to enunciate message.
With the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers, lifestyles, and subsequently driving habits, have changed. To ensure that consumers can continue to be connected in real time with their online community regardless of where they are, Mazda has developed its new operating system MZD CONNECT to be intuitive and less distracting, which leads to an overall safer and more pleasurable driving experience.
A speech recognition system allows users to repeat and shuffle audio tracks and search for and select folders. SD-card satnav is available on the 2.0 Astina
Mazda Proactive Safety is Mazda’s way of “helping drivers to avoid dangerous situations before they occur by minimizing the risks that can lead to an accident”. Additionally, it maximizes the range of conditions in which the vehicle can be driven safely.
Standard safety features on the 3 include six airbags (front, side and full side-curtain), whiplash-reducing front head restraints, power-assisted ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes, anti-lock brakes with electronic pressure distribution and stability control (two-litre models), a collapsing steering column (following air bag deployment), three-point belts for all seats, front pre-tensioners with load limiters and IsoFix child-seat anchors.
Blind-spot monitors are built into the external mirrors.
For more information on Mazda cars go to the Mazda SA website.