From £17,0408
Mazda’s full range of SkyActiv tech is applied to its small hatch with impressive results
Matt Burt
12 July 2013

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 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. 


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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. 

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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12 July 2013

Mazda has made an interesting choice by sticking with large capacity engines while VW and Ford has trimmed down the engine capacity to 1.2L and 1L respectively and purely rely on the blowers to eke out some performance.

Any motorist would prefer a larger naturally aspirated engine over a tiny capacity turbo-charged one. Or perhaps times have changed and cars have become nothing but disposable objects. Who cars how long the blower lasts?

12 July 2013

Ok its very pretty, but 2.0L and 114bhp?


12 July 2013

peterover wrote:

Ok its very pretty, but 2.0L and 114bhp?


But what?  As the article says, this is the lower-powered version, presumably tuned for economy, and a damned good job it does of it as well.  And 8.9 seconds to 60 isn't to be sniffed at either.  Good effort Mazda, rooting for the little guy!

12 July 2013

This is a great post, this essays is a wonderful post, I love cars but can you get this post.

12 July 2013

.....where in the section about their engines, they openly admit that they are not following the small cappacity turbo route as it offers false economy gains (pretty much like smaller cappacity Turbo diesels). They are sticking with the 2.0 as it will be less stressed and offer a more linear power delivery, opperating at these lower power levels while still offering comparable 'real world' economy to the turbo'd engines (they also admited it would fall short on low end urge). You need to remember the standard tune 2.0 produces 165BHP, which isn't tardy for an engine of that size.

On another note, part of me actually hopes Mazda does indeed bring the saloon version to the UK.  I feel a 2.2D saloon would be a nice replacement for my A1 TDi.  I originally wanted to replace it with a 6 2.2D, but had a few misgivings about the dash.

12 July 2013

On a subjective level, i think its one of the best looking small hatches around at the moment. 

Being Japanese cant harm long term reliability, nor can the simplified mechanical spec of a decent sized understrssed engine. 

Its a shame it doesnt sound as if it drives with a little more 'verve' but maybe there is something a little more involving to come.

If i were in the market for a small family hatch it would be at the top of the list to test. It probably doesnt trick its way through the EU tests quite well enough to be a popular company car, but if you are buying with your own money its got a lot of appeal. I hope Mazda do really well with this.

12 July 2013

I'm hoping that Mazda's winning 'SkyActiv' formula will be spread down to the 2 supermini ...

12 July 2013

It's a shame that this comes as a 5 door only as I really like the looks of this and it would be a nice size for my needs but the Mazda 2 which does come with a 3 door is a bit too small.

12 July 2013

I drive a 1.4 TSi, which is an older generation. I also drove a 3 for a long period of time. Small capacity turbo engines can achieve very, very good mpg as long as the driver puts his mind into doing so. Every person claiming false mpg really doesn't own one. Not drive and thrash here and there but own. Still mazda's choice of engines is not without reason but also is not ideal. It is the best for mazda. They simply don't have the money and experience and sales numbers to justify the evolution of a small turbo petrol lineup of engines.


As far as the 3 it looks superb, mazda tops reliability charts often (the real ones!) and I am sure the handling will be top notch. I am pretty sure the reviewer is not a really good one here.


12 July 2013

pretty sure its not 118bhp


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