FIRST DRIVE: 2019 Mazda3 “Japan’s Art of Motion”

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Bermaz Motor Trading Sdn Bhd (Mazda Malaysia) just launched their latest 2019 Mazda3 last week and from what we can see just by its appearance, there will be quite a few buyers willing to cough up some serious cash to get one of the babies parked on their driveways (or designated parking lot). The question now is; does it drive as good as it looks?

To find out, Bermaz Motor organised a very special test drive experience for members of the media to find out if the fourth generation Mazda3 has really been improved or if it’s just more on the looks. The event was held at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) and we were given the opportunity to try different variants on the track as well as an obstacle course to sample its upgraded Mazda G-Vectoring Control Plus Technology (GVC).

Our first session was covered in the parking lot where the event organisers have prepared a simple obstacle course consisting of a slalom course and swift lane changing course. The main highlight to test here was the Mazda3’s GVC system which work in unison with the latest Mazda Skyactiv-Body, Skyactiv-Chassis, and of course, the Skyactiv-G engine and transmission.

All variants of the new 2019 Mazda3 are equipped with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Traction Control System (TCS), Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD), plus many more to assist in its overall dynamic driveability. Paired with a chassis that’s engineering to fit with the human anatomy like a glove, the new Mazda3 in theory should provide confident driving and agile handling.

As a result, the Mazda3 handled exceptionally well during the obstacle course. We particularly enjoyed how stable the ride was especially in the Mazda3 Liftback model which offered little to no body roll where all occupants in the car (even those sitting at the back) felt at ease even when it was thrown left and right.

The Mazda3 Sedan version was just as good apart from requiring a slightly more steering control due to all the extra mass at the back. We also had the opportunity to compare it to the previous-generation Mazda3 Sedan and although that model was already good to begin with, Mazda managed to improve the car’s ride and handling even further with the fourth gen.

As for its interior, the Mazda3 has been designed to carry more space but in a way to blends with a normal human being’s sitting position and how we naturally move while in a car. Even the position of the cup holders was optimized to ensure that occupants can reach them in more natural manner rather than moving in awkward position that might be distracting while driving.

Being typical Mazda, the seats are always comfortable no matter the model. In the new Mazda3, it was all natural, all the time, for both drivers and passengers. Most people tend to believe that Mazda models have limited interior space, but we felt that Mazda has overcome that with the fourth gen Mazda3 thanks to the optimization of space, light, and flow of the interior. This, we really like.

In short, comfort and sublime handling are the two main focus points where future owners can really look forward to when it comes to driving in the cities or other destinations for their everyday drives. The suspension package was always on point in keeping the car settled. At this point, we were already impressed. What more can you ask for? Mazda said, “We have more!”

Moving towards our hot laps in the track, Mazda pointed out how we should experience the car’s overall improvements in the NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) as well as driving dynamics at high speed. Mazda pointed out how serious they were in designing a car with the highest levels of comfort even when pushed to the max.

We hopped into the 2.0-litre Sedan variant and gave it a go where we were again surprised by how contented it was even during swift acceleration and hard braking. Our friend from Motomalaya.net had quite a good time in his attempts to make the Sedan lose the rear traction but thanks to its new G-Vectoring Control Plus Technology, we were reassured to exit every corner in a safe and controlled manner.

We then hopped into the 1.5-litre Liftback base model. Punching out 116hp and 153Nm (the 2.0-litre has 162hp and 213Nm), it was a pleasant experience driving down the front and back straights as we were able to top it out at around 155km/h.

At first, we thought that the 1.5-litre could use a bit more power, but it makes up for driving dynamics and performance in the corners. The engine-chassis combination was so good that even novice drivers like us were able to consistently maintain proper race lines around the circuit. No dramas or ‘oh sh*t!’ moments whatsoever.

At this point, we can safely assume that more fun and excitement can be experienced with the more powerful 2-0-litre four-banger as it comes with paddle shifters to add even more sportiness into the overall driving experience (although the 1.5-litre was already good proper fun).

When we first saw the price tags (priced from RM139,620 to RM160,059), we thought that it was a tad bit expensive. It was however understandable as all units of the new Mazda3 are CBU models directly imported from Japan and after test driving them in the track, we wouldn’t mind one single bit in paying that amount to get a car that is this good. Watch out Malaysia, there’s a new bad boy in town.

2019 Mazda3 officially launched in Malaysia – From RM139,620

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