Should I Buy a Volkswagen Golf or Mazda3 SP25 GT?


I want to spend around $30K on a new vehicle, and I have test-driven Golf Highline and Mazda SP25GT. I would prefer leather upholstery. Loved the ride and engine response in the Volkswagen Golf Highline. The Mazda3 SP25 Gt was nicely optioned but it left me a little flat with ride. Not sure what to go for. Any suggestions on makes, models in my price range?


You might want to watch the video (right) to start with - it's an objectively rational cut-down of the small car market that arrives at the objective top three affordable small cars.

Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf is a really beautiful car that drives very well but is unacceptably plagued by systemic reliability issues. Volkswagen owners thus fall into two camps - the (larger camp) totally satisfied and really chuffed camp of people who love their Volkswagen Golfs and the (smaller camp) of monumentally pissed-off Volkswagen owners whose cars are defective, often resist being correctly diagnosed and/or fixed, and suffer long delays awaiting parts supplied from Germany. It doesn’t help that the dealer network has a reputation for not giving a stuff if you’re in the second camp.

This is a problem for all Volkswagen owners, not just Golf owners. Furthermore it is not just a problem for Volkswagen's DSG (dual-clutch transmission) - although considerable efforts by Volkswagen are devoted to framing the debate in this way. (Because it is easier to say 'we fixed it' if there is only one problem, which there isn't.)

Although it is numerically inferior, there are too many people in Volkswagen Camp 2 to discount the possibility that you might easily become one of them if you buy a Golf. It is too much of a roll of the dice, or a game of Russian roulette with too many of the chambers loaded. Whichever metaphor you prefer, there’s a disproportionately high rate of defects across the Volkswagen range, past and present, although obviously not all are defective. Most are not, but you really won't like it if you get one that is.


Mazda doesn’t have the same problems as Volkswagen, but the Mazda3 is a bit high on the road noise front and i-Stop (the auto engine shutdown and re-start in traffic) is appalling. I have a bit of a rant about that in this report on the Mazda CX-3 >> Scroll forward to 12:38 on the video on that page to hear it.

Basically the functionality is the same across the SKYACTIV vehicles, in which Mazda3 and CX-3 both reside. You can disable i-Stop as you drive (by holding a button under the RH air vent) but its default state on start up, every time you get in the car, is ‘active’. Doing it like that is monumentally conceited of Mazda’s engineers, in my view. I want it off permanently because a) it saves bugger-all fuel, b) it's unrefined on re-start, and c) it's really just there to cook the books on the official fuel numbers. 

Apart from those two things, and the hateful space-saver spare tyre, I love the Mazda3 (no car is perfect). It's a really well thought-out small car.

Watch my Mazda3 SP25 Astina review + video >>

Hyundai i30 SR

I really like the Hyundai i30 SR (direct injection engine and locally-tuned suspension makes all the difference - it’s a cracker). I also like the 2.0-litre equivalent Kia Cerato, which has the same engine. The Hyundai i30 SR offers several things the Mazda lacks:

  • Five-year warranty with unlimited kilometres (against the Mazda's 3yr/100,000km warranty)
  • No hateful i-Stop-style functionality
  • Full-sized alloy spare wheel and tyre

More Hyundai i30 reports >>

Focus, Cruze, Civic and Lancer are all, in my view, back-markers in the 'best mainstream small car for $30k' race, and the rest of the entrants are either a freak show or too niche to consider.

Let me get the brokerage to call you ASAP. They’re the independent experts who can get the best price on your new car. (If it were me, it's be between the Mazda3 and the i30 SR). The brokerage can also help with a good trade-in and/or competitive, low-rate finance for individuals and businesses. Buying a new car this way gets dealerships competing against each other for your business, eliminates the rip-offs and makes car buying easy.

You might also like to see my report on test-driving new cars >>