Mazda3 hatchback

£16,995 - £23,745

The Mazda3 is a stylish and entertaining family hatchback that's a solid alternative to more familiar cars in its sector like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. Those cars do have their own strengths, as the Focus’ engine range is better and the Golf beats it on build quality, but Carbuyer readers think the Mazda3 trounces both of them.

The Mazda3 is certainly better looking than the Ford or Volkswagen offerings, and there's even a saloon version, named the Fastback, too. It's reasonably cheap to run too, in part due to its competitive pricing but also its efficient SKYACTIV engines. The Mazda3 also manages to resist depreciation better than other hatchbacks of its size, so you should recoup more of the purchase price when you sell it on.

There are both petrol and diesel engines available. We’d probably give the smooth but disappointing 1.5-litre petrol a miss and instead opt for the more powerful 2.0-litre version. It only costs a little more to buy than the 1.5-litre version but still returns the same fuel economy figure, at 55.4mpg, and the same £30 tax band. A more powerful 2.0-litre petrol is available, but fuel economy drops to around 48mpg and road tax jumps to £110 per year.

Surprisingly, the Mazda3 only offers one diesel engine – a quite sizable 2.2-litre option. It is, though, very punchy, feels smooth on the road and with claimed fuel economy reaching 68.9mpg and an annual road tax bill of just £20, it's very efficient too. However, before you tick the diesel box at your local dealer, just be aware of the higher purchase price (at roughly £2,000 more than a petrol), which may not be as cost effective if you’re covering less than 15,000 miles per year. 

Entry-level SE models still have bags of kit; air-conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, stop-start and alloy wheels are all standard. The SE-L trim has parking sensors and climate control, while the Sport Nav models have the largest alloys in the range and satellite navigation. Nav trims can be applied to lower models too.

The Mazda3 scored pretty well in the Driver Power 2015 driver satisfaction survey, with owners praising its reliability and build quality. It also scored the maximum five star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests.