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.