8

10

Model

3 XD Astina

Price

$40,230

The Numbers

3 XD Astina – 2.2-litre, 4cyl turbodiesel, 129kW, 420Nm, 6sp man, 0-100km/h in 7.7secs, 5.0L/100km

The Topgear Verdict

Pricey, but poised, with enough standard fruit to feed an army.

Mazda 3 XD Astina

So, what is it?

A diesel-powered version of the Mazda 3 Astina, running the same 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbodiesel as big brother 6 and the CX-5 SUV.

Why should I care?

Mazda’s positioning the XD as a premium, halo model, predicted to account for just one per cent of 3 sales, but casting a warm and sporty glow over the rest of the line-up.

What's new about it?

The engine is offered in combination with a six-speed manual or auto, the same units used in the petrol, SP25 Astina, with the addition of lower gear and final drive ratios to take full advantage of the extra torque on offer.

The XD is distinguished by bright alloy (18-inch) rims, a ‘brilliant black’ section below the rear bumper, LED fog lights, a red accent strip on the grille, and black leather with suede seat trim.

That's all fine. What's it like to drive fast?

A launch drive over 400km of north-east Tasmania’s finest backroads proved the XD Astina to be a satisfying, dare we say fun, drive. The engine spins up to its 5,000rpm rev ceiling in most un-diesel-like fashion, pushing out a fat wodge of torque in the mid-range.

Ride comfort and body control are excellent. The steering is light but delivers good road feel, and both transmissions are impressive. The crisp manual is a pleasure to slot up and down its six ratios, while the auto’s so good, you kind of forget it’s there in Drive. Start flicking the flappy paddles though, and it responds enthusiastically.

And driving from home to the office in the city?

With maximum torque available at just 2,000rpm, this 3 is a relaxed cruiser. The seats are firm but proved comfortable over a full day behind the wheel. The ergonomics are excellent and the instrument layout, with a central rev-counter and digitial speedo, plus a head-up display, is spot-on.

Is there anything bad about it?

The engine is a little loud at idle, and we were sucked in to thinking it magically changed character into a racy note as the revs rose; only to find an ‘Active Engine Sound’ system pumps a completely synthetic mechanical tune through the stereo speakers.

How much would I have to pay for one? And is it worth the coin?

At $40,230 for the manual, and $42,230 for the auto, the XD Astina packs in a mass of standard equipment, as well as all the aero, driving dynamics, weight saving and engine efficiency tech covered by Mazda’s ‘Skyactiv’ engineering program.

Everything from bi-xenon headlights and power slide and tilt glass sunroof, to dual-zone climate-control air, and nine-speaker audio with internet radio integration (Pandora, Stitcher and Aha) is standard. Not to mention the i-stop engine stop-start function and i-eloop regenerative braking.

It’s a hefty price tag, but the car is loaded with features.

Would you take the Mazda 3 XD Astina or the VW Golf 110 TDI Highline?

The Mazda delivers more grunt than the Golf’s 110kW/320Nm, but the six-speed DSG (only) VW is only two tenths slower to 100km/h than the auto 3 XD (8.6secs v 8.4), and does better on claimed combined cycle economy at 4.9L/100km v 5.0.

The Golf’s well equipped, but can’t match the 3’s onslaught of standard gear. Then again, it’s just on $7,500 cheaper than the 3 auto, at $34,790.

We’ve sent it up to the video ref as too close to call, and will make a decision after a (back-to-back drive) replay.

Reviewed by: James Cleary, TopGear Australia road test editor

Driven: August 26, 2014