The Mazda3 may be third-placed to its rivals from Toyota and Hyundai, but it offers a premium feeling that neither can match.

Although small sedans and hatchbacks are largely declining in popularity, the 2024 Mazda3 is one which still puts up a solid fight in this shrinking segment. It may have fallen out of the top 20 best-sellers in 2023, and likewise out of the top five best-selling passenger vehicles, but it did place third to the indomitable Hyundai i30 and Toyota Corolla in the small car segment with a respectable 9079 units sold.

To help its chances against the recently-updated i30 and Corolla, Mazda has also treated the 3 to a minor update. It still wears the same sleek styling as ever, but adds an updated infotainment system and a handful of new features to make it a more enticing offering. To see how it compares, I borrowed the keys to the G20 Touring Sedan which sits in the middle of the range, coming in at $34,520 before on-road costs regardless of which body style you go for.

Perhaps the most notable part of the MY24 update is what the Mazda3 loses, rather than what it gains, as the range has been pared back substantially. While there are still six trim levels on offer, the mild hybrid G20e powertrain has gone the way of the dodo, as did the innovative supercharged Skyactiv-X engine a year before it, while Mazda’s commitment to offering a manual gearbox option across the range has ended. The G20 and G25 petrol engines are both still on offer, but you’ll only be able to get them paired with an automatic transmission now.

Considering how good the Mazda3 looks, it’s perhaps a good thing the company hasn’t messed with its styling as part of this update. Compared to its competition which sport oversized grilles and angular body lines, the Mazda3’s smooth curves and conventional facia not only help it look pretty classy, but approachable as well. Its curved surfaces look particularly good in this bespoke Polymetal Grey hue.

The only thing I rue about the G20 Touring’s styling has to be the yellow halogen daytime running lights which just look out of place amongst the rest of this modern styling, although its actual headlights are LEDs with adaptive high beams. The 18-inch wheels still look well-proportioned within its arches, though.

Inside is where you’ll find the greatest number of updates, although many of them aren’t actually standard. For buyers of all but the top-spec G25 Astina, you’ll want to opt for the Vision Technology Pack which adds a larger 10.25-inch infotainment display, 360-degree camera system, driver monitoring, Front Cross Traffic Alert, semi-autonomous Cruising & Traffic Support, and front parking sensors. It’s a $1500 option on the G25 GT, and $2000 on all other variants.

All of these features are worthwhile upgrades which only enhance the Mazda3’s premium proposition. Slotting yourself into its low-slung driver’s seat, you quickly get the impression this has been designed with the driver as the main focus, with its driving position feeling spot on and almost all of the controls and displays being oriented towards the driver.

The larger 10.25-inch screen feels far more legible and up-to-date compared to the standard 8.8-inch display, although both can only be controlled using the rotary dial on the centre console, making some basic functions such as plugging an address into the sat nav a real chore. However, this updated Mazda Connect system includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which worked quickly and flawlessly with my iPhone throughout my fortnight of testing. A wireless phone charger has also been added to help keep your battery topped up, too.

While the Vision Technology Pack is a must-have, I do have a gripe with the 360-degree camera. While I’d rather have it than not, there are thick black stitch-lines between the view from each camera which makes it look dated and throws off your perspective a bit. However, there are handy guidelines for not just the rear of the car but the angle of the front wheels as well.

In terms of materials, all of the surfaces you’ll touch regularly feel incredibly upmarket, with soft leather across the dashboard, along with on the armrests and steering wheel. The seats in the Touring model are also clad in plush leather which creates an optical illusion – the leather itself is black, but there are rings of orange inside its perforations, making it appear brown from a distance. However, one sort-of downgrade I did notice was the chrome buttons on the steering wheel now being replaced with matte black plastic, although I actually prefer them as they won’t attract fingerprints.

Do note, though, that all of the space has been given to those in the front seats, with the rear seat feeling usable but not the most spacious for those above six-foot. I’m also disappointed there are no heated seats in this specification considering the price point. The boot measures in at 444 litres on this sedan model, with the hatch offering one of the smallest boots in the class at 295 litres.

