How much of the Mazda 3 is going to end up on next year’s new Focus and Volvo S40 depends on who you talk to. But the fact that no one is shy of saying that it at least shares a platform with these two future Ford offerings should be significant in itself. Not least because it finally means that Mazda hatch buyers no longer have to justify their purchase on mechanical reliability alone.
How close it will end up being to the Focus and S40 remains to be seen. Especially as Mazda’s engineers are at pains to point out that despite the shared architecture, it owes its character to work carried out in Hiroshima, rather than Detroit, Cologne or Gothenburg.
It feels that way on the road, too. Despite the family ties, the 3’s not as sharply satisfying as the current Focus, yet still pitches at the sporty end of the spectrum. So like the bigger 6, with which it shares its front and rear suspension layout, it trades some ride refinement in the name of high-speed agility and keeping vertical and lateral body movement in check. Wind and road noise are also commendably isolated when you’re rolling at above urban speeds.
A brace of 1.6-litre diesels and a 1.4-litre petrol will be ushering along next May, but at the January launch there’s only two bigger petrols to play with: a 103bhp 1.6 litre and a 148bhp 2.0 litre.