Mazda 3 M-Hybrid 1.5 Hatchback Astina Review
Premium Three-t

clifford chow
21 Aug 2019
 

Such is Mazda’s obsession, they had even gone through some pains to determine how best to position the front passengers in their compact car, just to reduce the bobbing of heads

Mazda revives the Astina name. For those who are unfamiliar with this, the Japanese manufacturer once used the Astina badge on their 5-door 323 hatchback in the late 1980s. The first Astina featured pop-up headlamps, a lovely gimmick, and it sold very well. Sadly, pop-up headlamps are a thing of the past, since they do pose a danger to pedestrians. The Astina nameplate has however been revived, but this time, Mazda is using it to denote its new range-topping 3 model.

Their new hatchback displays the next evolution of Mazda’s signature KODO - Soul of Motion design language; delivering clean-styled side sheet metal, with minimal creases. Like the previous car, the new 3 also features a massive front grille. They have however tidied up the front end, by removing the bumper vent and fog light assembly. Visually, it does have a sportier stance, compared to the car it replaces.

At the rear, ringed LED tail lights, singled out by the car’s clean styling, adds to the hatchback’s character. 

Wheel wells are filled in with 215/45 R18 tyres on 18” rims, which sit very nicely. The ‘Classic’ trim sedan model makes do with 16” units.

Inside

There is one thing we must say about Mazda’s efforts here. The interior is amazingly well-built, and and it is evident that plenty of thought has been put into their cabin. Materials have a premium feel to them, and I would dare say it is one of the very best in its class.

The dash features double-stitched leather(ish) surfaces, which match in alignment to those on the door cards to near-perfection. Mirroring its heavily rimmed front grille, the interior also features chromed plastic trim which forms a sill, and spans across the dash, splitting the dash into an upper and lower section. Various touch points within the cabin are cushioned, and it truly is a wonderful place to be in.

Get into the driver’s seat, and you are greeted by a three-dialed instrument binnacle, which features a customisable 7” LCD central display. A windshield-projected head-up display feeds info safely, without the need to take your eyes off the road.

Their 8.8” infotainment screen sits proud upon the dash, and carries on it day and night sensors which are part of its driver monitoring system. The new user interface is a huge departure and an equally huge improvement from Mazda’s previous iteration. It also behaves quite similar to those found in Continental branded cars. A centre console mounted jog wheel is used to navigate the system, and a low learning curve makes for easy adaptation. The map displayed in the SatNav however could be a little more refined. While there is a single disc CD player, for those who still believe in a good occasional CD, what is missing is a wireless charging pad for charging mobile devices.

In Astina trim the 3 is equipped with a BOSE 12-speaker premium sound system. Mazda engineers worked the interior for their best placement, resulting in an immersive three-dimensional audio experience, and sound quality is good for a standard automotive unit (especially for a car in this price point). In ensuring the best experience possible, Mazda has even fussed over roof liner materials used, resulting in a very quiet cabin.

The power driver’s seat comes standard with two memory settings for the mid ‘Elegance’ and range-topping ‘Astina’ trim cars. The multifunction steering wheel adjusts for height and reach, making it easier to find that ideal driving position. Considerations like moving the front wheel wells a few inches forward also ensures a more natural seating position, especially since pedal placement is often compromised by the intruding bump. The roofline toward the front is however rather low, and you may risk bumping your head upon entry and exit, or when you are simply adjusting yourself within your seat.

Rear seats are comfortable and supportive, although those who are taller than the average 1.7 meters may find the arrangement on the small side. There is however a good amount of gap under the front seats for your feet to slide under.

Cargo room for the hatch stands at a respectable 295 litres (the Volkswagen Golf offers a generous 380 litres), and with the 40:60 style rear seats folded down, you get 687 litres of cargo space. However there is a kerb between the seats and the boot floor; and the boot sill is a little too high for my liking.

