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The all-new Mazda3 media drive

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Highly anticipated for months and launched just a few weeks ago, the all-new Mazda 3 is finally available for Filipinos to buy. To give us a more thorough taste of the model, Berjaya Auto Philippines — distributors of Mazda —let us drive their All New Mazda3 on a long road trip.

The all-new Mazda3 has a long list of innovations. A quick drive around the metro would not have been enough to see the differences from the last generation. Thankfully, a three-day road trip had been arranged to truly sample the vehicle.

The first part of our journey was to make our way to Clark, through morning rush hour traffic where we would re-acquaint ourselves with Mazda’s Jinba Ittai (horse and rider as one) philosophy. Mazda’s engineers had studied human bio-mechanics to be able to help attain the perfect driving position, letting us sit in a relaxed enough posture to not get fatigued, yet not feel sleepy at the same time. The drive through traffic and the expressway to Clark wasn’t as usually stressful.

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Once we got to Clark International Speedway, we had a more detailed briefing as to our activities. The first would be a gymkhana event, where we would do precision driving in tight quarters, marked out with cones. The objective was to use only the Mazda 3’s 360-degree camera to see what was around us. It was unnerving at first, but once you knew the physical distance between the reference markers on the screen from the body of the car, it made it easy to maneuver through the cones.

The next activity was the Low Speed Test where we would put the Mazda3 through three tests. The first which was a tight slalom where we would negotiate the cones at low speeds, between 40-50 km/h to see how the suspension would respond. Surprisingly, there was very little body roll as we made our way from start to finish.

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At the end of the slalom was the Circle Test where we drove the Mazda3 around a circle at speeds of up to 70 km/h to see how the lateral G’s would affect us with its Human-centric engineering. To put it into context, Mazda had fielded another car from a Japanese premium brand for comparison. The Mazda3 had the definite edge, with less body roll in the slalom and Circle Test perceived from the driver’s seat.

The last part was Acceleration and Braking, but closer to daily driving levels. The Mazda3 squat less on acceleration and dipped less on braking on the acceleration and braking test. All this of course made the experience more pleasant.

 

The High Speed Test activities were up next and the first part of this was to have us accelerate, lift off the gas pedal and then brake, to illustrate that acceleration and power delivery was smooth and linear. After, we made a U-turn and drove over ropes on the road to show how the suspension system absorbed the bumps and how the Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) was considerably reduced in this generation.

The last part of the High Speed test was to negotiate another slalom at a faster speed, this time at roughly 85 km/h, and then abruptly steer left to avoid an imaginary obstacle and abruptly steer back to the right, all without braking. This  demonstrated its stability and controllability even in emergency situations.

The final task was to take the Sportback and Sedan for a lap around the racetrack to see how all these features come together. The comprehensive engineering behind the all-new Mazda3 made driving around an almost effortless task.

Present at the test was Mazda’s Program Manager from the Product Division, Koichiro Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi was in charge of the all-new Mazda3’s development with Khoo Chunkeat from the Mazda ASEAN Business Office serving as his translator.

It was a boon to have these gentlemen along for the test drive, as we were able to totally geek out and ask questions and get answers straight from the source, as it were. They explained in much detail as to how they were able to reduce NVH and improve the audio entertainment experience by improving dampening in the head liner and improving the original floor mats, which in turn, help block out road noise. By blocking out more of the outside noise entering the cabin, you better appreciate the Bose sound system in the 2.0L variant.

The bottom line, according to them, is to take the driver’s experience to the next level by making sure everything is the way it should be in a car of this class. Everything that moves, sounds or feels in and outside the all-new Mazda3 has been purposely made that way. Nothing is random or unplanned, it’s all deliberate.

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After our long day on the race track, we spent the night in Clark. The next day, we headed off to Baguio via SCTEX and TPLEX.  This is where we would got to experience more of the real-world feel of driving the Mazda3. The smooth and winding Asin road was perfect for this, and in the same way, the Mazda3 felt like the perfect car for this road.

After experiencing everything new about this Mazda3, both the Elite 1.5L and Premium 2.0L, in Sedan and Sportback form, it performed better than expected on the way up.  It all made sense. Everything about this car elevates the premium-ness of this brand and how it stacks up against the competition.  It’s a good looking car, but that’s just the surface. There is so much more to it underneath that makes it a redefinition of Premium in its class.

Text and photos by Neil Pagulayan

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