There's a new mild hybrid engine option for the Mazda3, but it doesn't exactly manage to break new ground.

Mazda is a company that has certainly been marching to the beat of its own drum when it comes to its approach to electrification and the internal combustion engine.

Rather than give up on petrol, it’s instead developed the quietly groundbreaking Skyactiv-X compression ignition engine that we’ve found in our testing delivers its promised fuel savings with ease. There’s also only one electric model the company offers – the ultra-niche MX-30 city SUV – and its first plug-in hybrid, the CX-60, is yet to reach Aussie shores.

All this is to say the new engine option that’s been added to the 2022 Mazda3 range seems neither here nor there. Called the G20e M Hybrid, it’s offered exclusively on the Evolve model. Don’t be fooled by the name, though – it’s not a proper hybrid, as that M stands for mild. Cheeky.

The new addition comes with quite a price jump over the standard G20 Evolve. At $32,840 before on-road costs, the G20e charges a whopping $3750 more than the G20 automatic, although the $1500 Vision Technology package that adds a 360-degree camera and other safety tech does come on it as standard. However, it’s worth noting that it is the first in the class to offer mild hybrid tech.

On paper, the outputs of this new 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol unit are identical to those of the base G20 engine – 114kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4000rpm. However, with the addition of the 24-volt mild hybrid system, it claims to use just 5.9L/100km in the sedan tested here and 6.0L/100km in the Mazda3 hatch.

The G20e is also only offered with a six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive; all other Mazda3 variants offer a six-speed manual except the range-topping X20 which sees the option dropped for 2022. That’s rather ironic, given the Skyactiv-X engine was more economical with the stick-shift.

It should also be noted that there’s a new Evolve SP grade for 2022 which comes exclusively with the G25 engine and gives the Mazda3 the murdered-out look with a host of black accents. A few colour changes round out the 2022 model year update.

Given this, the Mazda3 G20e Evolve feels just like it did back when it launched in 2019, but that’s certainly no bad thing as the Mazda3 has always felt as though it’s punching above its price point.

Although it only features cloth seats, they look a classy brown which gives the cabin a bit of subtle vibrance. The leather that features on the dashboard, armrests, and door cards, meanwhile, is a dead-ringer for what you’ll find in a Lexus.

Admittedly, some of the Mazda’s tech is starting to show its age. For instance, the instrument cluster isn’t fully digital and there’s only a smaller 7.0-inch display between mechanical dials. The infotainment system still doesn’t have a touchscreen either, with it controlled exclusively using the big dial and buttons ahead of the shifter. While additions like a wireless phone charger would be nice at this point as well, there’s nothing exactly wrong with any of the cabin tech, so I’ll let it slide.

On the topic of the luxurious interior feel, it should also be said that the Mazda3 sedan’s looks are holding up splendidly in 2022. This is one classy-looking car in sedan form, especially so for its size and price point.

But it’s all about the drive when it comes to this review, as the G20e engine is what we’re all here for. With high-RPM power and torque peaks, it’s unsurprisingly quite subdued at lower revs – it doesn’t exactly feel muscular, but there’s just enough there for it to feel ideally suited to city traffic.

The six-speed auto does a fine job of going through gears when driving in a relaxed manner, but when you start to push this thing, it does have to shuffle gears rather constantly. That’s not the transmission’s fault as the same unit does a fine job in all other Mazdas; rather, it’s the fault of the engine here.

When you do enter the upper reaches of the rev range, there simply isn’t any real power to speak of. Perhaps enough to pull the skin off a custard, but not quite enough to have any fun with it. It also makes a terribly strained noise at these upper reaches, too. That alone is enough of a deterrent to push it hard.

That’s a shame as the Mazda3 does possess a genuinely competent chassis. Not only does it ride well despite using torsion beam rear suspension, but it feels nicely balanced – especially so in sedan form with less weight at the rear of the car.

The steering is ideally weighted and engaging, and although it can tend towards understeer if you do push it in the wet, the responsive tiller makes it feel perfectly controllable.

With fun driving not really the G20e’s aim, though, it’s more suited to city commuting and freeway cruising, where it remains totally pleasant. The integrated starter generator that comes as part of the mild hybrid system must be commended for making the start-stop operate seamlessly.

There’s no conventional starter motor to turn so the engine fires back up immediately, and the small battery that accompanies the system allows it to activate as you’re slowing to a stop to save at least a few precious drops of fuel. The system is also meant to boost power when you put your foot down, but you’ll not really notice any effect as this is Tabasco mild by mild hybrid system standards.

With the engine fortunately remaining hushed at these cruisy speeds, it also shows the advances Mazda has made with its sound deadening as well. The road noise might not be totally removed, but it’s pretty impressive for a small car like this. Factor in its Level 2 semi-autonomous driving assistance and it makes for a solid daily driver.

However, there’s one other disappointment I must raise, and that’s with its real-world fuel economy. Over the course of 450km of testing in an even mix of conditions, the best I could manage was an indicated 7.7L/100km – well off the 5.9L/100km claim. For comparison’s sake, I managed 8.6L/100km in the G20 hatch back in 2019, so it’s no drastic saving, especially for the purchase price premium.

Simply, the fact this engine is lacking in the power department means you need to push it that much harder to get anywhere. It’s precisely why the X20 Skyactiv-X engine features a small supercharger – more low-end torque means less load on the engine, and that pays dividends in the real world as evidenced by it coming far closer to matching its claims.

It’s a pretty simple verdict then when it comes to the 2022 Mazda3. As has been clear since the current model first launched three years ago, it’s an utterly refined and premium-feeling small car that truly outclasses its competition when it comes to, well, class.

However, this new G20e M Hybrid engine option just fails to justify the extra cost it charges as the promised fuel savings aren’t there in reality, nor are they enough of an improvement over the standard G20 model. At least with the standard equipment it offers, it is still good value for money at its $32,840 list price.

As long as both engine options are in the range, the G20 just makes far more sense than this G20e, but don’t be surprised when the day comes that there’s only this mild hybrid option to be had – I’m calling it now, and it’ll make far more sense then.

2022 Mazda3 G20e Evolve M Hybrid Sedan List Price: $32,840
  • 6.5/10
    Performance - 6.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Looks and feels premium inside and out, balanced chassis with engaging steering, Vision Technology pack included as standard
Cons: Fuel savings aren’t enough to justify the price premium, lacks power and feels strained at high revs

In a nutshell: While the mild hybrid system certainly does save some fuel, it’s not enough to justify the much higher purchase price. For now, stick with the regular G20 engine to keep the purchase price down, or go for the X20 if you want a truly economical engine.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Mazda Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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