The Mazda3 has had its first upgrade since it launched in 2014. In reality, it didn't need to change much, as the entire range continues to break sales records and is the top-selling small car for private buyers.
Priced between $20,490 and $35,490, there's a model for everyone. A minor redesign to the front includes a more prominent grille (consistent with the new Mazda CX9 and upgraded Mazda6 models), new LED headlamps and daytime running lights. The top-spec Astina we reviewed has new-look alloy wheels and a refined instrument cluster and steering wheel.
Mazda's safety technology suite has been upgraded for the range and includes Smart City Brake Support, with the Astina gaining advanced blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, as well as driver attention alert and lane keeping assistance.
New to the range is Mazda's G-vectoring Control, a system designed to smooth the g-forces you feel when cornering, braking or accelerating.
The cabin is classy and sophisticated without being fussy or cluttered. Mazda's info display screen and rotary dial in the centre console are simple to use. The leather seats have bolstering that's secure but not too restrictive, while the rear seating positions are comfortable enough for a longer journey.
The 138kW 2.5-litre engine and six-speed automatic in the Astina provide plenty of performance. The maximum 250Nm comes in at lower revs than its 2.0-litre stablemate, giving it generous mid-range torque and superb driving manners. Fuel consumption is another strength; we recorded 7.0L/100km around the city and 6.9L/100km on the highway – close to the claimed combined figure of 6.0L/100km.
The Mazda3 has often been criticised for higher road noise, but it's not a gripe that can be levelled at this latest iteration. There's also more kit across the range and a price drop of up to $1550. Though not cheap for a small car, the Astina is the best Japanese car I've driven this year.