The 2023 Mazda3 Evolve MHEV Vision is not your average, everyday eco box commuter. Sure, at a glance, it may seem regular, but with every lingering look, every drive, the appreciation grows.
The sleek curves, sporty lines, and premium feel, mean it’s every bit a class leader, even if it’s full name is bit of a mouthful. Officially tagged as the Mazda3 G20e Evolve Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle + Vision, it’s the MHEV bit that’s important.
In a nutshell, it’s an electric motor and petrol engine always working together, providing both performance and economy where required (as opposed to a normal hybrid, where the EV component takes over).
Sitting in the middle of a vast array of variants, and priced at around $33,460 plus on-roads, it offers fuel economy of 6.0-litres/100km. That’s only a little less than the claimed 6.2-litres/100km of the petrol equivalent, but every little bit helps.
On the outside, this generation of the Mazda3 looks like the concept version of its self. The styling is international motor show good, with a simplified front bar, featuring black highlights. The long bonnet and short back are traditional, yet edgy, in the hatch form.
The rear continues the same story, with the taillights looking refined, and the extension of the black accents on the lower rear bar and spoiler (which follow through from the front). On point are the 18-inch alloy wheels, painted in, you guessed it, black.
They are a classy 10 spoke design which compliments the size and style of the car. That’s particularly so in one of the hero colours among a range of eight in total, in the form of Mazda’s Soul Red Crystal Metallic. It’s truly a thing of beauty.
Inside, the interior is somehow both surprising, and what you would expect. The car looks and feels premium, and the same goes for the inside. But here, it feels almost German, rather than Japanese, if that makes sense.
Maybe it’s the 8.8-inch touchscreen dropped on top of the dash, or the tasteful leather sweeping across the entire front of the cabin. Whatever it is, it feels minimal yet elegant. The steering wheel is a handful too, and that is in no way, a bad thing.
It has a quality thickness to it that almost feels performance car, with the buttons and trim feeling solid and not flimsy. The seats are firm and sporty, and the position is low. The glass house is proportionately short as well, all which add to the sports car vibe on offer.
The head-up display only serves to accentuate that as you look down the bonnet. The second row, while not too tight for an adult to be seated, is probably too tight for an adult to be seated comfortably for a journey longer than an hour.
Visibility is relatively obstruction free, provided you never have to reverse out of a parking space. Thank the Lord for reversing cameras. While sacrificing some interior comfort for exterior form is okay, the Mazda3 is probably not the car to do it on.
Boot space is a reasonable 295-litres behind the split-fold rear seats too. On the form and function front, it’s the infotainment system that lets the Mazda3 down, delivering an experience that is the opposite of premium.
It’s no easy task switching between audio and navigation functions without taking your eyes off the road for too long. The lack of touchscreen and a clunky rotary tool to drive it makes for an awkward interaction with the system.
Several times, this writer found himself just turning the volume to zero instead of trying to figure out how to switch radio stations. It’s time for Mazda to rethink this whole setup, because the lack of usability is frustrating.
On the road, the Mazda3 MHEV is a pleasant experience. At low speeds around town, it feels quit zippy and manoeuvrable. The presence of the electric motor is noticeable when popping out of side streets or swapping lanes too.
The ride quality feels good, with minimal road noise and swift and predictable gear changes. Sports mode exists, but only offers subtle differences. So miniscule are the changes, it could be a placebo and we manifested the change.
The front end is sharp and feels accurate, thanks to the big, grippy wheel. The steering is less spongey than you might expect, with an almost sporty feel, much like the car is trying to be. At speed though, some disappointment creeps in.
On the open road, cruising down a highway, it feels sluggish and resistant to overtaking. In a true chalk-and-cheese scenario though, throw it down some twisty roads and it absolutely comes alive.
The chassis is well set up to absorb bumps, twists and turns, providing a real hint of the driver’s car it could be, and almost is. With an an enjoyable and rewarding ride, about the only thing missing from the Mazda3 is a turbo.
The 2023 Mazda3 Evolve MHEV Vision Hatch has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, with an impressive 98 per cent in adult occupant protection. All the safety tech you’d expect is here too, including autonomous emergency braking and lane assist.
There’s also a reversing camera with parking sensors, and arguably most importantly, thanks to the aforementioned sweeping window lines, rear cross traffic alert. All-in-all it leads its class when you think premium sophistication.
With concept car styling setting it apart on the road, there’s nothing else quite like it. It performs well, with more sportiness than you expect. It’s bold, confident, safe and certainly worth a look, at the very least.
Our test vehicle was supplied by Mazda Australia. To find out more about the 2023 Mazda3 Evolve MHEV Vision Hatch, contact your local Mazda dealer.