If you go for a model powered by the G20 petrol engine such as this Touring variant, 2024 models benefit from a few tweaks under the bonnet as well. Although the 114kW and 200Nm outputs of this 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-pot remain unchanged, Mazda has added a cylinder deactivation system to reduce fuel consumption by a claimed five percent, with a claim of 5.8L/100km for the sedan and 5.9L/100km for the hatch. As mentioned earlier, a six-speed automatic is now the only transmission available, while front-wheel drive is standard on all Australian models.

Beyond the G20 engine’s auto stop/start system being quicker than it used to be, although not as quick as on the mid hybrid G20e, you won’t really notice any major differences in terms of how this updated engine drives. It’s far from the punchiest engine out there, but its power delivery is very smooth and it remains muted at lower revs, although it can get a bit thrashy in the top half of the rev range.

However, the cylinder deactivation tech clearly works a treat when it comes to fuel economy. I was able to put the Mazda3 through its paces over a comprehensive 1232km testing over the course of two weeks, and I managed a return of 7.1L/100km without really trying.

Yes, it’s over a litre up from the official claim, although this is the case on most cars, but it’s a substantial improvement over earlier versions of this engine. For comparison, I only managed 8.6L/100km in the 2019 G20 Evolve Hatch and 7.7L/100km in the 2022 G20e Evolve Sedan, and it’s nearing the 6.6L/100km I saw in the 2020 X20 Astina, so whatever Mazda has done is clearly working.

Although it may seem a bit dated compared to newer transmissions with eight-plus gears, this six-speed is still a solid offering in my eyes. Its ratios are perfectly spaced, and while its gear changes aren’t the absolute quickest, they are certainly smooth. With any more gears, it would feel too busy when mated with a low-powered engine such as this, while a dual-clutch wouldn’t be as appropriate in city traffic, so it’s right on the money for what this car needs.

Despite the Mazda3 only having a torsion beam rear axle rather than independent suspension all around, the ride quality is still quite impressive. It’s skewed slightly towards the firmer side, which does offer it competent handling should you hurl down a backroad, but the ride is still compliant enough over the lumps and bumps of city streets. Likewise, the steering feels surprisingly hefty and engaging, but also light enough to not be a chore day-to-day.

In a way, Mazda’s original aim with the 3 was to deliver a premium-feeling small car, and not only does it feel that way on the inside, but the way it drives simply feels premium as well. In a way, it actually feels quite European, which is something many Asian car companies have tried to emulate in recent years, but Mazda could well be doing the best job of it.

As with all Mazda models, the 2024 Mazda3 is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Mazda also offers lifetime capped price servicing, with a cost of $2209 ($442 on average) across the warranty period. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km.

While the servicing cost is steep when compared with the Corolla ($1225 total/$245 each) and i30 ($1495 total/$299 on average) over the same period, the Mazda3 does still offer a competitive package for the money. The Hyundai i30 N Line may offer turbocharged power for a similar price, while the Toyota Corolla offers a top-spec petrol ZR Sedan or mid-spec SX with a hybrid powertrain in either body style, neither can match the Mazda’s premium feeling.

There’s a good reason, then, that the Mazda3 gives these two car market stalwarts such a run for their money. It offers a clear point of difference, and doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t. While hybrid fuel efficiency and turbo performance may have their place, there are still plenty of people out there who want something simple, yet nice. That’s exactly what the Mazda3 delivers.

2024 Mazda3 G20 Touring Sedan List Price: $34,520 | As Tested: $37,115
  • 7/10
    Performance - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Value for Money - 8/10

Pros: Impressive fuel efficiency from the updated engine, premium interior feel, Vision Technology Pack is well worth the extra $2000
Cons: Could do with a bit more power, no touchscreen functionality, pricey servicing

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Mazda Australia for two weeks with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel expenses were covered by the author.

Patrick Jackson
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