Premium with a touch of retro, Mazda 3 Astina plus, excels.

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By: Charles Molefe

Very often we tend to overlook products from certain manufacturers, this is mainly caused by peer pressure, ignorance and very often a lack of creativity. When Mazda Southern Africa confirmed my booking for a couple of cars, I, at first, was pleased, but a little confused, what could I expect from the land of the rising sun? 

My first attempt at bonding with Mazda’s product offering was the Mazda 3 sedan, also known as the 2.0 Astina plus auto. I had been given the flagship model, so, yes, a good start to this relationship. Upon my first gaze, I was in two minds, it looked very subtle, yet sporty, a combination that will attract prospective buyers. 

Aesthetics 

As most of you will know, the first step is to ensure that you are set in comfortably, I proceeded by checking my mirrors aligning the seat and ready for a week-long test. The test vehicle was clad in leather, including seats that compete very well with premium sedans. The support and adjustability they have, adds to the pleasures of being in the pilot seat, somehow, Mazda has managed to pull off a premium look without the hefty price tag, this is something a number of manufacturers struggle to achieve. On the leather steering wheel, you have access to audio and cruise control functionality, this does come in handy as you will always have your hands on the wheel and eyes focused on the road.

Another thrilling aspect of the Mazda3 is the heads up display, the (HUD) provides you with vital information such as the current speed limit, cruise control speed indicator and a very nifty brake alert system, this system notifies you when you are approaching an obstruction at a slightly high rate of knots,  this is linked to the autonomous braking system that will prime the brakes and will eventually take over when it senses no response from the driver, so, basically this vehicle will come to a dead stop to avoid a collision. The Astina is laden with technology and it often leaves me wondering why we don’t see more of them on the road? Why do people go for an alternative when you can have a vehicle with all the bells and whistles with the additional benefit of great reliability?

One aspect that had me confused was the climate control system, the variance between 28 degrees and the highest setting was extreme, one moment you are experiencing a soft breeze coming from the vents and then a little adjustment slots you into an oven, perhaps I was doing something wrong but I did try to balance it out, but to my dismay, I failed and dismally so, I think I may need a lesson from the powers that be.

Newer cars have routed to go with intelligent lighting systems, in most cases, they are paired to LED lights that brighten up the road ahead, with ease. The Astina excels in this department, you also have the added benefit of automating the entire process. The transition between high and low beam is so seamless, even the most sophisticated lighting systems will struggle to compete.

In the Astina, you are placed in the fortunate position of having a Bose sound system, with no less than 9 speakers, this is by far the most satisfying sound system in this segment. Linked to the dash-mounted infotainment screen you are able to pair your mobile phone to the onboard Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, applications. Additionally, you have the option to link multiple Bluetooth devices, plug in your Aux cable and even a USB port to play your tunes, you would really be nitpicking if you were to complain about anything entertainment-based. The infotainment screen doubles up as the vehicles controls centre which has a customisable interface with the option to control most of the car’s settings.

It would be a sin not to mention the vehicles ability to carry a family and its luggage in comfort and style. I had a couple of the older generation in for a shortish trip around Gauteng and all I heard the entire trip, was, wow, I am so comfortable, when did Mazda start making such exceptional cars? This is something I seldom heard whilst having some other vehicles on test, so, if you are looking for a family vehicle that will cater to most of your needs, you are looking in the right place.

Performance 

The Astina is powered by a punchy, smooth, yet frugal naturally aspirated 2.0L engine, producing 121kW of power and 210Nm of torque, you may easily look at those figures and laugh away the performance prospects of this vehicle, that would be a grave mistake. One problem I find with many motorists is, they deem performance as a single-minded aspect of the entire equation, straight-line performance is not the ultimate measure of a car. We are constantly presented with tight and twisty roads, more often than not this requires either the driver to step up or the car to perform. I can verify that I was never in a situation that the Astina could not handle, this is most probably down to the G- Vectoring technology employed by Mazda, the system continuously monitors your steering inputs, throttle position and the angle of attack, basically, it ensures that you don’t end up in a ditch after your first attempt at being a hero. The great thing is that no additional hardware is added, this does help in keeping the weight down to a minimum.

Summary 

My last experience in a Mazda was when they had the partnership with Ford, back in the days of the MX6 and TX5, both cars had very high revving 2.5L V6’s. Their aural competencies would excite many members of the public, I am very glad to announce that those days are dead and buried, you now have the latest technology and comfort being presented in an aesthetically pleasing piece of machinery. It is very difficult to fault this vehicle in any way, perhaps the climate control system could be a bit more intuitive and understanding to my needs but I highly suspect that with more time I would have figured it out eventually.

To wrap it up, I find that my week-long experience with the Astina will forever be etched as a memory of pain free, blissful motoring that I will never forget, I think many manufacturers will struggle to hold a candle to the Mazda 3, it serves a highly competitive segment and I will gladly say that it sits amongst the top tier in this segment.

Pricing and warranty

From: R269 000 – R 427 000.

3-Year Mazda Unlimited Kilometre Warranty.

3-Year Mazda Care Unlimited Roadside Assistance.

3-Year Mazda Care Unlimited Kilometre Service Plan.

Gottagged rating 8.5 / 10

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