My first exposure to the Mazda3(23) was as a teenager when a friend had the use of his mom’s four-door hatch automatic. We went everywhere in that car. The beach, drive-in or just cruising, it was a lifeline to the adventure-hungry trio of social misfits that we were.
Three more different teenagers it is probably not possible to conceive. Between us, we were all over the map in terms of growing up, personal experiences and outlook on life. We all had one thing in common – when the wheels on that primer-yellow beater with the red Gonk on the grille were rolling, we couldn’t get much happier.
If the drive got a bit long, we could always jump into the back seat and enjoy a massage since the rear suspension vibrated “quite noticeably” at anything above 80km/h.
What I drove recently can’t really be compared to that teenage memory – except perhaps in terms of the manufacturer name. It still made me smile and took me for a drive down memory lane – to a time both far more and much less complicated than today.
In terms of interior, the Mazda3 strongly resembles that of the Mazda2 which I also drove recently. There’s the same colour information screen mounted at the top of the dashboard, the same jog wheel layout between the seats to control it and a similar interior trim featuring black leather with red piping. It also featured the keyless entry and start system and also locked the vehicle automatically when you walk away.
Actually, both vehicles were supplied in the same colour as well.
What the Mazda3 adds, in addition to the extra space, both for occupants and in terms of packing – is a bit of theatre.
Above the instrument binnacle is a little Head-Up Display (HUD) which shows your speed on a screen visible only to the driver. Every time you start or turn off the car, this screen folds up or down. It is a nice touch.
One thing that irked me about both the Mazda2 and Mazda3 is the locking mechanism. You need some pretty agile ninja skills to do the twist-click move required to lock the car, with the swivel switch located in the door handle.
That aside, though you could be hard-pressed to fault the Mazda3. Strong, bold design, sporty looks, it feels good to drive and handles well, comfortable interior and very practical.
Like other models in the Mazda stable, the Mazda3 is no stranger to success. In 2014 it was awarded the Family Car of the Year title in the wonderfully named SCOTY (Scottish Car of the Year) Awards. In 2015 it was named the National Business Review’s Supreme Car of the Year in New Zealand and also the AA and New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild Car of the Year. Later in 2015, it was also named Best Hatchback of the Year at the Wheels Car of the Year ceremony in Dubai.
In May of this year, Mazda announced it had built five million Mazda3 models worldwide. It is only the second Mazda to achieve these production numbers since … the Mazda 323.
There are two basic flavours to the Mazda3 (hatch and sedan) available in South Africa. A choice between a 1.6 (77kW, 144Nm) or a 2.0 (121kW, 210Nm) – both petrol. There are four gearbox choices to go with it – a five or six-speed manual and a four or six-speed automatic. Of the lot, the 2.0 automatic is actually claimed as the lightest on fuel – 5.9 litres per 100km.
I rather enjoyed my time with the Mazda3 hatch. Perhaps in time to come future young drivers will find their own pleasure behind the wheel and have their own adventures to be shared.