What is it?
The current Mazda 3 only launched in 2009, but with the number of able rivals in the C-segment, it was easily overlooked. The latest revisions seek to play the Focus and Golf at their own game by improving the 3’s already-impressive dynamics.
Key to these improvements is what Mazda calls ‘Toitsukan’, which describes a consistent and linear feel. That might sounds like marketing doublespeak, but there’s truth in it. The 3 is easy to drive smoothly, with nicely weighted and keen steering, well damped suspension and the best gearshift in its class.
Mazda has tweaked the electric-hydraulic power steering and MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension systems. Combined with improved torsional stiffness and new damping settings, the dynamics are nearer the class best than ever. Although the second-generation Mazda 3 was always a refined car, particularly with a diesel powertrain, the facelift has brought further NVH improvements.
What’s it like?
The slightly revised high-power 2.2-litre diesel develops 188bhp, but needs to be pushed to get the best from it. With a 0-62mph of 8.2secs – a second less than the 148bhp version of the same engine – the difference is noticeable.
Mazda quotes an average of 52.3mpg, but it’s worth noting our test average on the motorway and in rush hour London traffic struggled to climb above 41mpg. Co2 emissions of 149g/km fall just inside the £130 a year band, not helped by a lack of start-stop. By comparison, the latest Honda Civic – also fitted with a 2.2-litre engine, albeit developing 148bhp – records an official average of 67.3mpg and 110g/km.
Interior changes amount to minor tweaks but the car’s solidity remains, even if some plastics feel cheap. The silver lower centre console is now black, and the dials and controls now have rings making them easier to locate. The LCD graphics of the secondary information displays are now white and clearer.
Should I buy one?
The revisions to the Mazda 3 amount to little more than a mid-life refresh, but improve the car’s dynamics to heights not yet scaled. The question is, do buyers need the big power 2.2, even if it is well priced compared to the rivals.
Mazda 3 2.2d 185 Sport
Price: £20,895; Top speed: 132mph; 0-62mph: 8.2secs; Economy: 52.3mpg; Co2: 149g/km; Kerbweight: 1390kg; Engine type, cc: 4cyl in-line turbocharged diesel, 2184cc; Power: 188bhp; Torque: 295lb ft; Gearbox: 6spd manual.