Why Mazda decided not to put a space between the
name Mazda and the number 3, I have no idea, other than they did this
with its big brother, the Mazda6 a couple of years ago, and being part
of the Zoom-Zoom Mazda family, they followed suit with Mazda3.
This model has just been released in this country,
and whilst it may not have taken the country by storm (yet), on my 800
km with this car, on a trip from Pattaya to the new Amari Emerald Cove
Resort on Koh Chang and return, it certainly aroused plenty of
Visually, I found the Mazda3 quite attractive. The
nose is reminiscent of the SLR Mercedes, with the front guards hinting
at the ever-so-sexy Mazda RX 8. The high rear hip-line and C pillar
shape is again very purposeful and very RX 8. With short overhangs
front and rear, it gives the impression of a wheel at each corner,
implying extreme stability.
before I move into the test itself, I’ll get all the things I did
not like in this car out of the way early. First off, I did not like
the red-amber instrument lighting at all, and the icons and numbers in
the read-out panel were too small. I do not like to have to put on
reading glasses to check the fan speed rating, for example. I also
thought that some of the lids on the storage areas in the central
console were very ‘plasticky’ to coin a phrase. ‘Tacky’ might
even be a better adjective. There was also a shiny strip of plastic
across the dash that could give very annoying flashes of reflection of
objects outside the vehicle.
That’s about it in the dislike department!
What did I love about this car? The seats to begin
with. Fabulously comfortable, and the test car was kitted out in all
leather. The driver’s chair looked good, smelled good and had good
lateral support, and was adjustable fore and aft and up and down as
well. I did one run of 350 kays without stopping and alighted as fresh
as when I got in. Yes, that good!
the Mazda3 has lots of cubbyholes, bins, places to hold bottles and
the like, plus a cavernous glove box. Both rear vision mirrors have
vanity mirrors. The external rear view mirrors are electric and have
the fold away function for when you leave the car parked in cramped
parking lots. The audio system was good, and with the engine being
very quiet there was no real need to continually adjust the volume
control, but if you needed to there is a simple up and down control on
the steering wheel.
I must mention the controls for the air
conditioning. Simple rotary dials that are so much simpler (and
faster) than jabbing your finger repeatedly at incremental plus and
minus controls. Thank you Mazda for making it simple again.
sedan version has a huge boot, with a 60/40 split fold down rear seat
for the odd occasion when you want to carry telephone poles! It easily
took the luggage for a family of three people, plus baby (who seemed
to need more changes of clothing than the rest of us put together) and
The second feature I really enjoyed while driving
this vehicle was the sure-footedness. This was a car that was so good
on the sweeping corners between Klaeng and Trat, that we were doddling
through at speeds greater than 120 clicks (in some cases twice the
‘recommended’ speed on the road signs) and my family just sat
there happily chatting, totally unaware of the speeds we were doing.
(We also gave a chap in a Subaru WRX Sti a bit of a wake-up call when
we went around the outside, without even trying!)
The car sits flat, corners flat, and shows no
handling vices at all. There is some road feel that comes through with
the firm suspension, but I did not find it intrusive at all. The
steering was spot on, and sensitive enough, yet light enough at
parking speeds with the electric power steering. Impressive!
The performance from the 2 litre engine was more
than adequate for a family sedan, and never at any stage was I left
out in the passing lane praying that I could get around and back in
before the oncoming vehicles looked threatening. There was always
enough in reserve. The Mazda3 is no Chevrolet Corvette, but then it
was never intended to be so.
The engine is mated to a tricky gearbox which gives
you the option of being fully automatic, or a clutchless sequential
manual. The auto is a four speed, which is different from most
manufacturers these days, many offering up to seven speeds. I never
missed the additional ratios at any time, as the engine has a broad
enough torque curve to be able to accept the spread very easily. (To
explain that a little better, when the normally aspirated 911 Porsches
had 5 speed gearboxes, the Turbo versions had only four speeds. The
torque produced by the turbo was such that it did not need the extra
ratio.) The Mazda3 auto shifting was very smooth, with no annoying
thumps and the kick-down on demand quick and responsive, dropping down
two gears if needed.
Yes I did try the sequential manual mode, and it
did what it was supposed to, but for my money was totally superfluous.
If I wanted to pass something in a hurry, I could certainly drop it
down a cog or two, with a quick flick of the wrist back and forth on
the stubby gear lever. But I could also do the same in the auto mode,
and quicker, with the accelerator kick-down. After an initial play, I
left the transmission in automatic and enjoyed not having to play
gears, and looking to see what gear am I in now? The large central
speedometer does show numerically what ratio you are in at any time.
Brakes were excellent, as they should be from four
wheel discs (and ventilated at the front). The 17 inch five spoke
alloys on the test car also assist road manners, as well as looking
extra good too.
To sum up, a good looking car, well screwed
together, with exemplary road manners. A real “driver’s” car! If
you enjoy the art of driving, then you owe it to yourself to have a
look at Mazda3. At a smidgin over 1 million it is not bargain
basement, but I believe it is value for money. It is only slightly
more expensive than the 2 litre Honda Civic, the new 2 litre Lancer or
the top of the line Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8. And there the
comparisons end. Give me the Mazda3.
Of all the motor cars I have personally owned (and
I gave up counting at 100), three stood out as being cars that offered
immediate pleasure and lasting satisfaction every time I got behind
the wheel. One was a Porsche 911, and the other two were from Mazda.
The first was an RX 7 ‘buzz-saw’ that never missed a beat for the
three years I owned it and the second was an MX5 which still ranks as
one of the world’s greatest ‘fun’ cars. I am quite sure that the
Mazda3 could make that three from Mazda. Would I buy one? I would
certainly consider it. This car is that good.
The test car was supplied by Holiday Car Rental, Pattaya Second
Road, (telephone 038 426 203) and will be the first Mazda3 available
in the rental car business in Thailand. I would like to thank Holiday
Car Rental, as they made it much easier for me to get my hands on this
vehicle to test it properly, rather than wait for my name to come up
in Mazda’s PR computer. As regular readers will know, I do not
believe in writing up road tests on vehicles driven round the block
from the local dealership! I do receive plenty of offers for these
‘mini’ drives. I decline every one of them.