Mazda3 1.6 diesel review

The Mazda3 competes in a sector dominated by the VW Golf and Ford Focus. Read our review to see why the new 3 can compete with the best

"More style, more power and more efficient than ever"

The Mazda3 has always had a big advantage over its competitors, thanks to the fact it shares a percentage of its underpinnings with the Ford Focus. And this new Mazda 3 has the added advantage of being bigger, better spec’d yet lighter than its predecessor too.

The new 3 looks good, especially from the front, where a new, more expressive face smiles back at you. RX-8 style lights, larger side air intakes and a general dose of flowing Nagare design cues give the car a sportier look than its predecessor.

Elsewhere the creased body panels resemble those of the Mazda6, which I reckon is no bad thing, making the new 3 look contemporary, just not mega exciting.

But what about the car’s crucial zoom-zoom factor? The steering is crisp and loads up nicely under cornering while the great chassis helps the tyres provide excellent grip in the bends. Changing gear is notchy and precise, as we’ve come to expect from Mazda and every engine has been tuned to offer a sporty soundtrack too.

But the real surprise is the level of refinement and comfort, despite the agile character of the car. Mazda claims road noise has been reduced in the new car by up to 11 percent, and it’s true. Wind- and road roar are virtually non-existent, while the stiff bodyshell allows the dampers to work at their optimum, smoothing out all but the worst of bumps.

It’s a shame that the interior is the usual plasticky affair. A lot of thought has gone into the cabin layout – positioning the tiny navigation and trip computer screen high on the dash so your eyes don’t have to stray far from the road – but it’s a button-fest that feels old-fashioned already, and the quality of the new VW Golf’s interior puts it to shame.

There’s a new range of more powerful and economical direct-injection petrol and diesel engines to choose from. My test car was fitted with 1.6-diesel producing 107bhp and 240Nm of torque, while emitting 119g/km of CO2 and returning 63mpg. And on the winding roads of our test-route it was no slouch, delivering its torque low down in the rev range for effortless progress.

There’s no denying the 3 offers a dynamic driving experience to rival the class-leaders and the range of powerful but frugal engines are fantastic. It’s just a shame that the cluttered interior can’t do the sharp handling or the crisp design any justice. An excellent car that’s unlikely to ever get the attention it deserves.

Car Specs - Mazda 3 1.6 MZ-CD

Engine:1.6-litre 4cyl, 109hp
0-62mph:11.0 seconds
Top speed:117mph
Economy/emissions:63.0mpg/119g/km CO2
Price/On sale £14,500(est)/spring

We rate:Punchy, frugal engine Great handling Slick styling

We slate:Naff interior A Focus is better Always overlooked

Rating: Image removed.

by Bryce Richards

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