Why the Mazda3 should be on your shortlist for a new family hatchback…
Before I start I’m going to lay my cards on the table – I like car manufacturers that dare to be different, which means the Mazda3 has a head start in my eyes.
None of its rivals are as striking, however, it’s up against the might of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf, to name but a few.
The Mazda3 isn’t just pleasing to the eye, available in four-door saloon or five-door hatchback, it’s a great alternative family choice.
I drove the Mazda3 2.0 Sport Nav with a basic price of £20,195, but bumped up to £22,755 with extras including leather, metallic paint and a safety pack.
The first thing you notice about the 3 is that it has a bonnet. Sit in your average hatch and you rarely see anything stretched out before you, such is the downward sweep. I like that. I guess it’s a masculine thing.
Elsewhere it’s a combination of rounded edges and scalloped bodywork – proportionately unlike any other car in its class. Mazda calls it the ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’ design theme.
Inside it feels classy and well built with plenty of space up front, though it’s slightly tighter at the back, especially for taller passengers, thanks to the sweeping roofline, while the boot space isn’t best in class.
You sit fairly low and the cockpit has an air of quality with plenty of gadgets to keep you amused including heated front seats (how did we ever manage without them?).
The instrument panel is dominated by a large speedo, while the multimedia in the centre console is especially good. The 9-speaker Bose sound system is fantastic, but sadly no DAB radio option.
The Sport Nav version also includes a quirky, but useful Active Driving Display. It’s a heads-up display which pops up just behind the steering wheel, but in your direct line of vision, providing essential info such as speed and emergency warnings.
As my car came with the optional extra safety pack, Lane Departure Warning System and the clever High Beam Control, which dips your headlights automatically, were among the extras fitted.
My only minor criticism of the cockpit is the handbrake which, though thankfully still a manual lever, is fitted flush beside the driver’s seat and therefore slightly obtrusive.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine is refined and brisk and Mazda claims it’s good for 50+mpg, but expect nearer 40mpg. If it’s economy you’re after, then opt for the most frugal Mazda3 fitted with the 2.2 diesel and capable of closer to to 70mpg.
The Mazda3 is fun to drive with a firm, sporty feel. The 6-speed manual box is slick and it’s most at home cruising on a motorway or fast A-road. For the record, it takes just 8.9 seconds to reach 62mph and it tops out at 121 mph.
And if you need a few more good reasons to consider a Mazda, remember that the Japanese company has a reputation for making cars that hold their value, which is always good to know, but also for reliability.
The Mazda3 is also safe, achieving a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP’s crash safety tests.
So, if you’re looking for a solidly built, slightly more individual family car that’s safe, reliable and packed with goodies, the Mazda3 is definitely worth a test drive.