What is it?
Mazda appears to have made a bold sporting statement with its new special edition 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.