The new seventh-generation Mazda 3 is a seriously impressive car.
As we’ve said in our first reviews of the range-topping Astina-spec Sedan and Hatchback, it’s remarkable not only for the way it pushes expectations within its segment, but shreds the envelope being a car that delivers a luxury experience with a mainstream price.
Still, the Astina spec is the most expensive version of the Mazda 3 around at S$113,888 with COE for the sedan and S$121,888 for the sexier hatchback, and that’s pushing into European price territory.
READ MORE: Here’s what we think of the range-topping Mazda 3 Astina in sedan and hatchback form
There are two lesser spec variants to choose from in Singapore – Elegance at S$103,888 with COE (the car driven here), and the least expensive Classic, at S$96,888 with COE.
Once upon a time, you could aim for the cheapest variant of an East Asian car and be sure of getting a decent deal. That’s no longer applicable for Japanese or Korean cars, and even of the smallest, least expensive models each brand lineup – and it’s certainly not the case with the Mazda 3.
To begin with, the Elegance is the spitting image of the Astina model. We’ve covered how Mazda achieves the sculpted, muscular look of all its new cars (check out CarBuyer.com.sg) and the Mazda 3 does its design roots full justice, since it looks great here in signature Soul Red metallic paint and large 18-inch wheels.
Mechanically, all Mazda 3s are the same, aside from the Classic trim packing 16-inch wheels, so what we’ve said about the Astina applies here in full: It’s a lovely car to drive, feeling far more well-sorted than any car this price has a right to be, and very refined as well, aside from the sporty suspension setup, which delivers a busy ride on bumpy roads.
Unlike European cars, where sometimes the opting for the higher spec means a vastly different and more digitised cabin experience, the Mazda 3 Elegance has the same, very premium feeling cockpit as the Astina.
There’s an active digital instrument cluster, crisp white backlighting, and huge 8.8-inch central infotainment screen controlled by a rotary dial system, complete with smartphone connectivity and detailed navigation with 3D maps.
The most keen-eyed might notice that the rearview mirror isn’t frameless (but is still auto-dimming) and the steering wheel lacks paddle shifters, or that your ears are ever slightly less tickled by the standard sound system (not the 12-speaker Bose setup of the Astina) but really, most of us won’t notice those things at all.
Delving further into the spec sheet, the Elegance also lacks Front Cross Traffic Alert (useful when inching out into traffic), though it still has the more useful Rear Cross Traffic Alert. It has adaptive cruise control, but since it lacks the Astina’s Cruising and Traffic Support it won’t help you steer while on the highway. But for the S$10k difference are things you can easily forego.
In fact, it’s easier to point out what the Elegance and Astina have in common over the Classic than vice versa: Keyless entry and start, a sunroof, full leather steering wheel and gearshifter, a powered driver’s seat, a 360-degree view monitor, and slew of advanced safety systems (including blind spot monitors, lane keeping assists, driver attention alert and monitoring, and more).
To compare, the Classic hasn’t got keyless, has pleather for its steering wheel and shifter, a normal reverse camera, no centre rear armrest, manual air-con and manual dimming mirror, halogen lights, and none of the new safety features that really add an extra shine to the Mazda 3.
In a nutshell, the S$7k price difference between the Classic and Elegance isn’t worth skipping, since it makes a considerable difference in the Mazda 3 experience and you really do make your life harder for a mere seven percent price premium.
On the other hand, this isn’t true for the S$10k upgrade from from Elegance to Astina spec though, since the two have far more things in common than contrast – and the meat of the new Mazda 3 experience is present in the Elegance in all its high-tech glory.
Mazda 3 1.5 Sedan Elegance*
|Engine||1,496cc, inline 4|
|Power||120hp at 6000rpm|
|Torque||153Nm at 4000rpm|
|Top Speed||11.9 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||A2 / 125g/km|
|Price||S$99,688 with COE|
*The eagle-eyed will also notice another addition: The ‘M-Hybrid’ badge, which is standard on all variants, and has been added to emphasise the new mild-hybrid system found on the car.