From £14,805
Fresher-faced 3 is nimbler, better-suited to UK roads and handsome as ever

Our Verdict

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1 November 2011

What is it?

The facelifted, second-generation Mazda 3, which goes on sale in the UK at the beginning of 2012, receives revised dampers to better-suit European roads and features improved structural rigidity for better dynamics and handling characteristics.

Revisions to the car's exterior include a softer-looking front grille for added 'sophistication' whilst treatment to the rear includes moving the bumper's light reflectors to its corners to accentuate the car's proportions. Strengthened underbody wind deflectors reduce drag to help tease Co2 emissions figures down from 149g/km Co2 to 147g/km.

Mazda says the 3 will be most popular in 1.6-litre petrol guise (tested here), closely followed by the 1.6-litre oil-burner. The petrol version sits in tax band F. For the diesel, Co2 drops to 115g/km and tax band C, but you'll need to produce an extra £2200 for the privilege.

What's it like?

Dynamically, the new Mazda 3 is refined, quiet and simple to thread through busy towns. The five-speed manual gearbox works well with the free-revving 104bhp petrol unit and cog changes are precise. There is an automatic 'box offered with the car, but just four forward gears make progress strained and worsen mpg and Co2 figures by seven mpg and 29g/km respectively, which also slots it from tax band F to tax band I.

At 1271kg, the base-spec 3 feels light enough on its feet. Thanks to newfound rigidity - courtesy of strengthened brace bars underneath - as well as improved damper settings, the facelifted Mazda 3 is keener to turn into corners and more composed around sharp bends. Road-holding on rougher terrain is consequently better although the Italian roads on our test route didn't compare to the extremes the UK has to offer.

Despite an upgraded interior, plastics are thin and feel flimsy. The simpler new design to the centre stack is, however, an improvement and new white dials now house a gear shift indicator between the speedometer and rev counter.

During moderate driving conditions around towns, B-roads and motorways, we averaged 36mpg, which is competitive compared with its C-segment rivals.

Should I buy one?

The new Mazda 3 is more dynamic, features a more supple chassis than before and is slightly cleaner than the car it replaces (Mazda's calculations suggest fuel savings of £25.92 per year based on 12k miles).

If immediate cost is an issue, the £14,995 Mazda 3 is a solid investment, offering a simple but functional interior, positive on-road characteristics and handsome looks to boot.

Alex Kertsen

Mazda 3 1.6S

Price: £14,995; Top speed: 112mph; 0-62mph: 12.2sec; Economy: 44.1mpg; Co2: 147g/km; Kerbweight: 1271kg; Engine type, cc: 1598cc four-cyls in-line DOHC; Power: 104bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 107lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox: five-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
21

2 November 2011

[quote Autocar] The five-speed manual gearbox works well with the free-revving 104bhp petrol unit and cog changes are precise. There is an automatic 'box offered with the car, but just four forward gears make progress strained and worsen mpg and Co2 figures by seven mpg and 29g/km respectively, which also slots it from tax band F to tax band I.[/quote]

So none of their much-hyped SkyActive technology makes it to the 3 yet.. Shame, as that could lift it from approximately average to something quite decent.

2 November 2011

A good value car for under £15,000. I had a couple of these last year, a 1.6 petrol and a 1.6 diesel. One was a TS2 and one was a TS. The TS was pretty basic, so imagine that in S trim, equipment is probably quite sparse. Still, a simple, and definitely reliable family car that looks and drives very well indeed.

2 November 2011

How refreshing to see a petrol engine version tested.

Was reading the tested section in the back of the magazine the other day and was amazed how many diesel variants had been run but not their petrol counterparts.

As for the car in question, I've always had a soft spot for the three. This update seems to make it even better.

Still think Autocar should do a C segment shoot out though.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

2 November 2011

[quote TegTypeR]

How refreshing to see a petrol engine version tested.

[/quote]

I completely agree, but I do think that the 185bhp 2.2 diesel engine available in the Mazda3 would be a very interesting choice.

2 November 2011

Looking at the pictures again, the facelift looks very subtle. This car looks like any other Mazda3 from 2010 onwards.

2 November 2011

[quote Fidji]

Looking at the pictures again, the facelift looks very subtle.

[/quote]

I think the front end looks a little simpler, and I'm hoping they've done something similar with the rear: I think the detailing on the existing 3, and on the 6 has become rather fussy and intricate. To be honest I prefer my friends previous model 3, which I think is a cleaner, purer design.

2 November 2011

I think I need to consult a dictionary and check the meaning of 'handsome'; my understanding is a bit at odds with Autocar's.

  • If you want to know about a car, read a forum dedicated to it; that's a real 'long term test' . No manufacturer's warranty, no fleet managers servicing deals, no journalist's name to oil the wheels...

2 November 2011

[quote BriMarsh]I think I need to consult a dictionary and check the meaning of 'handsome'; my understanding is a bit at odds with Autocar's.[/quote]

I think that it's a very tidy looking car.

2 November 2011

[quote BriMarsh]I think I need to consult a dictionary and check the meaning of 'handsome'; my understanding is a bit at odds with Autocar's.[/quote]

I think Autocar must be using it in its little known sense of 'ugly as sin'.

Let's face it this thing is an utter eyesore. There's no excuse (especially as Mazda have been known to do nice looking cars). If you want to design a building you have to get permission, but you can put hideous things like this on our roads willy nilly. It's offensively ugly, in a world where few cars are good looking. Making cars like this qualifies as antisocial behaviour.

2 November 2011

I cant see whats new in this facelift model.Its not pretty but it is leagues ahead of the new Civic in every way.I mean even the Auris now looks good next to the Civic !!!

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