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Mazda3 SP25 Astina first drive

Mazda takes on the Europeans with its newest luxury offering.

PT4M32S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31p1e 620 349

Mazda has released the most expensive version of its 3 small car. 

Priced at $38,190 (plus on-road and dealer costs, which will see it sell for more than $40,000) the new model is more expensive than the entry-level Mercedes-Benz A-Class, a $35,600 car buyers are queuing to own. It's also almost double the price of the entry-level Mazda3 Neo, which is priced from $20,490. 

New Mazda3 Astina. Click for more photos

New Mazda3

New Mazda3 Astina.

Excluding the high-performance, turbocharged MPS models, it is the most expensive Mazda small car ever sold here and will pit the volume-selling Mazda directly against more exclusive European brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz

While the rival European models are smaller, they feature impressive attention to detail and a more upmarket badge.

Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak believes the Astina model will sell well in Australia.

“The small car segment is the top market in Australia and I think the days of people saying ‘that’s too much for a small car’ are well and truly over,” he said.

“You look at the technology and performance available on that car, $38,000 is a competitive price and I can’t see a problem with it.

“We’ve had our MPS model in the low 40s for years and years, so it’s not as though we’re breaking new territory with the new Astina pricing.”

Mazda's sales pitch is that the SP25 Astina comes with advanced crash warning technology usually reserved for luxury models. 

That includes radar cruise control, collision warning, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. 

While many entry-level European prestige models have an auto braking function, they don't come with as many standard safety features.

However Ford offers a suite of similar technologies on its Kuga SUV for an additional $2650 (from $38,890 for a bigger SUV). 

Mazda is forecasting the SP25 Astina - the Astina badge was once reserved for small Mazda hatchbacks but is now being used to denote a flagship model - will initially account for just 5 per cent of an estimated 45,000 3 sales annually, dropping to 3 per cent later in the car's life.