The Mazda 3 has been face-lifted, and changes include cleaner, less-thirsty engines, and various styling and trim tweaks inside and out. Here, we test the revised top-end diesel version of Mazdas small family car.
What's it like to drive? The Mazda 3s 2.2-litre diesel engine pumps out a hefty 182bhp and 295lb ft of torque, so performance is pretty lively, no matter what gear youre in.
The 0-62mph dash is covered in just 9.2 seconds and top speed is 127mph, but better still is the way the engine pulls strongly from low revs in a high gear. This means theres rarely any need to change down if you need a burst of pace on the motorway, while hills are given short shrift.
Youll want to stick to the smooth(ish) surfaces of our motorways as much as possible, though, because the ride is pretty firm. Theres no sports suspension, but the 17-inch wheels of the Sport Nav trim allow bumps, potholes and surface joins to really whack their way into your conscience.
In town, you get bounced around in your seat, and speed bumps are definitely best avoided or crawled over.
The payback is decent body control and sharp handling, and the steering is at least consistently weighted and accurate.
Nonetheless, a Golf is far more comfortable, while a Ford Focus is significantly more entertaining and is more supple, too.
The 2.2-litre engine is reasonably quite and smooth at all revs, although the amount of road and wind noise increases too much once you get beyond town speeds.
Whats it like inside? Theres loads of equipment as standard, but the downside of this is that the interior contains more buttons than the average Marks & Spencer outlet.
This can make it tricky to find the function you want at a glance. Nonetheless, that standard equipment list includes climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth and satellite-navigation. Theres also a keyless entry and go system, and rear parking sensors as standard.
Space is perfectly reasonable; the 3 matches the Ford Focus for passenger space and beats it for luggage capacity, although both cars trail the class-leading Golf on both counts.
Getting into and out of the rear seats is more awkward than it might be, too, because the door opening is compromised by the rear wheelarch.
The Mazda is also close to the Focus for cabin quality, if not style, and again both cars are significantly behind the VW.
Should I buy one? The Mazda 3 stacks up well as a private purchase. It is undeniably cheap to buy, undercutting its major rivals by at least 2000, although this gap narrows by around 1000 once our Target Price is taken into account. It should also be as reliable as gravity.
However, it doesnt work quite so well as a company choice. This version of the 3 is too thirsty and isnt clean enough, despite the latest improvements.
The 2.2d can average only 52.3mpg and emits 144g/km. This puts it in the 21% band for company car tax, which will increase to the 22% band once the company car tax bands change in April.
Its numbers are no doubt hindered by the fact that an engine stop-start system is still absent.
What Car? says