Road Test Mazda3 XD Astina
CONFIDENCE with a capital "T". That stands for Targa.
On some of the most challenging roads used in the famed Targa rally in Tasmania, Mazda this week launched a diesel derivative of its popular '3 hatchback.
Starting from just above $40,000 this is the new halo offering among Mazda's biggest selling car range Down Under. Given its pricing there is little the muscular little XD Astina goes without, boasting some of the best safety kit around and genre leading torque figures.
Materials and a classy layout have a hint of European pedigree but with Japanese build quality.
The leather trimmed pews with suede inserts are refined, with a spongy feeling dash and an attractive 17.7cm colour touch-screen mounted on the dash.
That screen houses all the key operations,like sat nav, stereo and various other trinkets like fuel consumption figures. Some shortcut buttons help make easy work of finding your way around the system although some operations are a little clunky (like switching radio bands) yet everything is mostly straightforward.
Mazda has paid particular attention to keeping the driver's eyes on the road and the XD has the excellent head-up display. A small glass pane pops up from the dash which features speed and sat nav directions. It's a brilliant function, and can be seen with polarised glasses unlike some similar systems, which is particularly handy given the diesel's ability to quickly reach our national speed limit.
On the road
Flexing its muscle is the XD Astina's forte. Strong and burly, it really gives the compact hatch some serious punch with peak torque available from a low 2000rpm.
Remarkably smooth and linear in its power delivery it has the ability to get up and boogie in the bends or slow dance on the highway.
This is the same engine used in the mid-size Mazda6 and the CX-5 SUV which also means the new '3 gains a "capacitor" system called i-Eloop which uses braking energy to help power the electronics and in turns helps cut fuel use.
Available with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, those which a penchant for driving should opt for the three-pedal derivative. It provides greater feedback to the driver and really enables you to carve up the bends.
Yet there isn't much wrong with the automatic and it manages timely changes with paddle shifters at the ready if you feel inspired.
The steering is well balanced and a quick stint on gravel also proved the XD Astina is adept on the slippery stuff.
Two standout features were the ride quality and sound insulation, helping deliver a beautifully composed driving experience.
What do you get?
Sitting atop the Mazda3 range means the XD gets all the boxes ticked.
There is a long list of standard features, including dual zone air-con, nine speaker Bose sound system, automatic wipers and lights, heated front seats with black leather and suede trim, sat nav, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, keyless entry and push button start.
The Astina also has some awesome safety kit not traditionally available at this level. Along with the six airbags and head-up display is a lane departure warning system which lets you know if you're straying from the white lines. There's a blind spot monitor for peace of mind when changing lanes, and it can alert you of a forward obstruction (both visual and beeping) and can also prime the brakes to help avoid or lessen the impact of an accident.
It can also automatically switch the headlights between high and low beam with a camera detecting oncoming traffic or tail lamps of cars ahead.
Improved internal space means there is more room in the new '3 than the old model. Two adults have enough space in the back seats, while the centre console has two cup holders and each door has an allocation for a small bottle.
Rear seats have a 60-40 fold and the boot is reasonably large for a car of this size.
Our testing drive with some twisty corners and easy highway loping returned about eight litres for every 100km, which is about three litres more than the official average. Figures in the sevens would be achievable.
Insurance shouldn't be too outrageous, while the Mazda3 has lifetime capped price servicing.
Train spotters can differentiate the diesel over its Astina counterparts via the 18-inch alloys, LED fog lamps, a black rear apron and the red accent around the front grille.
There are eight colours available, with the "soul red" the most popular choice across the new '3 range by far.
Mazda is not beating its chest about the new diesel with any outlandish sales predictions. Given the price point the Japanese carmaker sees the XD Astina as cream on the Mazda3 cake.
It's a wonderfully composed hatch, delivering a beautifully comfortable ride backed by an extremely robust and willing engine. Long journeys are an absolute pleasure and you can eat up the kilometres with ease.
Yet at this price point it attracts some interesting competitors, including some sports models which may overshadow the XD's executive looks and long features list with bling and performance.
What matters most
What we liked: Muscular diesel engine seemingly always with power at the ready, impressive features list.
What we'd like to see: Body kit for some extra external pizzazz, slightly lower price to drag it away from sporting opposition.
Servicing and warranty: Backed by a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is capped for the life of the car, average price for the first five services is $337.40. Schedule for servicing is every 10,000km or annually.