Little over a month and a half ago Mazda re-established itself in South Africa, setting the country alight with its bold and ambitious plans for the future. The plan was clear: invade the targeted segments and offer segment leading products. One such product is the car in question; the Mazda 3 1.6 Dynamic.

Upon contacting Mazda Tygervalley (the first Mazda dealership in Cape Town), the Dealer Principle was more than accommodating toward my request for a test drive. Since Mazda is in the process of finding its feet in South Africa away from Ford, this gesture proved to a large degree that this dealership is intent on growing its family-ties with the broader public and earning their trust along the way.

After a quick spell of informal, yet informative, introductions, I was introduced to the car I was to be testing: the Mazda 3 1.6 Dynamic. It is just as beautiful in the metal as it is in picture. From almost all angles there is a hint of modernism, something new and fresh. A bold statement of what cars can look like when engineers are given the freedom to come up with something that can capture the senses.

The lines on the car are sharper and crisper with the edges looking smooth and well-rounded. Though the design is totally new, the KODO design language Mazda incorporated onto this car still makes it instantly recognisable as a Mazda. The manufacturer has arrived and the design alone speaks clearly on the company’s intent. One can’t help but feel a sense of achievement when looking at it.

Inside you are greeted by leather upholstered seats. Being manually adjustable, it wasn’t hard finding a comfortable seating position and on long trips, should the strain on your back become too much, adjust the lumbar support to your preference. What is a welcome sight is how uncluttered the facia is. The ergonomics are well-placed and within easy reach. Smart placement of the nifty navigation and infotainment controls next to the gear lever makes usage of the dials a breeze. Satellite controls on the steering wheel makes it easy to adjust the volume, skip radio channels and songs, and operate the Bluetooth-functionality. All-round electric windows are a part of the deal.

What could possibly be a small issue is where the cd port has been situated. Found in front of the gear lever, below the temperature gauges, inserting and ejecting a cd can become a bit of an uncomfortable experience. Mazda probably put it there knowing the world is moving away from cd’s, hence the two USB ports and an auxiliary port found in the compartment between the front seats. In all, the entire interior could be summed up that for Mazda it was important that function followed form.

With 77 kW and 140 N.m on offer, the Mazda 3 1.6 Dynamic is not the most powerful car in its segment, but on the road it impressed with its sheer level of comfort. Driving on some farm roads on the outskirts of Cape Town, the kinks and turns proved little trouble for the new 3. It carved its way through the corners with good turn in, supplying sufficient feedback through the steering wheel. The sustained and well-balanced ride quality absorbs the bumps and niggles in the road with great ease, giving the Mazda 3 a suppleness that few cars in this segment can match. The pedals are placed closely together, adding to the sporty feel of the car.  Wind and tire noises are to be expected, but in no way did it hinder conversations taking place during the test.

Upon arriving back at the dealership and switching the car off with the keyless start-stop button, I realised that there is a sense of maturity about Mazda’s new 3; as if the car grew up and wanted to please its owner. There is this fulfilment about the car that had me smiling and absorbing the product I’m seated in. If divorcing Ford was ever a discussion on whether it was the right thing for Mazda to do, the Mazda 3 1.6 Dynamic proves that it was.