PROS: The cabin feels solid and the handling is stable making for a fun drive. The diesel engine feels punchy yet refined, delivering good performance.
CONS: The rear space is small making it uncomfortable for adult passengers. The design of the dashboard is very fussy and makes operating controls difficult.
There is a clear division between the petrol and diesel models of the Mazda3. The diesel model is definitely the one to go for with the 1.6 litre diesel engine giving 113 bhp at 2600 rpm and torque figures of 199lb-ft. Acceleration speeds are capable of achieving 0-62 mph in 11.0 seconds and a top speed of 116 mph gives the car decent performance levels and makes it feels flexible at low revs.
Like its predecessors, the Mazda3 is built with the keener driver in mind. This means some aspects of comfort have been sacrificed and the Mazda3 thunders over bumps and imperfections in the road unlike its rivals the Renault Megane and Ford Focus.
There is little body roll so the car feels planted and stable on the road but the Ford Focus handles bends better than the Mazda3. Despite this the Mazda3 is still fairly responsive when it comes to steering so it should feel sharp enough for most drivers.
The styling of the Mazda3 is its trump card - with this model being one of the best looking hatchbacks available on the market. There is an essence of the Mazda RX-8 Coupe as the Mazda3 is covered in slashes and creases making this family hatchback look quite sporty and modern. The body of the car sits comfortably on its big wheels and gives it an attractive appearance from the outside.
Unfortunately, the interior does not follow this trend and a mass of buttons and dials make it seem cluttered and disorganised. It lacks the simplicity of the VW Golf and, whilst it is well built, the cabin is likely to be a huge deterrent for drivers.
Kit wise you get alloy wheels, electric rear windows, MP3 connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity, stereo with cd, climate control, alloy wheels and electric windows as standard features - an impressive list for the car's low purchase price. For an extra £750 you can have a built-in sat nav system and a metallic paint finish costs an additional £420.
When it comes to practicality, hatchbacks will either do the job brilliantly or fail miserably. The Mazda3 unfortunately falls a little at this hurdle and the main issue is that there just isn’t enough room in the rear- not even for children. This makes the car uncomfortable for passengers and adults will also struggle with the limited headroom. The boot holds 340 litres with the seats up and 1360 litres with the seats down which isn’t too bad for a car of this class but is not enough to make up for the poor use of cabin space.
However, the Mazda3 is a car that means business and is built to last. Previous generations of this model have frequently scored high in reliability tests and as this model is built on the same frame there is unlikely to be any problems here.
What the Mazda3 lacks in interior space it makes up for in safety, with a top of the range safety kit offering a wealth of protection. This contains front and side airbags are standard, active head restraints to protect against whiplash, traction control and anti-lock brakes. It received a five-star rating in the NCAP crash tests, including an excellent score for child protection. The tests also showed that the Mazda3 excels in protection for eighteen month old and three year old infant protection, giving it strong commendations to families.
In terms of value for money, the 1.6 litre diesel is definitely the best of the Mazda3 range. The engine gives a decent fuel economy of 64.2 mpg with carbon emissions featuring at a low of just 117 g/km - putting it into low tax band C.
The Mazda3 is built and finished to a high standard. It is reliable and resale values are fairly good. However, the cramped interior space and limited driving comfort make it fall behind rivals such as the Ford Focus and Renault Megane, potentially lowering its value.
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