New car review

Mazda 3 test drive

Mazda’s Ford Focus-rivalling hatchback reaches a new level

What’s the new Mazda 3 like inside?

The Mazda 3 makes a convincing effort at seeming more upmarket inside than it actually is. High-quality materials are present throughout, particularly on high-spec GT Sport models onwards, which benefit from a full black leather interior.

The three-piece dash is particularly effective at creating an elegant look. This also opens up the possibility of some interesting interior colour combinations down the line.

It’s not perfect, though. Rear passengers may struggle for headroom as a result of the sloped roofline. As for boot space, the hatchback has 358 litres – a marginal decrease on the old car, while also lagging behind the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.

What’s under the bonnet?

While we wait to see if Skyactiv-X lives up to the hype, two Skyactiv-G engines are available from launch for the 3 hatchback — one naturally aspirated petrol and one diesel, both 2.0-litre in capacity, while the petrol version also comes as part of a mild-hybrid powertrain.

It’s the former of those we had a go in. Developing 120hp and 213Nm of torque, power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox (an automatic is also available). As a result, 0-60mph comes in a not-so-brisk 10.2 seconds, with a 126mph top speed possible. Mazda claims it can also achieve 46.3mpg on the combined cycle – although we actually managed 47.8mpg on our mixed test route – along with 139g/km of CO2 emissions.

As the figures may suggest, this isn’t a powerhouse – in fact, it’s fair to call it slow. However, it does offer a smooth drive that turbocharged rivals struggle to deliver – just be prepared to work it hard in more demanding driving scenarios.

What’s the new Mazda 3 like to drive?

The Mazda 3 has always had an impressive behind-the-wheel experience, ranking among the class best as a driving machine.

That’s no different here, with well-judged steering combining with a composed chassis to provide some serious fun – it’s almost crying out for a more potent engine. The latest Ford Focus still pips it to the top spot, but the gap isn’t huge between the two.

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It’s also refined and comfortable on the motorway. The ride is a touch firm compared with an equivalent Volkswagen Golf, but not so much as to spoil the car. Wind and road noise coming into the cabin is fairly minimal too.

Verdict

British buyers in the C-segment (compact family car) marketplace have unfairly overlooked the Mazda 3 in the past, but the latest version of the car may be the one to turn their heads at last.

Boasting serious value for money, respectable efficiency, stunning looks and an impressive driving experience, it has everything to keep up with the best in the class.

If Mazda can deliver on its Skyactiv-X promises (and hopefully give the car a lot more poke in the process), there’s no reason the new Mazda 3 couldn’t become the go-to choice ahead of its competition.

Similar cars

Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf

Key specifications

Model as tested: Mazda 3 GT Sport Tech
Price as tested (on-road): £25,495
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol mild-hybrid
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Power: 120 hp
Torque: 213 Nm
Top speed: 126mph
0-60mph: 10.2 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 46.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 139g/km

Ryan Hirons
Ryan Hirons
Articles by Ryan Hirons are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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