Over here in Malaysia, the C-segment hatchback is dominated by the continental brands and there are very few representatives from Asia. The latest entrant in this segment comes from Mazda, with their CKD Mazda3 hatchback.
Since the first generation Mazda3 went on sale in Malaysia, buyers were able to choose between the sedan or the hatchback bodystyle and the trend continues to the second and the latest third generation Mazda3. Understandably the general take up of the hatchback is not as many if compared to the sedan, but we can still see them on the roads more often that we thought.
We first saw the bobtailed Mazda3 in the land of smiles and we were kind of envious that we didn’t get the sexyback Mazda3 here in Malaysia. Coincidentally around that time, Bermaz Motor Sdn Bhd announced that the hatchback is coming to Malaysia and we couldn’t be any more pleased with the news. It took the hatchback more than a year before making its debut here, and it did so in conjunction with the introduction of the locally assembled version of the Mazda3.
|Name||Mazda3 2.0 SkyActiv Hatchback
|Engine||1,998 cc 4-Cylinder|
|Max Power||162 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Max Torque||210 Nm @ 4,000 rpm|
Introduced together with the CKD sedan, the hatchback shares the same powertrain with the sedan. Unlike the sedan which is offered in two different trims GL and High, the hatchback only comes in the Mid trim. It sits between the GL-spec sedan and High-spec sedan, but the hatchback shares the same price tag as the High-spec sedan at RM 120,705.30.
The Mazda3 hatchback is every bit as the Mazda3 sedan from the nose all the way back to the rear doors, therefore most people would ignore it at the first sight thinking it’s the Mazda3 sedan until they catch a second glance to witness the tail that has been cut short.
The KODO design language is still being used here. Like the sedan, the upright grille houses the front number plate inside, and it’s underlined by a dash of chrome that extends to the dynamic Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED DRLs. Foglamps are present here too, just below the turn indicators that have been relegated out from the main headlamp units.
My favourite bit of KODO element is how the bonnet line arches towards the doors. This is by far the most successful trick to make an FWD car mimics the stance of an RWD car, by giving it the impression of a long bonnet and cab-rearwards look like the BMW 1 Series hatchback.
Not only that, the crossing shoulder lines together with a rising swage line add some zest to the side that would otherwise be bland without them. You don’t get chrome door handles, but there is some chrome strip that runs alongside the lower edge of the side windows. Meanwhile under the wheel arches house pretty 18-inch alloys wrapped in 215/45 R18 Toyo Proxes T1 Sport tyres.
It’s after the pair of rear doors where everything gets compressed into a mean and racy rear end. A shark’s fin antenna emerges on top, while the roof ends to a sharp integrated spoiler with LED brake lights. Initially I wasn’t quite sure of the pert rump because it appears to be too cluttered especially the middle part where the number plate garnish bridges the LED tail lights, but the more I lay my eyes on it the more I fell in love with the backside (of the car, of course).
There’s some naughty attitude going on at the back. Unlike the sedan, the hatchback isn’t shy to let a pair of chrome-tipped tailpipes exposed under that two-layer rear bumper. Although I must say the Meteor Grey Mica paintjob on our test unit is rather unflattering compared to the white one we spotted in the showroom earlier. Just don’t get me started on the gorgeous Soul Red Metallic that is now missing from the colour options for the CKD batch of Mazda3!
If you’ve sat in the Mazda3 sedan before, it’s the same episode here in the hatchback. The dashboard has been simplified whereby most of the controls have been grouped into the MZD Connect System displayed on the 7-inch tablet-like touchscreen monitor. The intuitive menu is accessed either by using the Commander Control Switch on the center console or by tapping your finger on the screen itself. All that’s left on the dashboard is a trio of rotary knobs for the climate control and a CD slot deep down below.
The interior is upholstered mainly in fabric, but some bits are wrapped in leather, such as the steering wheel and the handbrake lever. Glossy black trim is used on the center console and on the dashboard, while faux carbon adorns the steering wheel spokes and the window switch surrounds on each door.
The steering is equipped with shift paddles and controls for the audio system on the left spoke, but as you can see from the bare right spoke, it means that the Mazda3 hatchback still doesn’t come with cruise control like on the CBU sedan we drove last year. Also similar to the CBU sedan, the instrument binnacle in the hatchback is adopting the “Type-B” style with a central analog speedo and a small digital tacho in the left panel.
The seats adjust manually, and the two outer back ones have ISOFIX anchor points with the backrests that split 60/40 and fold flat to extend the boot space from 308 litres to 1,263 litres. You’ll be pleased to read that the rear passenger space isn’t compromised from the sedan. Sharing the same 2,700 mm wheelbase as the sedan, leg room and even head room is almost indistinguishable from the sedan.
As you would expect, the cabin practicalities follow the sedan too, there’s an overhead sunglasses compartment, spacious (but flimsy) glovebox, eight cupholders, and if you peek under the front center armrest you’ll see a deep compartment with dual USB ports, an SD card slot, and a 12v power outlet. Six airbags are fitted as standard, and all five occupants get three-point safety belts.