The Drive

Mazda has so far steered clear of force-fed induction, and retains its natural-breathing 1.5 litre SkyActiv-G engine, with drive to the front wheels provided through a 6-speed automatic. The 4-cylinder engine boasts a 14.0:1 compression ratio, which is extremely high for a day-to-day car, and is intended for optimum fuel efficiency. Power is rated at 120hp, while maximum torque of 153Nm, is delivered at 4,000rpm. Drive is further helped by Mazda’s new M-Hybrid drive system, which adds another 6.8hp, but more importantly delivers an additional 48.5Nm of twist, which is available from 100rpm. The latter is delivered through a belt-driven Integrated Starter Generator (ISG), which does the important job of providing drive assist, great for taking off from a standstill, which is where we tend to burn more fuel. Combined cycle fuel consumption figures are rated at 18.2km/l, I attained about 16km/l driving it normally, and 10.4km/l with a lead foot.

Placement of the 24V lithium-ion battery in-front between the front wheels keeps it largely out of the way of eating into any interior space, and it also forms a natural barrier in the event of a collision. In siting the battery in-front, Mazda also saves on wiring, as the battery is physically nearer to the DC-DC Converter, ISG and the Regenerative Cooperative Braking module which charges the battery. Another advantage is that boot space is not compromised, and neither is the size of the fuel tank.

The 3 is set up with a conventional Macpherson Strut front and strangely enough, they went with a Torsion beam rear end. Mazda 3 Program Manager, Kota Beppu mentioned that his choice to switch to the simpler rear setup, was because there were less variables while the car is pitched into corners, compared to the previous multi-link setup. This arrangement allows the turns to feel more natural. I would agree after taking a few slightly spirited turns in the car, but drive it even more enthusiastically and you will quickly find the Mazda’s handling limits. Additionally, features like G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus) does clever tweaks to the engine torque and to the brakes, which aids in improving grip and stability as you put the car into corners. This is done by subtly transferring added weight of the car to the wheels that need it the most.

The 3 was not built to be driven hard, but to be enjoyed as a refined daily driver… And refined a drive it delivers. Thanks to some very good insulation, including an innovative “two-wall” structure which leaves space between the body and the carpeting. The cabin is truly a peaceful place to be in, and almost comparable to the environment you get in a larger Lexus. 

Active safety systems like Distance & Speed Alert (DSA) and Smart Brake Support (SBS) ensures added layers of protection for drivers by alerting them and even reacting in the event of a potential impact. Also included, is its Cruising & Traffic Support (CTS), which complements its cruise control during heavy traffic situations (ideal in Singapore’s rush hour traffic). The system works by monitoring the vehicle in-front, while keeping a safe following distance, and even works around bends.

Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA) which utilises side radars to detect on-coming traffic at junctions, while Smart Brake Support for the rear, assists in rear crossing traffic and when you are simply reversing your car out of a tight spot, when the 360 camera is just not enough. 

Our Thoughts

The Volkswagen Golf has always been seen as the industry benchmark when it comes to building a compact hatchback. While companies like Hyundai have attempted to emulate the iconic hatch with its i30, and have built quite an impressively good one; Mazda on the other hand have gone in another direction, obsessive in delivering a truly luxurious and comfortable experience.

Such is Mazda’s obsession, they had even gone through some pains to determine how best to position the front passengers in their compact car, just to reduce the bobbing of heads, when driving over humps. Lunacy you may think, but drive this car with an open mind, and you will be rewarded.

In Summary

We Like

Smooth driving characteristics, Premium cabin quality and overall environment, Beautifully penned exterior   

We Don't

Low frontal rake makes for a slightly tight entry, Could use a little more rear legroom, No wireless charging  

Verdict

Well-built from the ground up, the Mazda 3 feels more luxurious than it is priced. Their hatch may not be ideal for the lead-footed who would prefer a dynamic drive, but for the majority of drivers out there, the interior is a lovely haven from the hustle and bustle of our busy streets, while its smooth driving characteristics are truly impressive

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Engine

Engine Capacity 1496cc
Engine Type Inline 4
Compression Ratio 14.0:1
Bore x Stroke (74.5x85.8)mm
Power 118bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 153Nm @ 4000rpm
Power to Weight 84 bhp per ton

Performance

Acceleration 11.9s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 200 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 18.2 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 6 -speed Auto
Drive Type FF
Steering Electric

Measurements

Body Type 5 Door Hatch
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(4660 x 1795 x 1435) mm
Wheelbase 2725 mm
Turning Circle 10.6 metres
Kerb Weight 1404 kg
Boot Capacity 295 L
Boot Capacity (folded) 687 L
Fuel Tank Capacity 51 L

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Discs