Home' Open Road Sydney North and North West : OR0917 Contents Honeymoon
period is over
Despite a few irks, we still have a
soft spot for the Mazda3 SP25 GT
LONG-TERM TEST (PART 2)
We’ve lived with our long-term test car
for four months and 6000km and it
remains a wonderful daily drive – a sedan
with come-hither looks, comfortable
seats, a smooth drivetrain and a general
sense of luxury that belies its $32,000
price tag. But some small irritants have,
with repetition, become a rash.
The most repeatedly encountered irk
is the infotainment system. It can take an
age to reconnect a phone via Bluetooth
and won’t accept additional commands
while doing so. If you want to switch the
radio station, you have to wait.
While the climate control system is a
common-sense affair (like most things
on the Mazda3), we found that when the
external temperature was 17-18°C, if the
internal temperature was set to 22°C,
the car would still blow cool air into the
cabin, doing nothing to warm the
passengers. It’s a curious quirk, and one
we’ve not come across before.
The position of the centre armrest is
also perplexing. Unless you prefer your
seat in the ‘boy racer’ position, you’ll
struggle to put your elbow on the
armrest comfortably. As an apparent
compromise, the sides of the centre
console are padded, acting as less
suitable surrogate arm rests.
Our biggest issue with the car,
however, is the automatic locking
system. When you exit with the key in
your pocket to walk to the fuel cap or get
a child out the rear seat, the car will lock
itself. While it’s just a small matter of
pressing a button to open it again, by the
fiftieth time it can become quite trying.
Yet, unlike our past two long-termers,
we handed back the Mazda3’s keys with
are real sense of sorrow. Familiarity does
not, in this case, breed contempt – very
much the opposite. – Kris Ashton
Pros: Engine and transmission; comfy
and practical; safety features
Cons: Trim levels inferior to
competitors’; no paddle shifters
THE LAUNCH of the Astra sedan
continues Holden’s expansion of the
nameplate it put on ice back in 2009.
The Astra line-up is expected to play a
big role in Holden’s strategy when local
manufacturing ceases this year.
The Astra sedan is built on GM’s Delta II
platform, shared with the Astra hatch and
recently announced Astra Sportwagen.
Available with both six-speed manual and
automatic transmissions and a 1.4 -litre
four-cylinder turbocharged engine
(110kW/245Nm in manual and 240Nm in
automatic), the sedan has a more sedate
suspension and steering tune, and a
comfort-focused interior, which reflects
Holden’s expectation of older drivers
buying the sedan and younger buyers
being attracted to the hatch.
There are five variants in the Astra
sedan range, starting with the most
basic LS manual, the LS auto, and LS+
auto, LT auto, and top-spec LTZ
automatic. Unlike the hatch, there’s no
option of a larger, more powerful engine.
Pricing starts from $21,990 drive away
for the manual, or $23,990 for the LS
automatic. The LS+ is a shade below
$25,000, while the LT will set you back
$27,990. The top-spec LTZ is advertised
as $29,790 plus on-roads.
Holden’s lead dynamics engineer, Rob
Trubiani, says over 20,000km of testing
was undertaken on a variety of road
surfaces to perfect the steering and
damper tune, mostly at the company’s
Lang Lang proving ground. Rob holds a
record lap at the Nürburgring race track
in a VF Commodore ute so you can
A more comfortable ride separates the sedan from its hatch sibling
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo
Transmission: six-speed manual/auto
Power: 110kW Torque: 245Nm Fuel consumption:
5.8L/100km (claimed) ANCAP: HHHHH
Price: From $21,990 (plus ORC)
imagine my chagrin when I failed to
avoid a Northern Rivers pothole at
55km/h (he helped me change the tyre).
In the sedan you experience a more
sedate and compliant drive compared to
the hatch. You can still give it a kick to get
the small-capacity turbo engine roaring,
but there’s no twitchiness to the steering
and the mildly firm ride has disappeared.
Even the seats are less bolstered to
match the more relaxed place.
We tested it on some flood-damaged
roads in northern NSW, hence the
potholes, but the Astra did a great job of
taking the harshness out of the hits.
Both transmissions are smooth and
neither creates much noise in the cabin.
Tyre noise is almost negligible, too,
which we discover while driving with the
The small car market is increasingly
competitive and the Astra fares incredibly
well on safety features. Only the Subaru
Impreza comes close in this regard. While
the Astra isn’t the most fuel efficient
in the class, it’s a long way from the
worst. It’s also cheaper to service than
comparable models from Mazda, Honda,
Subaru, Hyundai and Ford. Where it falls
short is in trim details – there are hard
plastics throughout the cabin, and only
the top-spec model has climate control
and leather appointed seats.
Holden management admits the
company hasn’t been “winning” lately,
and is keen to turn that around. With
great offerings like the Astra sedan, this
might just happen. – Brendan Batty
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30/8/17 4:58 pm
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