Mazda 3 hatch more than match for big-selling class rivals
PUBLISHED: 08:03 27 April 2018 | UPDATED: 08:03 27 April 2018
Mazda's updated 3 family hatchback. Tom Wiltshire gets behind the wheel of the Mazda 3 to find out if it's got what it takes.
On paper, the Mazda 3 has what it takes to challenge the big-selling Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra – a comparatively powerful engine, good levels of equipment and an established brand, which has also has the superb CX-5 SUV and brilliant MX-5 sports car and plenty of followers.
So what can the Japanese brand offer family hatchback buyers?
This latest Mazda 3 has adopted the new corporate styling – new grille with a chunky chrome surround, super-bright, adaptive LED headlights on higher-spec models and a tweaked rear bumper. Inside, upgraded switchgear, more sturdy plastic trim and new door panels with with piano black trim pieces and a more sculpted armrest raise the quality feel.
Under the bonnet
Mazda doesn’t subscribe to the fashionable ‘downsize and turbocharge’ philosophy – the 3 has a 120PS, 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated unit offering 55mpg combined. The engine’s real highlight is its smoothness and, while low-range torque is lacking compared to turbo rivals, power is delivered across the rev range and it’s much more willing to rev freely.
There’s also a 165PS 2.0-litre petrol and with 163bhp – but it’s barely any faster than the lesser unit, and much thirstier. There are also 105PS 1.5-litre and 150PS 2.2-litre turbo diesels.
How it drives
Mazda’s got plenty of expertise making tidy handlers and the 3 is very satisfying to drive.
The steering is sharp and direct so it’s very easy to point the car exactly where you want it. Low weight and a wide track make it an easy rival for the Ford Focus in the handling stakes, and it’s far more enjoyable than the stodgy Golf.
Even with 18in alloy wheels, the ride wasn’t overly firm. Expensive-feeling damping takes the edge off potholes and rough surfaces around town, and it settles down to a relaxed cruise on the motorway.
Space and comfort
Build quality seems excellent but there are some hard, scratchy plastic in areas you wouldn’t expect to find it. The infotainment system works quite well and is easy to use but doesn’t have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Space in the back is decent for adults but the 364-litre boot does without clever storage solutions such as a false floor or retaining straps.
The Mazda 3 is a great family hatchback and deserves consideration – its great driving dynamics, smooth engines and good value mean it’s more than a match for the Focus or Golf.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Mazda 3 2.0 Sport Nav £21,295 (range £18,995 to £24,795)
Engine: 1,998cc, 120PS, four-cylinder petrol with six-speed manual gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 8.9 seconds; top speed 121mph
MPG: 55.4 combined
CO2 emissions: 119g/km