Does added sporting paraphernalia leave us yearning after Mazda's limited run 3 Sport Black? We find out on a UK drive

What is it?

Mazda appears to have made a bold sporting statement with its new special edition Mazda 3 Sport Black, fixing its sights directly on hot hatch royalty. It's based on a standard Sport 3, but is fitted with a front splitter, deep side skirts, a rear diffuser and a big rear spoiler, all of which are finished in gloss black - hence the name. Its 18in alloy wheels get Dark Gunmetal colouring to finish the sporting ensemble. 

The Sport Black costs from £20,995 and is available in Snowflake White Pearlescent or Soul Red Metallic paint, for no additional cost. So, what’s the power output, 250bhp, 300bhp, maybe? Erm, no.

What's it like?

Okay, so it’s not the all-out sports hatch that its looks suggest; it’s more a luke-warm hatch for two crucial reasons.

Firstly, the 3 Sport Black keeps Mazda's 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G petrol engine, which develops 118bhp and 155lb/ft of torque. That’s hardly earth shattering and neither is the resulting zero to 60mph time of 8.9sec.

Does 118bhp feel right in a sporty hatchback? Well, yes, actually. It lacks sufficient torque at low revs, but above 2500rpm the Skyactiv-G starts to sing. It needs to be revved hard to get the best from it, as maximum power comes in at 6,000rpm, but it has a linear power delivery. You’ll find yourself downshifting to keep in its power band, which is fine because the six-speed manual gearbox is a delight. It has a short shift, allowing quick and accurate gear changes. 

The second reason is that it’s rather comfy. It doesn't have Citroen C6 levels of road-ironing comfort, but it doesn’t have the hardcore ride you’d expect given its looks. Some larger bumps are felt, but overall, the suspension set-up is mmpressive, combining excellent handling with good levels of comfort.

The 3 feels happy to be thrown into corners, with no discernable understeer until it is pushed hard. Sporting credentials are aided by a wonderfully judged steering set-up. It’s well-weighted, accurate and requires only a light touch to successfully knit a series of bends together, even though it doesn't have the feedback of some rivals. 

The sporting magic dust has been sprinkled over the interior. The sports seats are now clad in half suede and leather, with the doors getting the same treatment. The door linings are finished in suede with red piping to match the seats. However, despite a neatly designed instrument binnacle, which is reminiscent of an RAF wings badge, and soft-touch plastics, the interior is slightly drab. The fascia is dominated by Mazda's brilliant 7.0in colour touchscreen and rotary dial-controlled infotainment system.

The front sports seats have good side bolster support, but are overly firm on the backrest around the shoulder blades. The seats adjust well for height, but after you have put your seatbelt on, the backrest adjustment lever is covered and difficult to get to. 

In the rear, access is tight and leg room is limited for adults. At the back, the boot has quite a lip to get over before you get to the flat and usable boot space, although its 364-litre capacity is short of the best in the class. In comparison, a Seat Leon offers 380 litres of space.

Should I buy one?

We like the Mazda 3. It's a very capable and likeable car, while in Sport spec it has uprated driving dynamics that make it more fun to drive. This Sport Black special edition, limited to just 800 units in the UK, gives it more menacing and purposeful looks. 

Even so, we’d recommend you take a look at Seat's Leon 1.4 TSI FR before you buy. It costs about the same money as the 3 Sport Black, but is quicker, more spacious, even better to drive and more economical.

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Matthew Griffiths

Mazda 3 2.0 Skyactiv-G 120 Sport Black

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £20,995; Engine 1998cc, petrol; Power 118bhp; Torque 155lb ft; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1355kg; 0-62mph 8.9sec; Top speed 121mph; Economy 55.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 119g/km, 20%

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bowsersheepdog 23 April 2016

Vroom with no view

Generally I tend to think kindly of Mazdas, having once had a 626 which I liked a lot. This one appears to be a typically decent effort, but I do see one big problem. Looking at that backseat photo, the rear side window seems even smaller from the inside. I really wouldn't like to travel in the back of this car. It's not the worst offender around, either. What the hell is wrong with these designers. Has glass been declared an endangered species? I'm neither short nor claustrophobic but the idea of being stuck on the rear seat of such a car peering through a letterbox is a highly unpleasant prospect.
Will86 23 April 2016

The engine is 'rightsized' in Mazda speak

Rather than go down the route of downsizing and turbocharging, Mazda developed an under stressed larger engine that can deliver strong real world economy, reliability and performance. Compare this engine to Ford's 1.0 ecoboost 125ps and while on paper they appear reasonably similar in power and torque, I found the Mazda significantly more responsive and powerful.
Jimbbobw1977 23 April 2016

The engine is already as said

The engine is already as said capable of higher performance numbers as shown in the 6 & 5 - this engine is put at this power to be the equivalent of other manufacturers 1.0 and 1.2 turbo engines. Like those engines, size isn't relevant anymore.