Well-Hatched Plans

8 min read
Few cars are as nifty around the city as a zippy hatchback. We checked out three recent ones that meet different needs.

 

1. MAZDA 3 1.5L ELEGANCE

To say that the Mazda 3 is one of the most well-designed cars on the road today is not overstating the obvious. With its sleek lines, bold grille and elegant rear, it embodies the concept that form can follow function. The sedan version has been one of the more popular compact sedans in Singapore, but if you prefer the convenience and practicality of the hatchback, the Mazda 3’s five-door version cannot be ignored.

Mazda has taken design to another level, and leaves few stones unturned to make sure that the driver is as comfortable in the car as the car is ergonomic for use. Pedal layout is a good example of how Mazda handles the details of ensuring driver comfort. All Mazdas are designed around the driving position, with the front wheels further forward to create the space required for correct pedal location. The result is a relaxed, natural driving posture that provides minimal stress and effort.

On the dash, Mazda’s Human-Machine Interface enhances the connectivity between humans and the car’s switches, gauges and displays. Constantly changing high-priority information is delivered in real time in the Active Driving Display just below the driver’s line of sight. Driving information is shown in the meter cluster LCD directly in front, and information related to entertainment and convenience comes via the 8.8-inch centre display.

Mazda’s Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture allows drivers to maintain balance even inside the vehicle. With human characteristics as the overriding design directive for the seats, body and chassis as a whole, Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture realises ride comfort, handling stability and vehicle motion that perfectly matches human sensibilities.

Driveability is enhanced with Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus), which makes the vehicle more responsive and hence provides drivers with more confidence and comfort. As you enter a bend, GVC Plus momentarily lowers engine torque to transfer weight to the front wheels and enhance grip. As you go through the curve, engine torque is restored to shift weight rearwards for greater stability. Finally, as you exit the bend, brake force is slightly applied to the outer wheels to help recover straight-line running. This feature greatly reduces the need for mid-bend steering corrections, smoothens the G forces to reduce body sway, and lowers stress and fatigue on long drives.

Of course, the bells and whistles of driving comfort is nothing without an engine that drives the car. Here, Mazda’s Skyactive-G’s powerhouse is up to the mark. Conventional internal combustion engines only harness around 30% of the potential energy in the fuel they consume. The high-efficiency Skyactive-G engine compresses the air-fuel mixture to a much higher degree than in conventional powerplants, squeezing far more energy from every drop of fuel. This high compression ratio delivers both improved driving pleasure and better fuel economy. And it is further enhanced by a raft of innovative Mazda technologies, including optimised intake ports and piston shape, split fuel injection and a coolant control valve.

Mazda further included its M Hybrid system, which recovers energy during deceleration to generate power for onboard electrical equipment and also power a motor to assist the engine when accelerating from a standstill, the time when it is of greatest effect.

Mazda’s large menu of safety features is arguably one of the best for this class. Lane Departure Warning System alerts you when you veer off your lane, and Cruising And Traffic Support helps to control vehicle speed when you’re either on the highway or inching your way in traffic. Front Cross Traffic Alert uses side radars to monitor vehicles approaching from both sides at a T-junction. And the brakes seem almost alive — thanks to Smart Brake Support Rear and Rear Crossing. These features engage when they sense your car reversing into another parked car, and when they sense a car approaching as you are reversing out of a parking lot.

Not only is this make of Mazda one of the best-looking hatchbacks in Singapore right now, it’s arguably the safest too.

PRICE  $126,388 (WITH COE)
ENGINE  1,496CC SKYACTIVE-G 4-CYLINDER INLINE DOHC PETROL
TRANSMISSION  6-SPEED AUTOMATIC
POWER  120PS @ 6,000RPM
TORQUE  153NM @ 4,000RPM
0–100KM/H  12.1 SECONDS
DISTRIBUTOR  MAZDA SINGAPORE (Tel: 6603 6118)

2. NISSAN NOTE YOLO

Nissan Note continues its evolution with the enhanced Yolo edition. This compact hatchback belies its classification by offering spacious interiors that comfortably accommodates four passengers.

Look closely at this entry-level vehicle and you’ll find touches that transcend its genre. The V-Motion Grille lines up seamlessly with the swept-back headlamps’ ‘brows’. The lines continue elegantly to a rear hatch that’s accentuated by a rear spoiler. The 15-inch gloss black alloy wheels add a sporty touch to the package.

The lightweight body teams up with the compact Xtronic CVT transmission engine to provide a balanced disposition that offers both performance and fuel efficiency through efficiently selected gear ratios in a variety of driving conditions.

The Idling Stop System is available in the Note Yolo Edition, and stops the engine when the car comes to a halt. It takes just 0.4 seconds to start up when the brakes are released.

