The Mazda 3 Sedan Mild Hybrid, the latest in the Mazda 3 series, is sure to please fans

SINGAPORE (Dec 20): If you like plenty of choices in your model of car, then you will love the new Mazda 3. Not only does it come in two shapes (Sedan and Hatchback), but you get a choice of three trims — Classic, Elegance and top-ofthe-range Astina. Most of the time, motoring writers are given the highest-spec trim available to test-drive. So, it was the Astina sedan model for me.

The Mazda 3 is now in its seventh generation, so it is something of a permanent fixture in the Japanese car maker’s range. Starting with its looks, you are sure to be impressed with its elegant and flowing lines. It is very pleasing to the eye, although I prefer the look of the hatchback. The front of the car has been sharpened with sleek-looking adaptive LED headlights, along with a grille borrowed from the face-lifted Mazda 6.

First-time Mazda test-drivers and existing owners will like the interior of the car. There is a real premium feel about the interior, and it continues to blur the lines between Asian mid-market brands and luxury German ones. This is thanks to a combination of high-end materials and an abundance of driver aids.

The cabin is spacious and modern-looking. Taking centre stage on the dashboard is a digital, seven-inch LCD central dial cluster, alongside an 8.8in infotainment display controlled via a rotary knob-style commander control. There is also a heads-up display that informs you of your current speed and the speed limit — Mazda refers to this feature as Active Driving Display.

With this Astina trim, you get extras such as a 12-speaker Bose sound system, gear shift pedals on the steering wheel as well as soft leather upholstery.

Under the bonnet, however, things are more modest. The Mazda 3 is powered by a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine producing 118bhp of power and 153Nm of torque. It will get you from 0 to 100kph in a very leisurely 11.9 seconds. But this car is more about technology than speed. It features a mild-hybrid system, with a 5.1kW battery, which helps pick-up and torque on initial acceleration, and powers the electronics in the car.

No, this is not a car for your average boy racer or someone who takes pride in being the first away at the lights. It is more for the sensible style of driver who appreciates a comfortable and unhurried drive plus value for money. You are getting a lot of gadgets for your money ($115,888) — plus a stylish-looking car. And with the hybrid system, fuel consumption is hard to beat.

 

Driving the Mazda 3 around the streets of Singapore does not really require a lot of speed anyway. Instead, you want to feel comfortable and possibly pampered as well as look good at the wheel. What I liked about the Mazda 3 was that it is a no-fuss, get-on-with-it sort of car. It can handle uneven surfaces and bumps in the road pretty well because of its sturdy structure, and it is fairly quiet too. Steering is accurate and well-balanced.

A word or two about the array of safety features: Mazda has packed the car with the full i-Activsense suite of safety and driver assistance systems. My test-drive model came with a host of features such as Front Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, 360-degree View Camera, Lane-keep Assist System, Lane Departure Warning System and Driver Monitoring. All these can be activated and deactivated at the push of a button.

What you might be surprised with in the Mazda 3 is that it comes with Radar Cruise Control, a feature not found in many cars in this class or price range. Basically, it lets you set a maximum cruise speed and following distance, so the car will automatically keep that fixed distance with the car in front of you.

This is very handy when driving on the highway at the end of a working day, when you might not be at your sharpest. But you still need to be alert because the system cuts off when you drop below 30kph. It is just a nice extra to have in an impressive update to the increasingly popular Mazda 3, a car that grows on you.

 

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast