Mazda3 Astina Plus ticks all the right boxes plus some

The new Mazda3 Astina Plus has had a few subtle tweaks to make it an even more stylish looking and attractive car. Some of the changes include redesigned bumpers, side skirts and new 18 inch wheels.

Brian Joss – The updated Mazda badge has also been moved slightly. The car attracted lots of attention in the mall parking lot and from the kyk-daars on the road.

Some interesting technology features in the Mazda3 Astina Plus 2-litre auto five-door (hatch) , the test car. It’s called G-Vectoring Control (GVC), which, says Mazda, “enhances the vehicle’s Jinba-Ittai, a sense of connection between car and driver”. What it does is control engine torque based on the driver’s behaviour: steering and acceleration, which improves handling and results in a better ride for the passengers. It also helps to eliminate under-steer, especially round the bends, when you feel it, otherwise you wouldn’t know it was there. The Mazda3 is the first of the new generation models to have this driver aid and it will be introduced to the others in the range and is part of the brand’s SkyActiv technology.

The Mazda3 Astina Plus 2-litre auto five-door: more stylish and more attractive. Picture: Quickpic

Other features that are standard on the Mazda3 include keyless starting, a lane departure warning, lane keep assist, brake assist, driver attention alert and blind spot monitoring. Which all work. There’s a lot of beeping, especially when you stray over the lane, or when another car is about to overtake you, then a small icon also appears in the wing mirror. There is also a reverse camera, which works well, even in the dark, and rear park distance control.

Inside, the cabin is neat and it now has a Perspex heads up display showing your speed, which is a good idea as the figures on the speedometer are not always easy to read. A friend who owns an updated Mazda2 also has a heads up, except that it shows an icon indicating the speed zone you’re in: 60km.

70km or 120km. So with due diligence you won’t exceed the designated speed.

It could be incorporated into the next Mazda3 or perhaps it wasn’t yet activated as the car had that brand-new smell.

The lines of the instrument cluster are clean and through the 7-inch touchscreen you have access to a number of functions including navigation, Bluetooth, and vehicle settings, which you can also change through the controls on the steering wheel. You can also make phone calls and set the speed control. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to operate it.

The BOSE sound system is excellent and the music from the popular Cape Town radio station came through loud and clear and the old favourites 828 airs was entertainment enough. Even when we had it on loud there was no discernible distortion of the sound.

The leather seats give plenty of support and it is easy to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the electrically adjustable driving seat and steering wheel which you can move for rake and reach. You can also adjust the lumbar support which is a plus in the flagship Astina Plus. All controls are close to hand and easy to operate as is the climate control.

It has a boot capacity of 308 litres, and though it is small, like many in the range, there’s space enough for shopping bags or holiday luggage.

There’s also the added benefit of the usual 60/40 split by folding the back seats flat. Talking of space, unless you’re exceptionally tall, you should be comfortable enough in the rear.

But how does it drive? If you’re expecting high octane performance you will be disappointed. The Mazda3 has a normally aspirated engine so there is no turbocharger. It puts out 121kW with 210Nm@4 000rpm. The hatch, according to Mazda, reaches 100km/h in 9 seconds and claimed fuel consumption is 5.9l/100km. However, I recorded figures of nearly 7litres/100km driving in all sorts of conditions across the Peninsula. My test route included trips from Milnerton to Fish Hoek, Hout Bay, Stellenbosch, a few shopping jaunts and a slow drive to the Alpaca Farm near Wellington, on the Suid Agter Paarl Road, where we chilled in the warm, wintry sunshine over hot coffee, seeing the weavers at their looms and watching the Alpacas behave like lawnmowers.

And hearing the occasional quack of a duck.

But I digress. The ride and handling are excellent and you hardly feel the bumps. The front-wheel drive is equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission and there are shift paddles behind the steering wheel if you want to select the gears manually. But it’s an automatic so why would you want to use them. You can also choose sports mode which, because it holds gears for longer, you can use it to help improve acceleration.

The Mazda3 Astina Plus is made for cruising. On the open road it’s happy at the legal limit and if you want to overtake you can do so in safety. In my opinion it lacks a bit of oomph at the start but once you get up to speed it will stay there without any undue fuss.

What you need to know: Mazda3 Astina Plus 2.0 litre: engine,1998cc four-cylinder petrol; power, 121kW at 6 000rpm; torque: 210Nm at 4 000rpm, transmission, six-speed automatic; Mazda claims it can go from 0-100km/h in

9 seconds; it has a top speed of 198km/h, fuel economy of 5.9l/100km and CO2, 140g/km.

What’s not to like about the Mazda3 2.0 Astina Plus 5 door. I thought it lacked a bit of punch at the get-off but once the Astina Plus gets going it seems a minor criticism. I liked the ride quality of this premium hatch, the comfort, the handling, its cruising capability and its stylish looks.

Next time I head for Joburg I may just ask Mazda to give me one for a long distance test . I think it will be just the ticket. Now that General Motors is pulling out of South Africa along with its new Opel Astra, the Astina Plus is the obvious choice , even though the Volkswagen Golf and Renault

Megane are in the same market segment.  

In the end the Astina Plus ticks all the boxes and then some.

The Mazda3 Astina Plus comes standard with a three-year/unlimited km warranty, three years of roadside assistance, a three-year service plan and a five-year corrosion warranty. It carries a price tag of R410 400 but check with your nearest dealer.

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