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Mazda3 1.6 TS petrol review

The Mazda3 aims to beat the forthcoming Vauxhall Astra both to look at and to drive. Read our review to find out if it does

"The chassis really does move the game on"

The old Mazda3 is the Japanese brand’s best selling car, so it’s no surprise that this all-new replacement doesn’t exactly push the boat out in terms of looks.

Yes there’s a smiley new front end, and some more sculpted wheelarches a la RX-8, but the new 3’s overall look, especially when viewed from the rear, doesn’t exactly move the game on much. It’s not a bad looker, but I just think Mazda could’ve been a bit braver, to tempt people to snap one up before the slinky new Astra arrives later this year.

On the inside, the quality of the interior feels improved, with fewer scratchy plastics on the dash. Fit and finish are really impressive too, with all the buttons, switches and knobs feeling appropriately damped. It’s a solid effort, and I particularly like the sweepy pod which houses the new information screen. But just like the exterior, it’s a fairly sober-looking design.

My car was a TS model, which is second from bottom in the range, but still gets loads of kit like climate control, power mirrors and windows and a decent stereo fitted as standard. Audiophiles are well catered for in the new 3, as it has a decent iPod interface and a very impressive extra cost Bose stereo.

Under the bonnet is a 105hp 1.6-litre petrol engine. If you’re used to driving diesels, you’ll be surprised by just how little punch the unit seems to have. Thankfully, the gearbox is slick and precise; meaning keeping up with traffic isn’t hard as long as you keep the engine buzzing away.

But while the Mazda3 isn’t much of a straight-line performer, it’s the chassis that really impressed me. The new 3 gets the next generation of Ford Focus suspension, which is super supple, and offers a well judged ride which is just the right side of firm.

The 3’s steering is direct and reassuring, allowing you to drive the car with accuracy and confidence. It’s 15kg lighter than its predecessor, making it change direction with greater ease – perfect for when you’re negotiating a big roundabout at speed and don’t want to splatter your passengers against the side windows.

I like the new three, and I can see why Mazda reckons that this new 1.6-litre petrol-powered version should be the best seller in the range. But while the new car is really accomplished, I can’t help but feel that cars like the new Astra will have more relevant, small capacity turbo petrol and diesel engines, in addition to excellent driving dynamics and much more style.

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Car Specs - Mazda3 1.6 TS petrol

Engine:1.6-litre petrol, 105hp
0-62mph:12.2 seconds
Top speed:114mph
Economy/emissions:44.8mpg/149g/km CO2
Price/On sale c.£14,000/May

We rate:
Really good chassis
Well-built cabin
Rides very well

We slate:
Not good enough to look at
Some cheap plastics
Engine lacks punch

Rating: Image removed.

by Tom Phillips

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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