THE NEW BENCHMARK MEASURE
Faced with the plurality of products and the multitude of sources of information available to consumers, manufacturers cannot afford to be only good at what they do. They have to be very good at it. By equipping its new Mazda3 with all-wheel drive and a refinement that blurs the line between luxury and general-purpose compacts, Mazda has clearly understood it. This new and fourth generation of the compact born in 2003 is initially presented in an evolutionary design compared to its predecessor. Still offered as a hatchback (named Sport) and sedan (the one we test), it is a natural extension of the Kodo design. This translates into a heptagon grille with great visual impact and a low, well-seated muzzle. The sharper, concave headlamps lean on the extension of the grille line, which forms an unbreakable whole. From the side, we perceive a nice balance of proportions in the sedan.
The hatchback livery, with its very wide rear pillar, presents a less happy rendering. There is a lot of sophistication to be seen throughout, especially when it comes to the GT accents that sport 18-inch 10-spoke wheels. The pillar of its opulent identity, however, remains undoubtedly its interior. The comparison may sound cliché or even seem overused, but the initial impression is reminiscent of many Audi products. The low, two-layered dashboard is not only refined and elegant, but also a masterpiece of ergonomics, with its controls positioned just high enough to avoid distractions. Ditto for the electric side window buttons. The materials used, different flexible textures, are as exemplary in their composition as they are to the touch.
The storage spaces, in the doors and the center console, are neat and surprisingly large. Since nothing is perfect, this Mazda3 could be more generous in terms of space for the rear passengers. While waiting for the arrival of the promising Skyactiv-X engine with its spark plug-controlled compression ignition, Mazda is offering two engines carried over from the previous series. They are two naturally aspirated four-cylinders, one 2L, the other 2.5L. All-wheel drive can only be combined with the latter. Producing 186 hp and equipped with deactivation of the displacement, this 2.5 L has a very interesting character. Much quieter than before and smoother, it displays confidence, but remains less lively at low revs than its turbocharged rivals. All-wheel drive is unfortunately not offered with the excellent manual transmission, but the six-speed automatic does a good job. Proactive, it allowed the average fuel consumption to be estimated at around 8.6 L / 100 km during the test. When Mazda announced that the Mazda3 was swapping its multi-link rear suspension for a torsion beam, some believed its playing identity was in jeopardy. Rest assured, the predicted disaster did not happen, quite the contrary. Technically simpler, so less prone to fail, it frames the behavior of the rear axle very well, even in bumpy bends. In the spring backdrop of the test, it felt like the four-wheel drive did a good job of distributing torque, making corner exits smooth. It is supported by an all-new chassis particularly well primed by Mazda. Rigid at will, it allows us to have fun while negotiating with the harshness of our road network. The steering is a precision instrument, but could be slightly more direct. The latest generation of Mazda’s infotainment system, Mazda Connect, has never been seen as an example to follow. His new vintage, launched in this Mazda3, is a big step forward, but deserves some adjustments. First, the flowers.
Much more elegant and much faster, it simplifies navigation. The GPS function is also well designed. That said, Mazda has positioned the screen - which can be controlled by a thumbwheel and is no longer tactile - further away from the driver and front passenger, which, despite its8.8 inches, could interfere with reading the characters. for some people. Also, it forces you to multiply certain manipulations, such as when the time comes to tune in to a radio station. In addition, it integrates the essential Apple CarPlay and Android Auto applications as standard. With its refinement that competes without embarrassment with models from so-called more “noble” lines, this 2019 Mazda3 is undoubtedly the most complete compact ever composed by the Japanese manufacturer.
Considering Mazda’s modest footprint in the automotive arena, it is all the more a feat. Whether in terms of driveability, soundproofing or new optional all-wheel drive, it becomes a much more inviting alternative to many tasteless small crossovers. The GS livery, which offers all-wheel drive as an option for $ 1,700, is also the one to favor for its price-equipment ratio. The total bill, however, is higher than the older generation by almost $ 2,000 on average.
Employing a wealth of data from both the use of the wipers, the outside temperature and the angle of a curve, all-wheel drive, which favors the front wheels, constantly adjusts the distribution of torque.
With its very wide rear pillars, the hatchback livery (Sport) offers rather poor rear and three-quarter rear visibility, a source of irritation not present on the sedan.
Mazda has made it a point of honor for several years to focus on driving ergonomics, and this Mazda3 is a prime example of that with an excellent driving position.
Starting with the GS livery, Mazda offers adaptive cruise control, blind spot sensors and emergency braking assistance with pedestrian detection.
The braking is as powerful as you want and well modulated, a big step forward compared to the previous generation.