From £14,805
The 3 always was a capable car, now it's quieter and cheaper to run. But in such a hotly contested market, that's not really enough.

Our Verdict

Mazda 3 2009-2012
Mazda's family hatch aims to close the gap to the Focus and Golf

The Mazda 3 hatchback is superbly refined and a more competitive package now previous faults are fixed

  • First Drive

    Mazda 3 2.2D 185 Sport

    Mid-life revisions improve the Mazda 3’s dynamics and reduce NVH still further, but the 2.2 diesel lacks sparkle
  • First Drive

    Mazda 3 MPS BBR 320

    Brackley-based tuning specialist BBR has a long history of working with Mazda’s MX-5, and the firm has now launched a three-stage tuning programme for the 3 MPS

What's new?
It may not look any different, but Mazda’s engineers are at pains to emphasise the minutia of “discreet updates” that decorate this facelifted Mazda 3. Both hatch and three-box receive restyled bumpers, new tinted rear light clusters and a bigger Mazda logo but the silhouette remains identical. There are also four new exterior colours including this Icy Blue metallic.
Thankfully, progress has gone beyond the skin. The driver controls are well sighted with rack and reach adjustment on a now collapsible steering column. There are further safety updates such as front and rear seatbelt warning lights and Dynamic Stability Control to complement the six airbags.
What's it like?
You’d probably struggle to notice any differences. Mazda’s main aim has been to diminish NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels. Though sales don’t appear to have been affected, this was a fairly loud criticism when the 3 was launched two years ago.
There is now a quieter alternator, new wheel and tyre tread design along with thicker insulation in the roof and bonnet linings, which help to reduce vibration and wind noise in the cabin by 1.5dB.
You don’t have to be an audiophile to notice the quieter environment. But how much of this is directly attributable to the revisions as opposed to the velvet consistency of Sardinia’s roads, we will have to wait until the car arrives in the UK.
The best selling 1.6-litre petrol now sits in a lower company car tax band and thanks to an aerodynamic underfloor cover, offers marginally improved fuel efficiency. It’s still raucous at the top end, and the suspension mutters on brittle surfaces. Though it’s no Focus beater, the chassis feels composed around corners, keeping the body flat and free from roll.
Combined with a quick steering rack and one of the slickest 5-speed shifts in the class, the Mazda has the ability to raise a smile.
Should I buy one?
Fun to drive, reliable (fourth best in class in this year’s JD Power survey), the 3 is a good hatchback. But the only problem we have is that the 3 has always been a good hatch. This facelift fails to move the game on enough.
Jon Quirk

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