THE SkyActiv principle may sound like a catchy marketing term but it is a surprisingly effective technology that makes the new Mazda3 a particularly economical model. SkyActiv combines efficient high-compression engines with a smooth transmission in a strong, lightweight body that has an aerodynamic design. In the latest Mazda3, this means a new SkyActiv chassis with a frugal 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. This unit is naturally aspirated because Mazda believes it is adequate enough under the holistic SkyActiv concept.
It may not be the most quiet and it may make itself heard clearly under hard acceleration. But the direct injection unit with its high compression ratio (14.0) is frugal, with Mazda claiming just 5.7 litres per 100 km under the combined cycle, or an extremely respectable 17.5 km per litre. An i-Stop automatic engine start/stop function and i-Eloop regenerative braking system also help to enhance fuel efficiency.
Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Mazda3 smoothly accelerates through the gears. Performance is hardly smouldering but it is still acceptable despite not being as punchy as a turbocharged unit.
The Mazda3 is available as a four-door Sedan or five-door Hatchback. With its curvaceous "Kodo - Soul of Motion" styling, it looks like a smaller version of the sensuous Mazda6. The Mazda3 Hatchback is especially sleek, with its long bonnet and flat profile. At 4.46 metres long, the Hatchback is 12 centimetres shorter than the Mazda3 Sedan.
Despite the Hatchback's tapering roofline, rear headroom is good, even for taller occupants. Rear legroom is not exactly generous despite the 2,700 mm wheelbase but it is certainly enough. And thanks to the comfortably supportive rear seats, those in the back are unlikely to complain. Also spacious is the boot of the Hatchback.
But perhaps the best part about the Mazda3 Hatchback has to be its handling and equipment. Like most Mazdas, the Mazda3 is fun to drive. It has a pliant suspension for good ride comfort, yet the Hatchback enjoys a winding road. The Mazda3 is well-balanced with accurate steering for very neutral handling. Adding to driver enjoyment is the responsive transmission, which can be manually shifted using the gear lever that employs the more intuitive forward nudge logic for downshifts.
The level of equipment is good, with front sports-like seats (electric for the driver) offering good lateral support, as well as a head up display. A centrally mounted seven-inch screen is operated using a rotary knob behind the gear lever and this displays the navigation and entertainment systems.
An electric sunroof is standard, and so is the keyless entry and start system. One convenient feature of the latter is that it automatically locks the car if the driver closes the doors and walks away with the key. And for some buyers, there is another important element - the Mazda3 is made in Japan.
It may not be the most powerful Category A hatch on the market but the new Mazda3 has to be among the most efficient and enjoyable.
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Max power 120 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Max torque 150 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
0-100 kmh 11.8 secs
Top speed 180 kmh
CO2 emissions 135 g/km
Average OMV $16,000
Price $142,988 (with COE)
Distributor Trans Eurokars
Tel 6603 6118