Sometimes, when trying to create new things and define forward-thinking innovation, the best thing to do is, instead, to look to the past. The Japanese are a fan of this, standing by traditional practises such as meditation, making offerings to ancestors, or admiring Super Mario’s particularly fluffy moustache. In this vein, the word ‘ma’, which means ‘negative space’ and a minimalist approach, is sometimes interpreted as "an emptiness full of possibilities, like a promise yet to be fulfilled". Enter the Mazda 3 to fill just that space.
Competing head-on with the Ford Focus, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf, the latest Mazda 3 certainly looks the part. Its shape channels the stunning Kai and Vision Coupe concept cars of 2017, with smoothly contoured surfaces and a sloped roofline that tails off neatly into its rear screen. Inside, forget the modern Batmobile-esque set-ups with light-up buttons and giant Tesla-like infotainment screens – the Mazda 3’s interior is as stripped back as a sumo wrestler, with just a modestly small screen to cover the important parts.
Styling isn’t the only area in which the Mazda 3 follows a different tack to its rivals. Rather than following the trend for fitting small turbocharged petrol engines, the Japanese brand has stuck with advice from its motoring ancestors, and stuck with a relatively large 2.0-litre non-turbocharged unit which, it claims, returns better fuel economy in real-world driving.
However, don’t go thinking this entry-level engine is archaic. Named ‘Skyactiv-G’, it uses cylinder deactivation and a clever 24V mild-hybrid system to help improve fuel economy. It’ll soon be joined, too, by an innovative Skyactiv-X version that uses a combination of spark ignition and compression ignition to, Mazda claims, deliver petrol-style driver appeal together with the fuel efficiency and torque of a diesel. Such fanciness aside, a diesel engine is also represented in the range by the Skyactiv-D for which impressive smoothness and emissions figures are promised. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a saloon bodystyle and even a four-wheel-drive configuration due to join the 3 range later in the year.
Clever technology is one thing, but the Mazda 3 needs to be a seriously accomplished all-rounder if it’s to succeed in this hotly contested class. Read on over the next few pages to find out how it compares with rivals and we'll also tell you which engines and trims make the most sense.
And if a new Mazda 3 tickles your fancy when you’re finished, visit our New Car Buying pages to see how much you could save without the effort of haggling.