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Brief drive of the new Mazda 3 leaves us impressed


At an event for automotive media in St Kilda last week, Chasing Cars was afforded a brief opportunity to drive the 2019 Mazda 3 on Australian roads two months ahead of the car’s national launch, scheduled for April.

We spent ten minutes behind the wheel of the Mazda 3 G25 Astina hatchback, equipped with an automatic gearbox. This is the highest trim of the new 3 – two examples were brought into the country early. The G25 Astina will list for $37,990 (driveaway pricing not yet available).

If you haven’t read our rundown of the 2019 Mazda 3 prices and range, you can do so by following the aforementioned link.

This initial drive was intended as a brief taste tester only, so we’ll keep our impressions appropriately short. We covered a few kilometres of strictly urban driving, reaching speeds of 70km/h. We negotiated a few roundabouts, crossed Melbourne’s rutted tram tracks, took off from a few traffic lights, and basically aimed for every pothole we could.

Based on those circumstances, initial impressions of this hatch are good. The new 3, which sports a very premium interior for the mainstream segment, presents well. The size is familiar though it wears a radical new exterior design that works better in reality than in photographs. The driver’s seat is mounted sportily low and now has standard thigh angle adjustment – we like that. The driving position seems good.

Starting the carry-over 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine hints at the refinement we hope to find over a more general drive. The 139kW/252Nm atmo four-cylinder starts up almost silently and there is little to no vibration at idle. Over the drive, it is clear significant noise insulation has been built into this vehicle: it’s a far cry from Mazdas even five years ago, which carried a consistent reputation for noisiness.

We’re familiar with both engines offered on the new 3 from other applications in the Mazda range: there’s this 2.5-litre, and a lower-end, 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre unit. The 2.5 feels adequately torquey in town, with the 252Nm of shove arriving at a (low for an atmo engine) 4,000rpm. It’s not as perky as a Volkswagen Golf’s 250Nm turbo 1.4-litre, but it will get the job done. The 2.0-litre? We’ll wait and see.

Happily, the steering and neutral handling on this limited drive present as barely changed from the existing car, which should keep those characteristics close to the top of the segment. The outgoing 3 corners brilliantly. We hope to find the same on the new car.

Despite Mazda receding from independent rear suspension (in the outgoing 3) to a torsion bar setup in the new shape, the ride quality felt pretty comfortable. Bump absorption seems quality. The damper stroke has been lengthened and cushioned, Mazda say.

Vision is a worry out the rear three-quarter due to the substantial bodywork in that region.

The G25 Astina was the only vehicle available to drive: the sedan, 2.0-litre, and manual were not available, and we look forward to driving them on the car’s national launch next month.