Mazda 3 2.0 120 SE Nav
Week ending April 30
Miles this week 430
It's important when you get a new car to spend some time getting to know it. After spending more than 400 miles behind the wheel of the Mazda 3 in my first week as its new custodian, I’m starting to get a feel for what we at What Car? like about this Japanese hatch.
Cabin comfort is generally good, although for my personal taste, a bit more lumbar adjustment would be nice. The dashboard layout is clear and clean but in the SE-Nav specification that our car is supplied in, there are a few too many blank switches for comfort.
Appearance-wise, the 3 is a well-proportioned car, looking particularly sharp in the red metallic paint that our long termer is supplied in.
The What Car? road testers feel the Mazda lacks the sharp steering of the best cars in class, but I’ve few complaints about the 3’s road manners. It is an easy car to drive, with light controls, although the starter button is a little hidden away. The infotainment system takes a little working out, too. I also had to get to grips with the various options for syncing the car with my smartphone and the built-in Aha and Stitcher music and social media apps.
I also had to cover a few hundred motorway miles last weekend and I did find the absence of cruise control, particularly in the average speed sections of the northern M25, frustrating. There's some wind noise at motorway speeds, too but low-speed refinement is much better.
Week ending April 23
Miles this week 120
With consumer editor Emma moving on to pastures new, and my Volvo V60 hybrid reaching the end of its tenure on the What Car? fleet, it was an obvious switch for me to pick up the keys to the Mazda 3.
The contrasts are pretty striking. The Mazda is a light, efficient family hatch which doesn’t waste an ounce providing things that are not necessary. The Volvo, on the other hand is stuffed with clever tech which has it looking distinctly portly by comparison.
Obviously these are not cars that would ordinarily be compared, but I’m looking forward to sampling something so fundamentally different to what I’ve run up to now. I’m told that the Mazda is lithe, lively and lacking in frills. I can’t wait to find out how long it will take me to wean myself off the squidgy comfort of the V60 and to start enjoying my new chariot.
Week ending April 16
Miles this week 47
When Mazda launched the new 3, it made much of the fact that its designers had thought hard about keeping the driver's eyes on the road. And I'm happy to report that they've pulled it off brilliantly.
The dash layout is simple, streamlined and well organised - reducing the need for any fumbling or unnecessary distraction.
Another clever feature is the steering wheel position. It adjusts for reach and rake, which is great, but even if you get it wrong, your view of the centre console and speedo is never compromised. It's very impressive.
Outward visibility is, on the whole, spot on, with big well-angled wing mirrors allowing you to see around the car. I’ve certainly appreciated not having to twist all the time to look behind me when overtaking.
My only gripe so far – and I must stress that it’s not a deal breaker – is that the curvy, muscular tail end and small rear window combo requires serious frown-inducing concentration (and some trial and error) when reverse parking up against walls and fences.
Parking sensors would solve this, but sadly you can’t add them as an option and they don’t become standard until you get to SE-L trim level, which adds an extra £840 to the price for our engine choice.
By Emma Butcher
Week ending April 9
Miles this week 445
A recent trip up to Nuneaton from London in consumer editor Emma’s Mazda 3 reminded me just how capable it is.
On balance, I think I’d still prefer the low-down torque of the 2.2-litre diesel, but there’s no denying the 2.0 petrol is far more refined. In fact, on my 300-mile round-trip the petrol’s smooth power delivery was genuinely relaxing, and our car’s conservative standard wheels make the high-speed ride good, too.
One area I think Mazda could improve on is the 3’s interior. It certainly feels well put together, but some of the plastics inside feel lower quality than offered in the best competition.
By Rory White