Can a saloon cut it like a hatchback? Mazda thinks it can
Darren Moss
5 September 2016

I’ve got previous here. The first car I bought with my own money was a saloon – a 2007 Ford Focus four-door – and I loved it.

I loved it because it did everything the regular Focus hatchback did, but also included a bit of its own image, a bit of flair and individuality. Rubbish, you might be thinking: saloon versions of popular hatches aren’t any more practical – and are considerably less popular – than the cars upon which they’re based.

They also rarely make it to the UK. Saloon versions of the Vauxhall Astra and Focus are sold widely across mainland Europe, but neither is available here, because British buyers tend to opt for either small family hatches or SUVs. Mazda wants to change that and, so far, 22% of 3 buyers are opting for this Fastback saloon version over the hatch.

The Fastback is a notably different shape from the hatchback that we ran in 2014-2015 and has a smaller, more frugal 1.5-litre diesel engine. So although the trim level is the same, that’s where the similarities end.

With 104bhp available, the diesel motor isn’t what you’d call sporty. The 0-62mph sprint takes 11.0sec and its top speed is 115mph. What you lose in performance, though, you gain in fuel economy. Mazda says we should expect 74.3mpg combined and CO2 emissions are rated at a company car tax-friendly 99g/km.

Thus far, and bearing in mind that we’re only about 1000 miles into our ‘ownership’, we’re averaging about 55mpg without trying too hard. Some way off Mazda’s official figures, then, but impressive nonetheless. I’m also enjoying the six-speed manual gearbox. Having come straight out of an eight-speed automatic in our about-to-depart Jaguar XE, it’s a welcome change to do the job myself.

On to the body. I think this 3 Fastback looks great. It’s in the rear 10% of the car that you notice the change in styling, and I’m a big fan of the way the boot is integrated into the rear and the lip spoiler you’ll find there, too. 

However, despite the fact that the saloon is 120mm longer than the hatch, it’s doesn't appear to be much more practical. The boot offers 419 litres of space with the rear seatbacks in place - that’s less than an Audi A3 saloon’s 425 litres, but a late-night airport run has already proved that the Mazda’s boot will swallow two suitcases with ease.

Sitting in Heathrow’s short-stay car park, waiting for my passengers to show up, I also had some time to assess the 3’s interior. Like our previous 3, the cabin of this Fastback model is well equipped. You get luxuries such as heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav and a reversing camera as standard here, and we’re already finding some of the 3’s features – such as its head-up display – to be very welcome. The seats are very comfortable and supportive, and the thin steering wheel and central pedal layout encourages an enthusiastic driving style.

Other parts of the interior are less impressive, especially the faux carbonfibre trim that comes with higher-end models. As we noted on the old hatchback version, it shows up dust and fingerprints easily and feels cheap to the touch.

There have been a few hiccups so far. I’ll need to consult the owner’s manual to find out where the child lock is for the doors; more than one colleague has had to reach through the window and unlock their door from the outside to be set free. Also, although getting into and out of the car is a breeze thanks to its large door openings, the trim around the door edges is getting scuffed fairly easily.

In my care, the 3 will have the kind of varied life expected of a mass-market car. During the week it will be an urban commuting companion, but come the weekend there will be motorway journeys and occasional treks into the countryside. We’d expect the best family hatches to conquer all three tasks with ease. The question is whether a saloon can cut the mustard here, too.

Our Verdict

Mazda 3
The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

Mazda's SkyActiv revolution hits the family hatchback class

Join the debate

Comments
12

5 September 2016
Thanks for this. How do you rate the ride and overall refinement?

5 September 2016
I just couldn't love or even live with a car so expensive that's so slow, no matter what the mpg. IMO

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

A34

5 September 2016
xxxx wrote:

I just couldn't love or even live with a car so expensive that's so slow, no matter what the mpg. IMO

Good trolling comment - price isn't mentioned in the article (its competitive for sure) and 11 sec to 60 and 115 max speed is fine for most folk. Should I or anyone else care its not fast enough for you ?

5 September 2016
A34 wrote:
xxxx wrote:

I just couldn't love or even live with a car so expensive that's so slow, no matter what the mpg. IMO

Good trolling comment - price isn't mentioned in the article (its competitive for sure) and 11 sec to 60 and 115 max speed is fine for most folk. Should I or anyone else care its not fast enough for you ?

Good fanboy comment! it's my opinion, I even put that in my comment!

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

5 September 2016
xxxx wrote:

I just couldn't love or even live with a car so.... slow....

Sounds like you would prefer a Mustang V8?

Not sure what performance you are used to, but my previous car was 0-60 of around 11 secs and 115 top speed and I did not find it was lacking.

5 September 2016
Scratch wrote:
xxxx wrote:

I just couldn't love or even live with a car so.... slow....

Sounds like you would prefer a Mustang V8?

Not sure what performance you are used to, but my previous car was 0-60 of around 11 secs and 115 top speed and I did not find it was lacking.

If a 0-60 in 11 seconds is fine you great. Not really my cup of tea, just a shame you have to comment on other peoples opinions. Don't like Mustang V8's either, thanks for the concerns

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

5 September 2016
Great to see Mazda continuing in a market where others have given up - just as they are also selling the stunning Jag-like 6 where the likes of the Accord and Primera were axed.

The 3 saloon looks great, like a mini 6. Great to see it on the UK market, a bit different than the usual turtle shaped 2 box C segment contenders. You usually have to visit Ireland to see small saloons - Astra, Focus, Corolla, Fluence etc.

Yes it doesn't have a proper hatch for the occasional lifting of a chest of drawers, but if you wanted the last word in practicality there are plenty of estate and crossover options in the market.

5 September 2016
Surprised will86 hasn't piped up yet about getting 45mpg around town and over 55mpg out of town in his normally aspirated Honda and how downsized turbos are useless.

5 September 2016
Im still working on a way to big up VWAG and / or disparage the Mustang.

5 September 2016
I have had one of these with the 2.2d engine since last May. I love it and feel it has been under-rated by the press - Autocar in particular. I'll provide more detailed comment in due course and have been running my own LTT reviews on another site (Driventowrite.com). I have never commented on Autocar before ... I felt I needed to write a correction - the boot in the Fastback is much bigger than in the hatch - 440 litres, not 364, and so is also larger than the A3, which I feel is its nearest competitor. I average 58 MPG. I feel the handling a ride are excellent, albeit erring towards sporting - with excellent damping and body control - rather than comfort.
The car-buying public gets what it deserves, unfortunately ...

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK