Mazda 3 sums up a free thinking spirit
THERE are some interesting cars out there, waiting to be found by the more determinedly astute, individualistic buyer. One of the free-thinking spirits in this sector is Mazda, whose 3 model line has recently been refreshed, and continues to grow in popularity.
The company reckons its 1.6-litre, 115 horsepower turbodiesel engine will account for significant numbers of Mazda 3 sales, helped along by tax-minimising 115g/km Co2 emissions and 65mpg combined fuel consumption.
In my time with this car I saw a trip computed high of 54mpg – respectable enough for an ever-willing engine, worked hard on a main road and motorways mix with a serious proportion of town traffic in between. The unit's performance is entirely adequate with the mid range is usefully strong.
The engine is rather audible under firm acceleration, but smoothes out quickly as speeds rise, becoming restfully relaxed when cruising. A six-speed gearbox is standard: change quality is smooth if slightly notchy, while gearbox ratios combine quite sprightly acceleration with long striding, economical cruising legs.
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The ride feels firmish, but stable and well controlled: it never becomes uncomfortable, and there's plenty of traction allied to good cornering grip.
Some pothole bump and thump does find its way inside, along with occasional road surface noise, but the latest Mazda 3 is hardly noisy overall, striking a well-judged balance between tidy, appealing handling and passenger comfort.
Latest versions of the car include plenty of detail changes, amongst which the most noticeable is probably an elevation in interior quality. Improved switchgear and displays help driver ergonomics, though the test car's interior was mutedly restrained, lightened a little by discreet brightwork. Six-footers might find the driving position a little cramped and rearward visibility slightly restricted, but the car's an easy four and occasional five seater with 340 litres of load space, rising to a useful 1,360 litres with everything folded.
The test car's TS2 trim level was distinctly mid-range but far from Spartan: the safety package includes Dynamic Stability Control, there's a six speaker audio system with Bluetooth, plus climate and cruise controls, a trip computer, alarm, immobiliser, height and reach adjustable steering column, heated electric mirrors and four electric windows, automatic lights and wipers, alloy wheels and plenty more. .