The Mazda 3 has been a remarkable success for a number of years now, as it should be. Mazda don’t have any black sheep in the family, they simply offer consistent high achieving vehicles. But in 2014 their mid-sized winner has been completely redesigned with the rejuvenation now even eclipsing the still fresh Mazda 6. Over the next two weeks “The EFTM Garage” is home to both the hatch and sedan models. This week the spotlight falls on the Mazda 3 Maxx hatch.

photo 1-2Make: Mazda

Model: 3

Variant: Maxx

Engine: 2.0-litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC S-VT petrol (SKYACTIV-G) with i-stop

Transmission: 6-speed automatic (FWD)

Vital Stats: Power 114 @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 200Nm @ 4,000rpm

Mazda Claimed Fuel Economy: 5.9l/100km

EFTM Claimed Fuel Economy: 6.3/100km

MRRP Price: $24,990

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Wow Factor: As with the Mazda 6 and CX-5 the 3 is blessed with the latest incarnation of their Kodo “Soul of Motion” design philosophy. In short this makes for a glaringly attractive car. Gone is the almost whimsical smiley face of the previous model, in its place sits a bold open grill, prominent and vertically flat snout plus a revised sculptured profile.

Excellent interiors are simply expected from Mazda and the designers clearly had their game face on for this effort. Take away the badges and you would struggle to argue how it’s not as impressive as any VW or even the elite Europeans. Judging interiors usually revolves around the quality of the plastics and how soft or hard they may be. The Mazda 3 at this price point offers the perfect balance between the two. There’s numerous little details that please like the red stitching and faux carbon fibre inlay on the leather clad steering wheel, chrome look air vent surrounds, digital tachometer and expertly aligned buttons and panels. But I must say the visible crease lines for the passenger airbag let things down a little.

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Most Impressive: Mazda now offer an infotainment system capable of competing with the likes of Holden’s MyLink and Ford’s SYNC. A 7-inch pod-like colour touch screen display (up from 5.8-inch) sits front and centre atop the dash. Acting as an extension of your smartphone the system is an internet radio bonanza offering support for apps such as Pandora®, Sticher™ and Aha™. The latter is a web content platform for automobiles by HARMAN.The free app allows access to thousands of cloud-based audio and information presets such as internet radio, podcasts, audiobooks and of course Facebook and Twitter.

The whole system falls under the “MZD Connect” banner and is operated via touch when stationary or a Multi-function Commander controller when on the move. It looks and operates in the same way as systems offered by BMW and Audi, in time you should be able navigate it via feel without glancing down near the handbrake constantly.

Not So Impressive: The Mazda 3’s handling is now skewed towards a more comfortable riding and lighter steering experience. No doubt still a sharp drive, but a tad less sportier than we’ve become accustomed to. The VW Golf is by far and away the dynamic leader in this segment, particularly when it comes to noise isolation and acting as a sponge for lesser roads.

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Early Verdict: The Mazda 3 Maxx hatch combines achievable claimed fuel economy with still decent punch from the as tested 2.0-litre petrol unit. The new array of tech, premium feel interior and above average looks make this a worthy 4.5 star car.

[schema type=”review” rev_name=”Mazda 3 2.0-litre Maxx Hatch” rev_body=”The new array of tech, premium feel interior and above average looks make this a worthy 4.5 star car.” author=”Chris Bowen” pubdate=”2014-06-04″ user_review=”4.5″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”5″ ]