July part 1
* Mazda 3 tested * Year-long review * Tested by Barnaby Jones...
Talk about being a perfect fit my Mazda 3 could have been designed specifically for me. It suited my lifestyle to a T, from being the ideal size to having an economical diesel engine to keep fuel bills small and the gaps between filling station stops big.
Things looked good even before Id chosen my ideal specification. Im a keen driver, so I wanted something that would be fun to drive, but that also had good comfort and refinement. The Mazda promised all that, along with five-door practicality, a decently roomy cabin and, to my eyes at least, striking looks.
Im a fan of the effortless performance of diesel engines (the excellent economy is another major plus) so the 1.6-litre diesel was the natural choice for me, as it is for most Mazda 3 buyers.
The TS2 trim had everything that I wanted, and a few things I didnt expect, as standard, including dual-zone climate control, heated seats, electrically folding door mirrors and a heated windscreen. In fact, the only option available was the colour, and the 3s Indigo Lights paint was a bargain at 385.
Good from the off
I collected the car from MKG 3000 Mazda in Twickenham, Middlesex (020 8538 9377), where friendly and enthusiastic sales executive David Joslin did the handover.
It didnt take long to appreciate the Mazdas light controls, simple switches and general ease of use. The 3 was compact enough that I didnt feel I was lugging around a huge amount of unused space when driving on my own, yet it offered decent room for four tall adults when needed. The narrow door openings, particularly along the bottom edge, made getting in and out a little tricky, but that was the only practicality issue that came up.
I used the car to transport all sorts of things. Whether it was taking cardboard boxes to the tip, moving a lawn mower or taking my bike to have it serviced, the 3 had space to spare, even though the rear seats didnt fold flat.
The Mazda also excelled twice as a holiday car. The first time was on an autumn break in the Brecon Beacons, where the cruise control took the sting out of the 350-mile round trip on the motorway, the excellent heated seats soothed aching post-ramble limbs and the plentiful storage space couldnt be beaten, even by all my essential holiday odds and ends.
It was a similar story when I went to Belgium for a cycling holiday. This time the 3 took two people, two bikes and luggage and cycling gear for five days. It didnt miss a beat: the climate control was effective, driving gently meant 588 miles on one tank of fuel, and the ride, although a little firm, was as comfortable as the Norfolkline ferry crossings (www.norfolkline. com 0844 847 5042).