It is no surprise that Mazda is moving upmarket – with each new model they introduce, they inch one step closer to challenge the German premium marques with superior build quality and driving dynamics.
Over the weekend, Bermaz held a test drive event for the all-new Mazda 3 at the Sepang Circuit.
The first stint in the all-new Mazda 3 involved us driving the 2.0-litre variant on the track, before changing cars. But we’ll get to that later on.
Right as we exited the pit lane and entered Turn 1, we noticed how easy and natural it was steering the all-new 3.
Point the car into the direction you want, and the front end switches direction with ease, while the rear end, despite featuring a torsion beam configuration, is extremely playful.
Push the Mazda 3 hard enough and it will reward (or punish you, depending on your skills) with some lift-off oversteer. Despite that, everything happened so naturally that it was easy to catch and everything was kept under control.
Then we hopped into the entry 1.5-litre Mazda 3, well aware of the burning question, “Is a 1.5-litre engine sufficient for a C-segment model?”
It certainly is sufficient, as we discovered that acceleration is strong until the 100 km/h mark, but tapers off after 120 km/h, where the 3 struggles to build up more speed.
But where the 1.5-litre Mazda 3 loses in power, it makes up for that with agile and nimble handling.
We experienced that from Turn 1 onwards, as we noted how much lighter the entire car felt. Turn-in is much sharper than the 2.0-litre model, effectively making it a point-and-shoot machine.
As we exited Turn 5 and proceeded to Turn 6, the playful nature of the all-new 3 meant that some lift-off oversteer action was possible, elevating the fun factor of the entry-level model.
Even as we pushed hard into Turn 12, we were amazed by the grip levels provided by the factory tires, which withstood the abuse we threw at it. The Mazda 3 resisted understeer really well, and only broke traction when we deliberately wanted it to break traction.
After the track session, we proceeded to the open air car park area to sample the improved G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus), where Bermaz prepared a previous W176-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class and a F30-generation BMW 3 Series to compare against the all-new 3.
The test course involved an autocross track, where participants can experience GVC in a controlled environment.
Against the harsh-riding Mercedes-Benz A-Class, the all-new Mazda 3 (even when riding on thin 45-series rubbers) offers a more compliant and supple ride. While ride comfort and handling of the F30 3 Series is commendable, the Mazda 3 ups the ante and shows that they can do better, thanks to GVC Plus.
Sure, ride comfort on the F30 3 Series is sublime, but with the addition of GVC Plus in the all-new 3, passengers won’t sway as much, thus allowing for greater comfort levels in the Mazda than the BMW.
At the end of the day, we were genuinely impressed with the all-new Mazda 3.
While almost every car manufacturer is banking on SUVs for their future, Mazda instead pushes the envelope further with the all-new 3, bringing with it an extremely upmarket cabin with high quality materials and a driving experience that rivals what Germany has to offer.
And did we mention how good the hatchback variant looks when finished in Polymetal Grey?
As good as the all-new Mazda 3 is in a controlled environment, how it actually rides on public roads remains to be seen, especially considering that the shock absorbers are on the firm side and the low profile tyres could compromise comfort.
Expect a full review of the all-new Mazda 3 soon.