What is it?
It must be a tough gig, launching a car such as the Mazda 3. After all, the class of vehicles it slots into is one so competitive and cut-throat, it’d likely make a gang of even the most unprincipled 1980s-style Wall Street stockbrokers seem tame by comparison.
Survival in such an environment demands competence; success requires a well-defined, confident identity. Just look at what Volkswagen has achieved with its polished, versatile and multi-talented Golf; and Ford with its athletically talented, spry-handling Focus.
With the previous 3, Mazda followed a similar tack to the Blue Oval in placing driver pleasure at the forefront of its motive experience. It did it rather successfully, too.
This new fourth-generation model - tested here in 1.8-litre, 114bhp diesel guise - sets out to do the same, only with even greater focus on what has always been a weak spot for the Ford, and a forte for the Volkswagen: interior quality.