Otherwise, the car remains crisp, precise and stable in its cornering manners with a subtle but pleasing sense of neutrality and adjustability in its handling at times, and it holds its line with decent conviction under power.
On Millbrook’s unforgiving hill route, the Mazda 3 behaved in a manner totally in step with what you would expect from one of the sharper-handling cars in the family hatch class.
Body movements through corners both fast and tight were well controlled, though perhaps more pronounced than what you would experience in a Focus ST-Line X. Nevertheless, the 3 developed plenty of usable grip, with its front end being perfectly willing to tuck in towards an apex in response to a light application of torque. Particularly sharp bends could cause the front end to wash wide, but this slip was easily marshalled by backing off the throttle.
Meanwhile, its ESP software didn’t prove overly intrusive at any point. At the same time, however, the engine’s lack of low-down punch did result in the Mazda feeling a bit more strained on the route’s numerous inclines compared with some of its turbocharged rivals.
COMFORT AND ISOLATION
Mazda’s decision to offer the 3 exclusively with a torsion beam and passive dampers might just raise one or two eyebrows among those who are used to fully independent suspension in their sporty family hatchback. Many of its key rivals rely on sophisticated multi-link arrangements, with some form of adaptive damping generally offered as an option – and none of those is sold with a zoomy marketing catchline, let’s not forget.
Mazda’s decision to resist this trend isn’t entirely without consequence. Compared with the likes of the VW Golf, and even sportier iterations of the Ford Focus, the Mazda’s rear axle exhibits a keenness to become overly familiar with the Tarmac passing underwheel.
On glass-smooth surfaces infrequent in Britain, this isn’t particularly problematic. But point the handsomely sculpted snout down a more neglected stretch of road and the car’s secondary ride gets noticeably livelier than it really ought to. Primary ride comfort is generally good, however – the manner in which it smooths over bigger inputs and compressions is far more zen.
The supremely well-trimmed cabin is fairly well isolated from the outside world. There is a bit of engine, wind and road noise present when trotting along at a steady cruise but nothing vocal enough to leave a black mark by the Mazda’s name. Only that aforementioned busy secondary ride would be likely to attract your ire on a regular basis – and only then on broken and rough surfaces.