Mazda3 GSE Skyactiv 2011 Review

Mazda3 GSE Skyactiv 2011 Review

Fuel economy wasn’t a strong point in the outgoing Mazda3, something that’s been rectified in the new model. In fact, it’s a gigantic 25% more efficient than the previous version. That was a little on the thirsty side, so the changes to the 2-litre, 113kW motor, and the bits that are driven by it, are welcome.

The engine has been completely redesigned. Reductions in friction and weight, modifications to the cooling system to reduce resistance, better fuel atomization in the injectors, electrically operated sequential valve timing (S-TV) – these are the things that people that belong to car clubs talk about while standing around the open engine bay. But most of voluminous amount of private buyers of the Mazda3 (because it is the second-best selling compact car behind the Corolla) will want to simply spend less time queuing to pay for fuel, and subsequently ‘up-sizing’ their purchase with chocolate bars that are two for the price of one. The very fact that the Mazda requires fewer trips to the gas station could influence the

weight loss of a nation!

The other trick up the car’s sleeves is the i-Stop system. Pull up to the lights and apply a little extra brake pressure and the engine will stop. This took me a bit of getting used to as I’m very light on the brakes, but you do get a prompt on the in-dash screen to remind you. It uses a slightly different way of starting the engine than other stop/start systems. Mazda calls it ‘Combustion + Motor Assist’, and it restarts the engine in 0.35 seconds.

Mazda has reworked the gearbox, too. The Skyactive-Drive 6-speed is smooth. Mazda took ideas from three types of gearbox to come up with a compromise that works really well. Conventional automatics are never in the right gear and have poor fuel economy; CVT boxes have good economy at low speeds but not at high speeds, and they make it difficult to judge your speed by the engine tone; dual-clutch DSG-type gearboxes provide excellent feel and quick changes, but can snatch at low speed. Mazda’s solution uses a small torque converter to get the car moving smoothly, then engages a bigger multi-plate clutch at 5kph. This gives around 7% better fuel economy, and gearshifts that are only 150ms.

On the inside you get a good level of comfort spec: trip computer, Bluetooth phone integration, dual climate control with pollen filter, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, etc. Weight and money isn’t wasted on electric seats and other fripperies. There’s the usual complement of front, side and curtain airbags, plus plenty of electronics (traction control, dynamic stability control, emergency brake assist and the like) to keep it pointing in the right direction.

On the outside you get Skyactive signature blue halogen lighting and a blue badge on the back to proclaim your green credentials. Mazda’s styling is getting progressively bolder. The rear lights bulge from the bodywork; the crease in the nose draws your attention to the Mazda badge, and the sculpted front splitter is nicely aggressive. The alloys hint at motion, the spokes being offset, and you get a rear spoiler to complete the slightly sporty picture. You don’t get parking sensors, though. This is the only critical omission in my opinion.

The driving experience is everything Mazda requires to keep a car popular. It is not offensive, and it’s not exciting. It’s comfortable, acceleration is adequate (but not brisk), the cabin is fairly quiet and you don’t feel too divorced from the road. There’s an odd power steering noise servo noise at low speed but the steering itself is not too heavy, not too light.

There are other Mazdas in the range below this model if you don’t quite have the 37 grand required for the GSE Skyactiv: the GLX and GSX. I can’t see why people would go for the GSX as it’s only two grand less and doesn’t come with the Skyactiv benefits – something that (in my opinion) will pay for itself over several years, and give better resale value as more and more people become aware of these kinds of options.

The Mazda3 GSE Skyactiv is a car that has set out to appeal to a great many people. It continues its family-friendly persona with plentiful boot space and hatchback convenience, enough legroom for the kids, and sensible features and fuel economy for those on a budget. It might not knock the Corolla off its perch, but it’s every bit its equal.


  • Very little to criticize – it’s bound to continue to be popular


  • No parking sensors

Price: from $37,395

Vehicle Highlights
Price $37,395 + ORC
Style 5 door hatch
Tank capacity (Litres) 55
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded (min. 91RON)
Fuel consumption – combined 6.2 litres per 100km
Emissions standard Stage 4
Engine type 2.0 litre in-line I4 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC S-VT
Capacity (cc) 1,998
Compression ratio 12.0:1
Maximum power (kW) 113 @ 6,000 rpm
Maximum torque (Nm) 194 @ 4,100 rpm
Throttle control Electronic (drive by wire)
Transmission 6 speed SKYACTIV-Drive (automatic)
Number of seats 5
Doors 5
Overall height (mm) 1,470
Track – front/rear (mm) 1,535/1,520
Overall length (mm) 4,460
Overall width (mm) 1,755
Wheel base (mm) 2,640
Kerb weight (kg) 1,305
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 1,200
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 500
Cargo room volume (VDA) 340 litres
Steering Electro hydraulic power assisted (engine revolution sensing) rack and pinion
Tyre size 205/55R16 91V
Rim size 16 x 6.5J
Wheel Type Alloy
Brakes – front Ventilated disc
Brakes – rear Solid disc
Air conditioning Dual-zone climate control
Cabin Air Filter Ventilation pollen filter
Bluetooth® handsfree phone connectivity Yes
Steering column – adjustable Tilt and telescopic
Cruise Control Yes
CD player Single CD (MP3/WMA compatible)
Auxiliary input 3.5 mm MP3 player compatible and 12 volt power outlet
Speakers 6
Bluetooth® audio Yes
Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls Yes
Cup holders Yes
Interior illumination Cargo room lamp, ignition key surround, map reading spot lamps, power window switch (driver)
Leather wrapped shift knob Yes
Leather wrapped steering wheel Yes
Seat trim Cloth
Windscreen wipers – front 2 speed with intermittent function
Windscreen wipers – rear Intermittent function
Door handles Body coloured
Mirrors Power adjustable, body-coloured
Aerial Roof mounted aerial
Headlamps Halogen with signature SKYACTIV lens
Windows Powered with one-touch function (driver)
Fog-lamps Yes
Body kit Sports bumper and rear spoiler with signature SKYACTIV tailgate badge
Genuine Scheduled Servicing 3 years/100,000km (whichever occurs first) at no extra cost
On Road Assistance 3 year unlimited kilometre Mazda On Call Roadside Assisstance
Warranty (years/km) 3 year unlimited kilometre Mazda Genuine Factory Warranty


Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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