This is where the 3 falls way short of the class benchmarks. The petrol engines aren't too noisy at a steady cruise but because you need to work them harder than you would a turbocharged engine, they sound boomy a lot of the time. The 2.2-litre diesel, meanwhile, is a constant companion regardless of how hard you're pushing; it never really settles down, even when it has warmed up. The 1.5 is just as guttural-sounding when you accelerate.
The engine rumble is only part of the story, too, because the 3 suffers badly from wind noise on motorways and, in particular, tyre roar at anything beyond urban speeds.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox is weighty and precise, although doesn’t appreciate being rushed. It's also easy to drive the Mazda smoothly thanks to its positive clutch and brake pedals. There's also a six-speed automatic that's available with the 2.0-litre petrol engine and both diesels, which can be a bit slow to react when pulling away.
Page 2 of 5