There’s plenty of quirkiness to be found in Japan: toilet seats that sing to you and sushi delivered by model trains, for example. Likewise, the Mazda 3 has always tended to do things a little differently from others in the family car market, and the same is true of the latest model.
Firstly, there are its looks: this stylish five-door hatchback channels the stunning Kai concept car of 2017, with smoothly contoured surfaces and a sloped roofline that tails off neatly into its rear screen. It’s a world away from the more angular designs of rivals such as the Skoda Octavia. There’s also a saloon model, which we’ve reviewed separately, that pitches the Mazda 3 into executive territory.
Styling isn’t the only area in which the 3 follows a different tack from its rivals; just take a look at the engine line-up. While key competitors, such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, have moved towards smaller, turbocharged engines, the 3 sticks with an old-school naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine. But don’t go thinking this entry-level motor is archaic. Named Skyactiv-G, it uses cylinder deactivation technology and a clever 24V mild hybrid system that's claimed to improve fuel economy and enhance performance mildly.
Things get even more interesting when you look at Mazda’s innovative Skyactiv-X compression-ignition petrol engine. It’s claimed to combine “the fuel economy of a Mazda 2 with the performance of an MX-5”, and replaces diesel power in the 3’s line-up. There’s also the option of four-wheel drive. Clever technology is one thing, but the 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 its rivals, and we'll also tell you which engines and trims make the most sense.
And if a new 3 has piqued your interest, visit our New Car Buying pages to see how much you could save without the effort of haggling.