I am at Mazda Clearwater to test drive the new Mazda 3. Just looking at the sleek exterior design I can already tell it was well worth my wait. The Mazda3 has quietly become one of the country’s top-selling C-segment hatchbacks. It competes against such vehicles as the new Opel Astra and Ford Focus. But, as is usually the case with modern Mazda’s, this product doesn’t follow the current trends on purpose. The new Mazda 3 is making a far bolder statement than ever before, while also taking a considerable step upmarket on the tech and features front.

The elegant newcomer is unashamedly sporty and striking in its appearance, with slim headlights and taillights, a gigantic grille upfront and sloping rooflines. The hatch makes a more dramatic statement with its large, sweeping C-pillar. It’s sleek and sporty looking, where most rivals are quite boxy or bland, and with a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine as opposed to a downsized turbo, the Mazda3 is pitched at a discerning customer looking for near-premium style and luxury.

What we like about the interior of the Mazda3 2.0 Astina is the simple, minimalist design approach Mazda has employed in the car. The interior, much like the exterior, is uncluttered, yet elegant in design. There’s a neat seven-inch touchscreen placed on the upper dashboard and it offers access to a variety of functions such as media, navigation, Bluetooth and vehicle settings. The system is easily navigated using the rotary dial positioned ahead of the center console (a feature typically found on more expensive cars). The new Mazda3 is a more stylish and refined vehicle that’s packed with a whole lot more standard features than before.

The Mazda3 comes with an impressive engine, it offers a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol that comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission. It delivers impressive power of 121 kW and a torque of 210 Nm. Talk about dynamite coming in small packages! It does an impressive 0-100 kph in 10.3 secs and reaches a top speed 198 kph-what a need for speed! And not forgetting the convenience of the fuel efficiency at only 5.9 L/100km

You only have to drive the Mazda3 for a short distance to be impressed with the ride quality. For the most part, the Mazda3 delivered a smooth and comfortable drive over varying surfaces and only on the roughest and bumpiest sections of road did the Mazda3’s underpinnings send jolts through the cabin. It’s smooth, accurate, good-natured, quiet and refined. For a regular hatch it’s rather pleasing.

The Mazda 3 is a family hatch, not an SUV or a crossover or pretending to be something it’s not. Things have been done for the right reasons – not to gain headlines, but to improve quality of life. It’s a human-centric approach. And the result is an easy, good-natured, undemanding car to live with.

By Noni Nchwe