The 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G is currently the sole powerplant for the entire Mazda3 range in Malaysia, so you get 162 hp and 210 Nm of torque spinning the front wheels via a six-speed SkyActiv Drive automatic transmission. The four-cylinder mill will propel the hatchback from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.8 seconds and all the way to the top speed of 210 km/h.
It has i-stop start/stop system as standard but it loses the i-eloop regenerative braking system from the CBU Mazda3 sedan. There’s no official figure for the fuel consumption, but it shouldn’t stray too far from the CBU sedan’s figure of 6.5 l/100 km.
Upon thumbing the starter button the SkyActiv-G can sound somewhat raspy when started in a cold morning, but it only does that for a few seconds before it settles to a calm idle. There’s bonnet insulator this time round, so the 4-cylinder din is reduced by some margin but it can still get rather vocal when pushed.
I can recall how the CBU Mazda3 sedan we drove last year handles so well and this CKD hatchback is no exception. City driving in the hatchback is pleasant and low speed ride is never harsh despite the low profile rubbers, so you can go about your normal driving as you would in any smaller-sized city runabout B-segment hatchback. If you fear the view back is restricted due to the small rear window, you’d be glad to find out that all Mazda3 including the hatchback is equipped with a reverse camera as standard to accompany the reverse sensors.
On the highways the hatchback will cruise calmly in top gear, with very little external noise seeping inside the cabin, and it’s partly thanks to the mentioned insulation under the bonnet. The only drawback is the lack of cruise control, which is only available on the High-spec sedan.
It’s when you take the Mazda3 to the trunk roads that the SkyActiv chassis delivers. Even without any sports mode to choose from, the hatchback is still able to entertain with its handling that is equally as sharp as the exterior styling. Body lean is present on fast sweeping bends but it feels planted and you will rarely find yourself wanting for more grip or running wide in the corners.
The six-speed auto is not the fastest shifting gearbox but it trumps the other Japanese C-segment rivals with their five-speed auto or the lamentable CVT. It downshifts ever willingly with the slightest flex of the accelerator pedal and as soon as you ease off the throttle it’ll quickly settle to the highest gear possible to reduce fuel consumption.
The lighter mass at the back would make you believe the hatchback handles better than the sedan. We also had a go in the High-spec sedan. Driven back to back, the hatchback highlights the sedan’s slightly nervous tail, but this is only apparent when you take on long winding curves faster than necessary.
On low speed squiggly roads you’d be hard pressed to tell the two apart, both will entertain you with their lovely steering and their sense of sure-footedness. Both the hatchback and the sedan will accelerate with vigour although the sedan felt a wee bit restrained due to the fact that it’s barely clocking 500 km on the odometer during our stint.
IS IT FOR YOU?
If you’re in the market for a C-segment hatchback, Mazda3 hatchback posed as a great value next to the continental rivals. It’s not only the cheapest among the continental contenders, the build quality is fairly reasonable and more importantly it drives well too. However, if you’re looking for something that’s well-equipped, the Mazda3 hatchback may not be able to fulfill you. At least the safety equipment isn’t shabby, you will still get the usual ABS with BA and EBD, DSC, TCS, and six airbags as standard.
We’re lining up the Mazda3 hatchback with two of Europe’s better challengers, Peugeot’s all-new 308 Turbo and Ford Focus 2.0 Sport+.
The Focus is getting quite long in the tooth compared to the Mazda3 and the 308, and the facelift has already been revealed in Europe a few months back so you might want to wait for a little while before it reaches here. Even though the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine still produces decent figures here. It’s generously equipped too with six airbags, dual-zone climate control, Active Shutter Grille, Active City Stop, and Active Park Assist.
The 308 may only have a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine but it’s turbocharged and dishes out the highest amount of torque here. It’s packed to the brim with features too. It includes the full LED headlamps, huge 9.7-inch touchscreen head unit, panoramic glass roof, as well as Dynamic Cruise Control.
|Mazda3 2.0 SkyActiv Hatchback
||Peugeot 308 THP
||Ford Focus 2.0 Sport+
|Type||Inline 4-cylinder||Inline 4-cylinder, turbocharged||Inline 4-cylinder|
|Type||Electric power-steering||Electric power-steering||Electric power-steering|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic||6-speed dual-clutch|
|Type||Front/Rear||MacPherson strut/Multi-link||MacPherson strut/Torsion Beam||MacPherson strut/Multi-link|
|Front||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|Rear||Solid disc||Solid disc||Solid disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyres||215/45 R18||225/40 R18||215/50 R17|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||L||308||470||316|
|Tank Capacity||51 litres||53 litres||55 litres|
|0 – 100km/h||sec||8.8||9.4||N/A|
WILL I BUY IT?
The Mazda3 hatchback is a great alternative to the continental hatchbacks, with its sweet handling and not to mention the attractive looks. Unfortunately against the competitors it falls short of being a complete product. The Mid trim is good but still not good enough to take on the rivals. Until the Mazda3 hatchback is available in High spec, it’s pretty hard to recommend when others offer more kit for just a little bit more over the Mazda3 hatchback’s asking price.