Mazda 3 XD Astina Diesel - Driven

Not having driven a Mazda 3 for several years, and then only briefly, it was an interesting experience driving two versions of the latest model. Being one of the best-selling cars in Australia for a few years now, the 3 has a lot to live up to.

I should say from the start, I was thoroughly impressed. As would anyone be, taking a look at one in a showroom and a test drive.

The look of the latest 3 takes its styling cues from a very attractive big sibling, the Mazda 6, the reduction is size thankfully not making a cartoon character, but a well balanced, nicely detailed shape. It's certainly more attractive than most of its opposition. Inside, the good design continues, with a functional, attractive cabin and dashboard, with easy to understand and operate controls. It's a clean and uncomplicated dashboard - all credit to Mazda's designers here. Anyone could jump into a Mazda 3 and drive straight off.

I drove two versions, initially the 3 Astina SP25, then the newly launched diesel Astina. The first car impressed me with its solid, quality build and decent on-road feel. But I wasn't ready for how impressive the turbodiesel was. What a performer! This car is almost up there with GTi type performance, and at a much more accessible price point.

Using the excellent diesel engine already seen in the 6 and CX-5, in this lighter, smaller car works a treat. Although it is just under the SP25 petrol engine's power delivery, 170Nm of additional torque makes a big difference.

All Mazda 3 models are very competitively equipped, in a sector of the market which is more competitive than any other right now. The Head Up Display on the XD is great to see in a car which isn't over $100,000.

Features in the top of the range XD include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, Alcantara seat facings (added to the Astina's leather trim) and even Active Engine Sound System which adds a synthesised sporty note through the car's audio speakers... The XD Astina also has the i-Loop Energy Recovery system as used in the larger 6, reducing alternator drag and fuel consumption by storing electric charge in an on board capacitor. There's also a sunroof, powered drivers seat and (to me, questionable) auto dimming headlights all standard fitments.

It's great to see how far Mazda has come with these cars - taking the challenge right up to the market-leading Volkswagen Golf.
Word needs to get out there about what a brilliant package this new diesel model is...

 Mazda3 XD Astina Diesel
 Engine: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel
 Transmission: 6-speed manual (optional 6-speed automatic)
 Power: 129kW
 Torque: 420Nm
 Performance: 0-100km/h 7.7 seconds
 Price: $40,230 at time of review
 Text & photos - Paul Blank (copyright)