The Road Ahead : February March 2008
not the base model Neo, but the better-equipped Maxx, which may indicate that the bottom line is not the main thing that drives Queensland motorists. The Mazda3 shares the same platform as the Focus, which can lay claim to being the Best Mid-Size Car under $28,000 in Australia's Best Cars Awards in 2005. ABC judges found the Focus then to be quicker, more refined and even better in ride and handling than its predecessor. They applauded its affordability and frugal fuel consumption. Other virtues included a sensible layout, more interior space and better build quality than its forbear. The only blemishes to the South African-sourced Focus were limited practicality, in part due to a temporary use spare tyre, and its equipment levels. The 2005 base CL missed out on anti-lock brakes (ABS), side front airbags, alloy wheels, cruise control and power mirrors as standard. CIT Y FEB/MAR 08 51 But that was then. In 2007, the CL finally received the long overdue addition of ABS. It was thus equipped when we recently put the Focus up against the Neo (fitted with optional Sports and Power Packs) and the Lancer (higher specification VR model) as supplied by the respective makers. Mindful of the variances between the three and in search of a level playing field, we mentally stripped away the additional specification levels of the latter two cars during the comparison to help us arrive at our conclusion. Value for money Looking at the list price in automatic transmission guise, the Focus holds the advantage by being $1000 cheaper than the Neo and $1300 less than the Lancer. The Neo rules when it comes to residual value and depreciation. On a year-by-year basis, it drops the least, especially after three to five years of ownership. By the end of the fourth year, the Neo's residual is 59 percent, compared with the Ford's and Mitsubishi's 48 percent. Overall, you can expect the Mazda to depreciate about $10,805, compared with $13,508 for the ES and $12,315 for the Focus. The Lancer streaks ahead with its five- year/130,000 km warranty, which blitzes Ford's three-year/100,000 km and Mazda's three-year/ unlimited km offerings. A Mitsubishi Lancer buyer's hip pocket nerve is further soothed by a 10-year/160,000 warranty on the power train and a 12-year warranty against rust perforation of body panels. Compare the latter with the Focus's five years and Neo's six years. While the Neo is the cheapest to insure, it is considerably more expensive in servicing up to 60,000 km, due to a shorter service interval of 10,000 km/six months. And it is crippled by the dearest parts basket by far, whereas there is little between the Focus and the Lancer -- just over $100. Tallying up total running costs (services, insurance and parts), and the Focus emerges as slightly cheaper than the Lancer, with the Mazda punishing its owner by being upwards of $1000 dearer. None are heavy drinkers, but our test showed that the Neo sipped more frugally than its challengers. After some 830 km of varied testing, it finished with an average of 8.9 litres/100 km, a scant 0.2 litres/100 km better than the Focus, while the Lancer imbibed at the rate of 10.1 litres/100 km. Both the Neo and the Focus have a 55-litre tank, while the Lancer has a 59-litre capacity. Based on our test averages, the Neo would go 618 km on a tank, compared with 604 km for the Ford and 584 for the ES. All three cars offer as standard ABS, electronic brake distribution (EBD), dual front airbags, airconditioning, CD player, height-adjustable front seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters, height-adjustable driver's seat, centre rear lap- sash seatbelt, 60/40 split/fold rear seat and remote locking. The ES and Neo benefit from Brake Assist (BA) and a pollen filter as standard. Metallic paint, a 'no cost' option on the Mazda, is a $300 plus option on its rivals.
December January 2008
April May 2008