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New Mazda 3 review: A sculptural sedan
NUMBERS 3, 4 and 5. Those are big news in the car trade at the moment, now that the new Mazda 3 is in town, and available with 4 doors or 5.
The Business Times reviewed the stylish hatchback model a fortnight ago, so that's the 5-door done with, but the 4-door is usually the version that brings home the bacon.
"The sedan is more sleek and elegant, while the hatchback is more condensed and emotional," Mazda's chief designer Yasutake Tsuchida told BT at the car's Asean debut earlier this year.
That's not to say the sedan is emotionless, although practical buyers should go with it since it's significantly longer than the hatchback, and offers far more boot space (444 litres compared to just 295 litres).
That extra length also gives the Sedan more space to show off its lovely lines and curved form, the result of Mazda's penchant for hiring sculptors alongside traditional pencil-on-paper designers.
"Elegant" also sums up the way the new Mazda drives.
For now, the 3 only comes with a 1.5-litre engine variant that has the brand's new mild hybrid system.
120hp is the default power output for regular East Asian sedans and is nothing to write home about, but there's a tiny seven horsepower boost from the hybrid motor that gives a little extra zing to the Sedan's step.
Going further with less fuss is what the car's really best at.
Concentrate on driving smoothly, which is something the car itself makes rather easy, and you'll be able to hit the claimed fuel efficiency of 5.5L/100km even in Singapore's start-stop traffic.
Thank the hybrid system, which is able to shut the engine off for longer, and more often, than in the previous model.
The Mazda is also the sort of car that makes light work of traffic jams and onerous inter-city commutes. The ergonomics are intuitive with a smooth logic that borders on telepathy, and on the move the car is tremendously refined.
There is a bit of jitter from the 18-inch wheels on the worst road bumps, and the rear seats aren't the largest, but the Sedan's list of strengths far outweighs its weaknesses. We've mentioned before that the Mazda 3 pushes the boundaries between mainstream and luxury, and the extensive driver and assistance systems that come with the Elegance pack are a key example. On board are systems that let it follow the car in front automatically (at speeds from 30km/h to 149km/h), help you keep in lane and prevent you from dozing off.
These are features you simply won't find in any car at this price range, regardless of the badge, and that even includes the Mazda 3 Hatchback in similar Astina spec, since it costs S$111,688 with COE, or S$8,000 more than the Sedan.
If you can live without those features, the least expensive Mazda 3 of all, the Sedan in Classic trim at S$92,688 with COE, still offers tremendous value and a pleasing experience.
Hatchback owners might get a bit more fun for the eyes, but the Mazda 3 Sedan shows solid value still wins the numbers game.
Mazda 3 Sedan Skyactiv-G 1.5 Astina
Engine 1,496cc, inline 4
Power 120hp at 6,000rpm
Torque 153Nm at 4000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
0-100km/h 11.9 seconds
Top Speed 200km/h
Fuel Efficiency 5.5L/100km
Agent Eurokars Mazda
Price S$103,688 with COE