Previously, there was an artificial, exaggerated feel to the 3’s eagerness in a corner, as though Mazda had to impose some form of distinct dynamic personality to stop it from feeling just like a Focus Mk2, the 3’s sister car. This new one is calmer, more measured and more satisfying.
There’s a light-footed, pointable feel to the way it handles a bend, with remarkable grip from the front tyres. So understeer is rarely on the agenda and the standard-fit traction and stability systems stay largely dormant on a dry road, even under major provocation.
You can trim the balance with the throttle, enough so to bring the Mazda alive, but suddenly lifting off provokes nothing more than a neat tucking in of the nose. It’s just right for a mainstream family hatch.
Precise, consistent steering adds to the impression of accuracy and fluency. Its weighting feels a touch artificial at speed, but this electro-hydraulic system has little of the glutinous resistance that spoils the all-electric systems of many of today’s cars, so it doesn’t fight fine movements.
The Mazda disguises its nose weight well, then, and this latest model’s ride quality helps in this respect, too. The old one used to thud heavily into road depressions, but the new one copes much better, smothering all but the worst shocks. The damping is very well judged and the reduction in road roar is remarkable. This new Mazda 3’s ride is now up with the best.