Family hatchbacks continue to be a popular choice for UK car buyers, despite the growth of SUVs and crossovers, but it’s still one of the toughest classes for a manufacturer to crack.
With the latest Ford Focus still flying off the shelves like those before it, the Volkswagen Golf proving to soldier on, and the patriotic among us continuing to buy British-built Vauxhall Astras, it’s going to take a real gem for the rest of the industry to break into it.
That’s something Mazda has previously struggled to do. Despite the Mazda 3 being a pleasant prospect in its previous four generations, it’s not exactly a common sight on our roads. Now though, the fifth-generation car is here – and the Japanese firm is hoping it will change that.
What’s new about the new Mazda 3?
What we have here is a totally new car. It’s the first to sit on Mazda’s latest Skyactiv-Vehicle underpinnings, which is said to improve comfort, handling and overall refinement. There’s also a fresh take on its ‘Kodo’ corporate design.
Key to the Mazda3’s potential success is the all-new Skyactiv-X technology, which the company claims can deliver the efficiency and torque of a diesel engine from an environmentally-cleaner petrol engine. It’s not quite ready for market yet, though, so we’ll have to wait until later in the year for a verdict on that.
How does it look?
In a nutshell: jaw-dropping. Mazda has the good-looking car formula nailed down with its ‘Kodo’ design, and the new 3 is a continuation of that.
Its concept-car-like front makes any other car in this price bracket on the road look ancient in comparison, and the sloping roofline creates a silhouette that rivals even the best coupés on the market. Press photos elicited mixed feelings on the chunky C-pillar introduced here, but it’s better appreciated in the metal. It looks properly good.
Better still is the saloon version – but that’s not set to come to market until later on in 2019.
What’s the spec like?
Mazda likes to be generous with its equipment offerings, and the 3 is no exception to this. As standard across the range, the hatch boasts a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with traffic sign recognition, LED headlights and a newly-designed infotainment system displayed on a nine-inch display. The infotainment system is a particular highlight, building on Mazda’s already intuitive software and giving it a more modern feel.
Extras on our GT Sport Tech test car included keyless entry, heated front seats, rear privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels, a heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera system and a Bose audio system. With the range starting from £20,595 and topping out at £27,735, the Mazda 3 is a serious value-for-money prospect.
Continued on next page: Interior, driving experience and our verdict