Relatively new to the Mazda3 range, the G20 Evolve (which in our case is fitted with the optional Vision package) has undergone a refresh for 2024. Sitting one spot above the base Pure variant, it’s some four grades below the top level Astina.
Our example was finished in metallic Jet Black Mica, one of eight colours to choose from, and complemented by dark grey 18-inch alloy wheels. From the sharp angry face up front, to the bulbous and wide rear hatch treatment, visuals are a real strong point.
Grabbing the door handle unfortunately resulted in nothing. Despite the indent in the handle, keyless entry is reserved for the next variant up; the Touring. This omission was a little confusing (and frustrating) when one looks through the remaining specifications.
Radar cruise control, keyless start, lane departure warning, folding mirrors, native sat nav, a head-up display and electric handbrake. Yep, all things that when combined, put this specification right up there with the greats.
It’s funny how such a small thing can make such a huge impact. After fumbling for the keys and hitting the button to unlock it, we got our first glance of the surprisingly comfortable cloth seats.
Manual adjustments and perfect positioning mean you really feel like you’re sitting in them, not on them, an attribute that a keen driver will appreciate. A lovely leather-covered tiller sits front and centre and falls into the hand perfectly.
Passengers in the rear are also well catered for. With enough room for two adults, and good vision despite the sloping roofline, the back row gets its own air-conditioning vents and centre armrest, with cup holders for longer journeys.
The cabin itself is a classy combination of soft-touch materials with stitching, piano black trims, and silver details. While there is nothing at all wrong with a Japanese car, the space feels decidedly European in execution.
This ambience is sustained while on the move, with very little noise transmitting inside the vehicle during normal driving. It gave us the opportunity to appreciate the 8-speaker sound system, which impressively, comes with a multi-band equaliser for the audiophiles.
Dual zone climate controls sit below a 10.25-inch wide screen – the size of the latter forming part of the Vision pack we mentioned and an upgrade from the standard 8.8-inch for the normal Evolve.
We were impressed by the quality of the camera and screen combination – the output is crystal clear and vibrant. The Vision pack also adds driver monitoring, 360-degree view camera, front cross traffic alert, cruising and traffic support, and front parking sensors.
These are welcomed additions that you can add to every grade bar the Astina, where it is standard equipment. The centre stack is completed with USB-A inputs for charging and connectivity for wired Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The rotary joystick to manipulate the entertainment system and other settings is only slightly better than the Mazda2 this writer reviewed not long ago. It remains frustrating and difficult to interpret what the spinning action versus toggling does and how they differ.
Thankfully though, the screen is available to use while moving, unlike the Mazda2, although it simply felt a little too far away. Aside from these minor frustrations it was difficult to fault this car, and where it impressed the most was in its driving dynamics.
It starts with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine which delivers 114kW of power and 200Nm of twist. This is mated to a traditional convertor 6-speed auto gearbox. The marriage of the two results in a smooth, quiet, and relatively effortless drive when pottering about town.
There is no hiding the heft it needs to move though, and at 1,234kg the driveline combination does feel a little underpowered if there is a need for a quick getaway. Once the revs build up it’s okay, but at times it felt too doughy down low.
A characteristic of a peaky atmospheric engine setup, it is what it is. On the road, it never felt unsafe, and this isn’t supposed to be a muscle car. That said, the the chassis could easily cope with 50 per cent more.
And a sweet chassis it is. It’s more hot hatch in its feel than an around town, second from the bottom grade vehicle. While it remains controlled and compliant enough to be comfortable in any conditions, it’s when driving with intent that it truly shines.
It sits flat through corners and is ready and willing to change direction. We’re sure the 215/45 profile Bridgestone Turanza rubber contributes to this. The steering is positive in feel with even the smallest of adjustments being responded too by the front wheels.
It’s truly confidence inspiring and urges the driver to keep going. Perhaps this was why we couldn’t better a fuel consumption figure of 8.6-litres/100km to a claimed 5.9-litres. That was predominantly city-based driving, which we’re sure was a contributing factor.
At least it will run happily on E10 to help keep the running costs down. Safety technology is also very well catered for. Standard kit includes seven airbags, blind spot monitoring, emergency stop signal, driver attention alert, and forward obstruction warning.
Lane departure warning and lane keep assist also feature. The kicker is that you can have all this kit, the lovely cabin and the fun driving dynamics for just $37,960, drive away. That includes a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and 5-years free roadside assistance.
If you’re on the market for a small car, do yourself a favour and take one of these for a drive. You can find out more on the Mazda Australia website. If you’re keen on one and need finance, talk to CreditOne.
Our test vehicle was provided by Mazda Australia. To find out more about the 2024 Mazda3 Evolve, contact your local Mazda dealer.