"The fun and frugal Mazda3 is a very stylish competitor in the family hatchback market."
The Mazda3 is a family hatchback that rivals the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, and unlike previous models it now has the stylish looks, drive and equipment needed to take on these high-selling models. The new look brings it in line with other models in the Mazda range and thoroughly modernises it, too. The engines available are economical and efficient – we recommend the 2.2-litre diesel for the best blend of performance and economy – and there is lots of standard equipment and three specifications.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The cheapest model to run in the Mazda3 range is the 2.2-litre diesel with 148bhp, which gets 72.4mpg and 104g/km emissions – meaning road tax for this model will be free for the first year and £20 a year after that. The 1.5-litre petrol gets 56.4mpg, while the 118bhp 2.0-litre petrol gets a respectable 55mpg – impressive given that it's a more powerful engine. The fuel economy figures should be relatively accurate too, thanks to the fact that the larger engines tend to suit real-world driving better than the smaller ones on offer in the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus.
Interior & comfort
The Mazda 3 is about 100mm longer than a Focus so that means you get a bit more room inside to stretch out. What's more, it has reasonably soft suspension that seems to iron out a lot of the bigger bumps on the road. There are more comfortable family cars out there, like a Ford Focus on small 16-inch alloy wheels, but Mazda has done a great job of making the Mazda3 feel luxurious and relaxing to drive. There's a fraction more noise on the motorway than you’d find in the VW Golf because the tyres seem to transmit more of a roar to the interior but the Mazda3 is really aerodynamic so you don’t really hear much wind rushing past the wing mirrors or over the body.
Practicality & boot space
The new Mazda3 is larger than the old model, and is actually longer than the Ford Focus. That means rear legroom is great, with enough room for tall adults to sit fairly comfortably. The boot is 350 litres, which is smaller than the Volkswagen Golf's 380-litre boot, but it's still really practical and you probably won’t miss the extra 30 litres. The rear seats do fold down to increase boot space, and for buyers who really need the extra room you can also get a saloon version with a 420-litre boot.
Reliability & safety
As it's a brand new car, the Mazda3 doesn’t have any long-term track record for reliability, but Mazda's reputation is so strong that we can only expect the car to be excellent in this area. Lots of the parts are already used in the dependable Mazda CX-5 SUV and Mazda6 saloon, so the engines and gearboxes should be especially reliable as they have been tried and tested before. Safety is uncertain for the Mazda3 as Euro NCAP has not tested it yet, but with five-star ratings on so many current Mazda models, we expect it to do well. There's loads of safety equipment, too, including smart braking, automatic high beams, a forward warning system and a blind spot monitor.
Engines, drive & performance
The 2.0-litre petrol engine will feel a bit different to buyers who have driven other rival hatchbacks from Ford and Volkswagen, as it doesn’t use a turbocharger. Because that changes how the engine gets its power to the wheels, in the Mazda you'll find yourself changing gear more often to keep up speed on winding country roads. However because the gearbox is easy to use this isn’t too much of a chore. The 148bhp 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is our pick as the best balance of performance and economy, getting 72.4mpg while still going from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds. Unfortunately the 1.5-litre petrol engine is a bit too slow, and is best avoided if you spend a lot of time on the motorway. The Mazda3 is fun to drive, though, meaning overall it's a solid contender and a worthy rival for the likes of the VW Golf.
Price, value for money & options
Mazda predicts the 3 will start at around the same price as a Volkswagen Golf. Mazda is promising it’ll offer more accessories as standard than in the Golf, but so far the final equipment levels haven’t been decided. However we do know that the car will get a system called MZD Connect that connects to your smartphone to provide a wide range of Internet features, such as Internet radio and traffic updates. From launch, the predicted best-seller is set to be the 2.0-litre petrol with 118bhp, which Mazda says should cost a few thousand pounds more than the entry-level 1.5-litre petrol model. The 2.2-litre diesel is expensive, but a smaller 1.6-litre diesel may join the line-up at a later date. We’re expecting to see SE, SE-L and Sport specification levels, just like on the Mazda 6 Saloon and Tourer models, and all should be fairly well equipped.