2014 Mazda3 diesel sits atop range from $40,230
HERE is the cream on the Mazda3 cake.
The diesel-powered Mazda XD Astina will arrive in showrooms next week. It will be the halo offering of the range which is currently battling with the Toyota Corolla to be Australia's best-selling car.
Starting from just above $40,000, it's no lightweight introduction - at nearly $20,000 more expensive than the entry-level Neo petrol.
It's a familiar powerplant, the same one used in the Mazda6 mid-size sedan and the CX-5 SUV, but the more compact and lighter frame gives this new offering a sporting edge.
With 420 Newton metres of torque it delivers a hefty whack of twist under your right foot, which delivers a burly driving experience.
Call for acceleration and the XD Astina is unyielding while doing so within a quiet cabin featuring near faultless ride quality.
Available with a choice of a 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 for manual control.
The steering is well balanced and a quick stint on gravel also proved the XD Astina is adept in the slippery stuff.
There are 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 with 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 let's you when straying from the white lines, blind spot monitor for peace of mind when changing lanes, 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.
Model: Mazda3 XD Astina.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive compact hatch.
Engine: 2.2-litre in-line four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 129kW @ 4500rpm and peak torque of 420Nm @ 2000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 5.0 litres/100km (combined average, manual); 5.2L/100km (auto).
CO2: 129g/km (m); 137g/km (a).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $40,230 (m), $42,230 (a).