Vehicle Dynamic Control manages how the brakes and engine output enhance stability when it senses that the car may slip sideways due to braking, steering or stepping on the accelerator. Hill Start Assist is a safety feature that keeps your car at a standstill position for two seconds on a hill incline after the brake is released. This gives you more than enough time to step on the accelerator to get you under way again before your car slips backwards.

Customisation for this zippy 1.2-litre hatchback is one attractive feature. Nissan lets you choose from an array of colour accents for personalised combinations. Throw in an aerodynamic silhouette and excellent fuel efficiency, and you have a neat package that’s just perfect for urban use.

PRICE  $72,888 (WITH COE)
ENGINE  1,198CC 3-CYLINDER INLINE 12-VALVE DOHC AND CVTC
TRANSMISSION  ADVANCED XTRONIC CVT
POWER  79PS @ 6,000RPM
TORQUE  106NM @ 4,400RPM
0–100KM/H  UNAVAILABLE
DISTRIBUTOR  TAN CHONG MOTOR SALES (Tel: 6479 7711)

3. RENAULT MEGANE GT

If you want a hatch that’s as hot as it is hip, you probably wouldn’t need to look much further than the Renault Megane GT.

After all, the car’s DNA comes straight from the Renault Sport Formula 1 team, and is designed in collaboration with the experts there. Add on the Megane’s vast popularity since its launch in 1995 — having sold more than 6.6 million units in that time — and you’re likely to have a winning formula.

Straight off, this is one smart-looking car. The front grille, lower grille, headlamps and air intake form an integrated unit that is as fierce as it is stylish. The lower air intake is flanked by aerodynamic air guides that use Dark Metal finish to reinforce the GT identity. The car comes with 18-inch Magny-Cours alloy rims that add to its dynamism. Other design elements that distinguishes the GT include Renault sport rear diffuser and front spoiler, Renault Sport-specific insignia and door sill guards, and body-coloured exterior door handles with chrome accents.

The lighting is worth mentioning as well. The sculpted C-shaped signature LED day-time running lights is a cool inclusion that stems from the Renault Kadjar, and is now firmly entrenched in brand identity.

Looks aren’t everything, of course. The Megane GT’s powerbase and transmission comes direct from Renault’s racing heritage. Direct fuel injection, hollow camshafts, diamond-like carbon coating on camshaft tappets, and graphite-coated pistons — things you’re likely to find in high-end racing models — are all available here. The seven-speed Efficient Dual Clutch transmission helps get you through the gears smoothly.

Improvements to the suspension mean smoother ride quality over road surface irregularities, and modifications to the rear torsion beam provide bigger micro-steering movements of the rear wheel through corners. As a result of these enhancements, the GT has 25% more roll resistance from a stiffer tubular anti-roll bar.

Renault’s 4CONTROL system helps the GT handle those tight corners with aplomb and comfort. The system calculates and adjusts the steering angle of the rear wheel up to 100 times per second in any of the driving modes (Sport, Comfort, Neutral or Perso). Depending on the speed and mode selected, the rear wheels turn either in the opposite direction or the same direction as the front wheels for better stability, and precise handling.

Performance enthusiasts will enjoy the R.S. Drive button that gives immediate access to the Sport mode. In this mode, the steering is 40% more responsive, and the steering calibration, accelerator pedal mapping, and transmission mapping are all optimally adjusted to favour a dynamic, tarmac-hugging ride through windy roads.

Inside the GT, the features associated with in-cabin luxury are all incorporated. The 8.7-inch capacitive multimedia touchscreen and navigation system offers familiar click-and-drag movements as well as two-finger pinch-and-zoom abilities. Upon entry, the multimedia system can automatically sync with the driver’s phone contact list. And voice recognition operation can also be used through Bluetooth.

The GT’s safety list runs the gamut of what you’d expect in a high-end car. Electronic Stability Control detects a loss of steering and automatically applies the brakes to help ‘steer’ the vehicle towards its intended direction. There are front and rear parking sensors with rear view camera. And Anti-Intrusion Device locks the doors when the vehicle is in motion. All these and more offer clever touches that help make this performance vehicle a sensible one too.

PRICE  $123,999 (WITH COE)
ENGINE  1,618CC TURBOCHARGED DIRECT INJECTION
TRANSMISSION  7-SPEED EFFICIENT DUAL CLUTCH
POWER  205HP @ 6,000RPM
TORQUE  280NM @ 2,400RPM
0–100KM/H  7.1 SECONDS
DISTRIBUTOR  WEARNES AUTOMOTIVE PTE LTD (Tel: 6471 3313)