We have a Volkswagen Golf TSI long-termer here at Autodealer, which gave me an opportunity to see just how good the new Mazda is. So for argument’s sake, I’ve made comparisons, using the suave German as a benchmark.
→ The looks
Design is a very subjective thing, however, I doubt anyone would dispute the idea that the Mazda looks sportier and more design-orientated than the more vanilla Golf. However, people like vanilla and the Golf offers just enough in terms of aesthetics, while its badge, having been immortalised in South Africa, means it doesn’t need to shout about things. The Mazda does need to though and thankfully, it has, with a thoroughly modern exterior.
→ Under the hood
The model that I had on test was the range-topping 2.0-litre Astina automatic whose badge evokes memories of the 323-based 1.8-litre Astina sold locally during the mid-90s. Only this time there’s a high-compression 2.0-litre motor up front, which is good for 121kW/210Nm.
The engine is decent in terms of power, although not sluggish; it does suffer up here at the reef, especially with the automatic gearbox and its sensitive throttle response, which sends the engine into the upper echelons of the rev range more often than not.
When compared with the 1.4 turbo unit in the VW, there’s no similarity whatsoever. Whereas the Golf has decent low-end torque and little up top, the Mazda is opposite. The VW trumps the 3 in the gearbox and efficiency stakes with our Golf’s slick DSG bettering the 3’s six-speed torque converter while the VW achieved in the region of 6.8 litres/100km and the Mazda read 7.4 litres/100km.
→ Does it ride/handle like a Golf?
From a ride and handling perspective it is bang on the money, just as comfortable and as refined as the Golf. In fact, if the Mazda didn’t have such low profile rubber it may even better the Golf in this department.
These cars aren’t performance machines but each one does/will feature a performance variant within the same model range so the basic platform and chassis is important. We know the Golf handles well and that the transition from TSI to GTI means that it has solid underpinnings. I feel the Mazda will be very much the same. The previous MPS variant was a disappointment, however, with this superb chassis and platform already evident in the toned down variant, I am expecting the new MPS to be very capable.
→ The cockpit
In terms of the interior it has a modern layout, quality materials for the most part, and that superb looking infotainment screen dominating the interior design, while the central control unit with scrolling function works a treat and smacks of a German-esque level of techno-comfort. The infotainment system itself will still need a bit of work compared with the MMIs and iDrives of the world but it is still a good system.
After some time with both vehicles I have to concede that if it were my money I would go for the VW; its residual value coupled with its supreme breadth of ability still makes it the leader. However, the Mazda is very close and is better specified when price is taken into perspective. That three-year unlimited mileage warranty and service plan will appeal to those doing high mileage and the brand’s customer satisfaction index victory bodes well with the high-mileage drivers out there.