First Drive

First Drive: Mazda 3

The story:
Boasting high levels of equipment and refinement, an eye-catching appearance and promising an engaging driving experience, Mazda’s fourth generation 3 hatchback moves upmarket to better reflect its maker’s more premium market aspirations. Compact saloon fans will also be accommodated later in 2019, when radical new engine technology will also be launched.
Category:Compact Hatchback
Key rival:Volkswagen Golf
Mazda 3 1.8 Skyactive-D GT Sport
On sale:May 2019


Now in its fourth generation, Mazda’s 3 compact hatchback has been positioned to appeal more to premium-focused customers than those leaning towards mass market models from the likes of Ford, Peugeot and Vauxhall.

This is most obvious in the car’s cabin, which sports high-grade materials that wouldn’t be out of place in an Audi or BMW. The same slick design values have also been applied to the car’s exterior, which eschews fussy details for flowing lines and a distinctive profile.

The Mazda 3 bucks the premium convention with its long list of standard equipment, which would prove expensive to replicate if choosing a 1-Series or A-Class. And it’s this that Mazda hopes will boost both conquest sales and those to existing owners – despite the slight price rise to cover the upgrades.First Drive-April 2019-Mazda 3-Image 2

There are five trim levels, and all bar the base model have twin digital displays, a head-up display, comprehensive infotainment and mobile integration, parking sensors, a reversing camera, radar cruise control and keyless entry and ignition. Further up the range there are more active safety features, premium trims, larger wheels and leather upholstery.

Petrol (2.0-litre 122hp) and diesel (1.8-litre 116hp) variants are offered, along with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions. Baseline emissions and economy are decent, with 117g/km CO2 and 45.6mpg for manual petrols on 16-inch wheels, and 107g/km CO2 and 56.5mpg for similarly configured diesels. Both engines prove refined, although neither feels particularly powerful or punchy in use.

Petrol is expected to account for the vast majority of sales but you’ll be grateful of the diesel’s extra, albeit modest, thrust.

The ride is a little on the firm side, which might suit keen drivers but does jar slightly on poorly surfaced roads. Still, it’s an engaging steer with well-damped controls and a slick manual gearshift. The petrol motor’s mild hybrid properties boost its stop-start responsiveness.

Adults will feel the pinch in the back seat, although it’s fine for children, and this is the price you pay for that coupe-like profile. Still, boot space is reasonable and the rear seats fold easily and flat enough to make the car a useful load-lugger.







Iain Dooley

The verdict

If mass market hatches fail to inspire and German premium alternatives prove too pricey, Mazda’s handsome, polished and well equipped 3 strikes a pleasing balance between the two.