This GSX variant is now the ‘base’ model for the new Mazda3 range. Gone is the previous fleet model, the GLX, so the least expensive version now starts at $36,595. However, the good news is that there’s a lot of kit for your dollar here.
The GSX comes with a head-up display showing the current speed limit, your current velocity, nav guidance and cruise control status. There are also high end items like active cruise control that can brake you down to stop, lane keep assist and departure warning, smart brake support that works at night and can detect pedestrians as well as cyclists, and blind spot monitoring.
There is also a reversing camera that works in tandem with proximity sensors. Watch the nose when parking though as there are no sensors up front. ANCAP has given the new Mazda3 range a five-star rating, with a 98 per cent score for occupant protection.
The interior of the GSX is similar to that of GTX and Limited, at least on first glance. Seats are cloth here, manually adjusted and unheated, while air conditioning is single-zone. Music lovers will also note that the GSX comes with an eight-speaker audio system as standard, compared with a Bose-enhanced 12-speaker system in the Limited. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard range wide.
Halogen daytime running lights supplement automatic LED headlights and the alloys are 16 inchers, the only major exterior differences between the GSX and the top-spec Limited, sunroof aside. Good thing too, because the new 3’s Kai-based design is a winner. Our only minor complaint is the size of the doors, the rear set, in particular, providing a bit of a challenge for anyone over 185cm getting in and out. Plus, as we said in last month’s Limited review, the rear middle seat is best saved for kids.
The biggest difference with the GSX is under the bonnet. The entry 3 gets a 2.0-litre petrol engine making 114kW/200Nm, down from the 139kW/252Nm 2.5L unit in the other models. As such, the sprint to 100km/h takes a tad longer, 9.3 seconds, while the 80-120km/h dash requires 5.5 seconds or 164 metres.
The big benefit from the smaller engine is less fuel used, our tester showing an average of 8.8L/100km after some backroad blitzing and daily commuting. More motorway use will see that number drop, with cruising consumption hovering around the six litres mark. It’ll run on 91 too, unlike most of its turbo opposition.
GSX has more profile to its Yokohamas, designed with economy and road noise in mind over sporty behaviour. Combined with the general NVH improvements for this generation, cabin noise is quietly acceptable, it being hushed over most chipseal surfaces taken at highway speeds.
The chassis has also had some work this generation. Stretching the track has resulted in more grip, and a measured wet weight of 1337kg means the smaller engine doesn’t need to work as hard to shuffle things along. In fact, flicking the little Sport switch and encouraging the engine to spin higher results in quite a keen drive, despite the eco rubber.
The little mill likes to be pushed, with peak power coming on at 6000rpm. Only the Limited gets paddle shifters, meaning do-it-yourself changes must be done with the gear selector in Manual mode. It’s usually best left to its own devices, Sport mode holding revs longer and kicking down cogs more readily. A lack of forced induction means low-rpm driving might not be as snappy as in something like a Ford Focus but we reckon the response is better.
Mention of the competition, the sub-40k category is a consumer’s dream right now. At this point it becomes subjective rather than objective when recommending which to buy. The hybrid Corolla ZR starts at $39k and offers better fuel efficiency but less power.
Going German gets you a similarly-specced Golf TSI Highline for $40k while the slightly more powerful Focus ST-Line is $37k. As well as these choices, there’s the Cerato GT-Line ($37k), i30 Elite ($40k), Astra ($35,490) and Octavia (starting at $38,490).
Or, of course, there’s the Mazda3 sedan, which matches the hatch on price. Opting for the 3 also nets you a transferable, five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty, along with free servicing for that period.
|Engine||1998cc, IL4, DI, 114kW/200Nm||Drivetrain||6-speed auto, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Use||6.1L/100km||C02 Output||146g/km|