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2017 Mazda 3 facelift review

It may only be a mid-life update for the C-segment saloon and hatchback, but it’s the G-Vectoring Control that beckons.

Photos: Kwanchai Luangtsathit

What’s new?

After three years in the market in its current generation, the Mazda 3 gets a mid-life update including massaged looks, tweaked interior design and some new features.

While the 165hp 2.0-litre petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission have been carried over unchanged, there’s a technical novelty called G-Vectoring Control to help improved both driving and ride comfort.

Since some 20% of total sales went to the SP grade in the pre-facelift 3 hatchback, Mazda Sales Thailand has decided to additionally extend the range-topping trim to the saloon derivative.

Speaking of SP, two more items have been added to the list of driver-assist tech: active cruise control and automatic braking at medium to high speeds to bring the list price of both body forms to 1.119 million baht.

Other trims include S costing 988,000 baht, C (928,000 baht), and E (847,000 baht). Standard across the range are G-Vectoring Control, dual airbags and stability/traction control.

New steering wheel helps offset some age in the cabin.

What’s cool?

While the new front grille and LED head/fog lights help inject some freshness into the design, it’s the interior that beckons more. The redesigned steering, centre console and some door trims help lift cabin ambience.

The G-Vectoring Control system may just be an electronic development but it works effectively in real-world driving by flattening the ride to reduce movements of occupants in the car. As well, the driver needs to do less steering corrections over road undulations and in corners. Of all C-segment cars, the 3 comes closest in matching the Ford Focus for driving dynamics, if not as involving to drive.

If you have already set your sights on the SP grade, all those features should help justify your purchase over all rivals. One major player that falls short in this particularly department is the Toyota Corolla Altis; the Focus and Honda Civic in the one million baht price bracket have some features to boast if not better the 3’s.

Console houses new electrical parking brake and selector mode.

What’s not?

While mid-life facelifts are generally very subtle, the saloon doesn’t see a new rear bumper design like in the hatchback. And whichever body style you opt for, the 3’s cabin starts to feel date especially against that in the Civic. And although there are curtain airbags in the SP spec, side airbags for front occupants are strangely unavailable in the Mazda.

The non-turbo engine does a decent job in its own right, but it simply lacks the rich overtaking power of the turbo engines found in the Focus and Civic RS. Actually, the 3 now remains the only car in its class to come with a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine.

Last and not least, the 3 doesn’t have a commodious or quiet interior when compared to market leaders, the Civic and Corolla.

Unchanged 165hp 2.0-litre petrol engine isn’t that rich on torque.

Buy or bye?

As mentioned earlier, the SP grade takes up some 20% of total sales which isn’t surprising because the number of features offered here is unrivalled. Just be sure that you are fine with that engine that isn’t the best around.

If you feel that you should still be in total control of a car, the next two lower grades – without any of those driver-assist stuff – should still do, although coming this high in the price ranks of C-segment cars still makes SP more desirable.

If you’re really tight on the money, the entry-level E is actually decent value against all competitors in the 800,000-900,000 baht bracket. It’s got 165hp performance and driver engagement – and that effective G-Vectoring Control - to put the 1.8-litre Civic, Corolla and Nissan Sylphy into the shade.

Thanks to G-Vectoring Control, the ride feels more controlled than ever,

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