2013 Mazda 3 pre-production car review

* Pre-production Mazda 3 driven * Economy-boosting Skyactiv tech * Advanced connectivity kit...

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Barnaby Jones
11 July 2013

The all-new Mazda 3 is a big car in lots of ways. Not only does it bring a hefty dose of style and lots of high-tech kit to the class, but if our drive in a pre-production car is anything to go by, it's also going to cause a big headache for its rivals, including the Ford Focus, Seat Leon and Volkswagen Golf.

It gets the latest Mazda look, as already seen in the CX-5 SUV and 6 family car, while Mazda's Skyactiv lightweight underpinnings and efficient engines and gearboxes promise excellent economy and agile handling.

When the 3 goes on sale this winter, it'll be available as a five-door hatchback or a four-door saloon with a choice of four engines: a new 99bhp 1.5-litre petrol, a 2.0 petrol (with either 118 or 162bhp), and a 148bhp 2.2 diesel. A six-speed manual gearbox will be standard, but a six-speed auto will be available with the diesel and lowered-powered 2.0-litre petrol.

Prices and equipment are yet to be confirmed, but the cheapest model is expected to start at around 16,500, while the predicted best-seller the 118bhp 2.0 petrol should cost approximately 18,500.

What's the 2013 Mazda 3 like to drive?
It does the mix of fun, comfort and refinement better than the outgoing Mazda 3, whose firm ride and excessive road noise annoyed almost as much as its agile handling made you smile.

We drove the 1.5-litre petrol model on 16-inch wheels (these will come with the entry-level and possibly middle trim), and it was comfortable on city roads, even on particularly bumpy stretches. The light steering and smooth power delivery also help at low speeds, making the 3 easy to drive in town.

It's less impressive out of the city, where the engine's shortage of shove means it takes a while to get up to speed or overtake. The steering doesn't weight up sufficiently to provide enough reassurance in corners, either, but it is direct and body control is good, plus the 3 feels light on its feet.

We also tried the low-powered 2.0-litre petrol, which felt stronger than the 1.5 at all speeds, although acceleration still feels more leisurely than in rivals with turbocharged engines.

It came on 18-inch wheels, and although you feel more of the road than in 3s with smaller alloys, the ride is perfectly acceptable.

Engine, wind and road noise were generally hushed on the wet German roads we drove on, but we'll have to reserve final judgement until we try the Mazda in the UK.

What's the 2013 Mazda 3 like inside?
The Mazda 3's wide cabin is a nice place to sit. Drivers of all shapes and sizes should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel, and all the controls are easy to use.

Quality is good and everything feels nicely built, but the big news is the standard touch-screen system that sits on top of the dashboard. It controls everything from the stereo to the optional sat-nav, and the top-of-the-range set-up can use your smartphone to stream radio, or even read out Facebook or Twitter updates.

There's plenty of kneeroom in the rear seats and enough headroom for six-footers, but the dipping roofline and rising window line can make you feel a little hemmed in.

Boot space is no better than average, but at least it's easy to fold the rear seats flat. Small door bins apart, storage space is good.

Should I buy one?
It all depends on the final prices, but based on the pre-production models, the new Mazda 3 has a lot to offer.

It'll certainly be cheap to run: even the thirstiest petrol is claimed to do nearly 50mpg and the diesel has CO2 emissions of just 107g/km, which almost matches that of the exceptionally efficient 2.0-litre diesel VW Golf.

If you're after a striking small family car that's good to drive, classy inside and available with lots of high-tech kit, the Mazda 3 should definitely be on your shortlist.

What Car? says...

Ford Focus
Volkswagen Golf

Read the full Mazda 3 review (current car) >>

Read the Mazda 3 review for parents (current car) at Mumsnet Cars >>

Engine size 1.5-litre petrol
Price from 16,500 (est)
Power 99bhp
Torque 111lb ft
0-62mph 10.8 seconds
Top speed 113mph
Fuel economy 55.3mpg
CO2 119g/km

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
Price from 18,500 (est)
Power 118bhp
Torque 155lb ft
0-62mph 8.9 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 55.3mpg
CO2 119g/km

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol automatic
Price from 19,500 (est)
Power 118bhp
Torque 155lb ft
0-62mph 10.4 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 50.4mpg
CO2 129g/km

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
Price from 21,000 (est)
Power 162bhp
Torque 155lb ft
0-62mph 8.2 seconds
Top speed 130mph
Fuel economy 48.7mpg
CO2 135g/km

Engine size 2.2-litre diesel
Price from 20,500 (est)
Power 148bhp
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 8.1 seconds
Top speed 130mph
Fuel economy 68.9mpg
CO2 107g/km

Engine size 2.2-litre diesel automatic
Price from 21,500 (est)
Power 148bhp
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 9.7 seconds
Top speed 125mph
Fuel economy 58.8mpg
CO2 127g/km

All performance, economy and CO2 figures are preliminary.

By Barnaby Jones