What is it?
One of three popular Mazda models receiving the 100th Anniversary edition treatment, inspired stylistically by Mazda’s first passenger car, the R360 Coupé.
Alongside the 100th Anniversary MX-5 and CX-30, the Mazda 3 special edition becomes the halo of the hatchback’s line-up, building on the top-of-the-range trim and adding some snazzy design tweaks as a nod to that 1960 R360 Coupé.
The model, of which only 100 are available in the UK, receives white pearlescent paint with burgundy interior carpet and leather seats, as well as a 100th Anniversary badge on the floor mats, key fob and embossed headrests. Outside, the same badge is in the centre of the wheels and on the side of the car.
Beyond those features, this is the same 3 mechanically as you’ll find across the line-up. It uses the innovative spark-plug compression-ignition 2.0-litre Skyactiv X petrol unit with a 24V mild-hybrid, which makes up around half of the model’s sales, promising petrol-like performance and diesel-like economy.
What's it like?
The 178bhp Skyactiv-X engine is still the party piece - as Mazda pushes forwards with plans to eke the most out of combustion engines rather than rely on pure electrification alone. At start-up, it acts like a petrol and it isn’t until mid-revs that it begins to mimic the sound of a diesel, before returning to the feel of a slightly raspy petrol beyond 4500rpm. Ultimately, most drivers will barely notice the difference.
For all its clever technology to aid economy and emissions - delivering a claimed 48.7mpg and 131g/km of C02 riding on 18in wheels as this edition does - it’s not the most perky of 2.0-litre petrol engines. Acceleration is linear and up to scratch, but doesn’t have the verve through the range that smaller petrol engines in the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus do. The spec sheet says it achieves 0-62mph in 8.2sec and a top speed of 134mph.
Despite the Skyactiv-X’s slight underwhelm, the rest of the 3 package makes it one of the keenest driver’s cars in the hatchback segment, probably outsmarted by only the Ford Focus. Satisfyingly precise steering, a sharp, tactile gearchange and more than respectable cornering technique make this car enjoyable behind the wheel on every kind of route. That dynamic appeal inevitably compromises ride comfort - but, although firm, it has far better body control than some of its rivals.