Mazda’s full range of SkyActiv tech is applied to its small hatch with impressive results

What is it?

The Mazda 3 is an important new car for the Japanese manufacturer, because the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf rival currently accounts for a significant proportion of Mazda’s sales around the globe.

As its competitors shift to downsized turbocharged engines to meet emissions targets without compromising performance, Mazda remains committed to larger-capacity motors and its advanced SkyActiv chassis and powertrain technology to win sales.

Now, in the wheel tracks of the Mazda CX-5 and Mazda 6, it’s the turn of the company’s family hatchback to get the SkyActiv treatment.

We drove a pre-production version of the lower-powered 2.0-litre petrol hatch, which Mazda UK expects to be the best-seller in the 3's range.

What's it like?

There’s an overall sensation of lightness about the Mazda 3. That feeling is enhanced not only by the all-round slimming that comes with the SkyActiv tech, but also by the light touch to both the pedals and steering, and the slick precision of the short-throw six-speed manual gearbox. 

The new 3 feels nimble on cramped city streets. Equipped with 18-inch wheels (16s are also available), the ride is fairly pliant, although the occasional bump makes itself known. The engine is exceptionally hushed, though, particularly at low loads and during constant-speed cruising.

This 118bhp unit offers a claimed 55mpg and has a pleasingly linear power delivery, but it’s a solid performer rather than a sparkling one. With peak torque not arriving until 4000rpm, it lacks the low-down surge that turbo-boosted rivals offer.

A 0-62mph time of 8.9sec is hardly tardy, but this isn’t a car for the thrill-seeker. The handling is neutral rather than involving, and while that light steering is a plus point in town, it is devoid of connection at higher speeds.

Mazda's 3 will appeal to those who rate comfort over performance, however. The sophisticated look of the exterior is carried over to the interior, which is comfortable and, for the most part, ergonomically sound. 

The view out is good, apart from slightly obstructive A-pillars, but the dramatic sweep where the rear glasshouse blends into the hatch compromises the over-shoulder view. It’s a detail that could leave taller rear passengers feeling hemmed in, too.

No such concerns up front. With the latest 3 both wider than its predecessor and having a longer wheelbase, the front-seat occupants get generous shoulder and legroom. A 350-litre boot puts it in the middle of the class, between the 316 litres of the Focus and the 380 litres of the Golf.

There’s also a wide range of technology, including the grandly named Active Driving Display (a heads-up display to you and me) and a new seven-inch multimedia screen.

Should I buy one?

The UK pricing, due to be revealed in September, will confirm just how attractive the new Mazda 3 can be in a competitive segment.

What’s clear is that by ploughing a lonely furrow with its SkyActiv technology, however, Mazda is keeping pace with the opposition. 

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Mazda 3 SkyActiv-G 2.0

Price £18,500 (est); 0-62mph 8.9sec; Top speed 121mph; Economy 55.0mpg (combined); CO2 119g/km; Kerb weight 1280kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, petrol; Power 118bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 155lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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Matthew Tortellini 16 July 2013

Hmmmmmmmmmm ..... well done!

Will86 12 July 2013


I really like the styling inside and out. It's fresh and modern but not fussy or derivative (the interior doesn't look that Audi-like to me). Plus the 118bhp 2.0 petrol sounds like the sweet spot in the range. I'm getting a little tired of the narrow power bands in modern diesels, a nice linear petrol appeals.

winniethewoo 12 July 2013

Looks quite interesting.

I'm going to test drive this when it comes out.

What else at this size looks good, is reliable, has good fuel economy, is refined and comfortable, has good fuel economy and is safe in a crash?

The Ford Focus comes close but I hate the styling and interior.

Perhaps the Volvo V40?!