Mazda 3 long-term test review: report 2

Mazda's new family hatchback combines groundbreaking engine tech with the promise of driver engagement. We're trying it out...

mazda 3 LT

The car Mazda 3 2.0 Skyactiv-X MHEV Sport Lux  Run by Kris Culmer, special contributor

Why it’s here To prove that Mazda's new petrol engine technology really works and discover whether the 3 can now truly challenge premium-brand family hatchbacks

Needs to Achieve diesel-challenging economy; have an interior and driving experience that make you feel special; be practical enough for a family of four

Mileage 4713 List price £25,575 Target Price £23,989 Price as tested £26,365 Test economy 44.2mpg Official economy 48.7mpg

4 February 2020 – Dials and (wind)screens

Digital instrument displays have rapidly been replacing traditional analogue dials in recent years, but to varying degrees.

The best such system, in our view, is the widescreen offered by Audi and Volkswagen, because this is completely configurable, allowing you to view everything from your speed and engine revs right through to a large sat-nav map, whereas others are incredibly limited.

mazda 3 dials

The Mazda 3 is in the latter group, combining old with new. On the left is an analogue tachometer, on the right a dial that combines a fuel gauge and an oil temperature gauge. These flank a large digital screen, but this isn’t obviously so. It centres around a large speedometer dial sitting against a black background that merges with its surroundings.

You can switch it between two settings. The default one shows your speed in large numbers above an image of your car with radar lines representing the edges of your lane and any vehicles in your blindspot. However, I prefer to have the speedometer in the same style as the ‘real’ dials. Not only does this look great – large, white letters in an easily legible typeface against a black background – but it also has a few other benefits.

mazda 3 at dealer

The best is that it links up with the sat-nav’s data and traffic sign recognition – which works almost flawlessly, meaning you can never forget the arbitrarily ever-changing speed limit on smart motorways – to mark the speed limit with a red line. If you exceed the speed limit, a red line is traced from the speed limit up to the speedo needle. It also shows where you've set your cruise control in green. What’s more, you can change the markings from miles per hour to kilometres per hour, making driving on the Continent immeasurably simpler.

Incidentally, it was mere minutes after I'd been chatting with my grandad about how elegant the 3’s interior is (he finds that in his old Peugeot 407 SW far too complex) that something went wrong. A large stone was kicked up by a vehicle in front and struck the windscreen right in the lower left corner. I thought this would necessitate an irritating but simple fill-in job with Autoglass, but at the very next pothole, a crack shot across the windscreen. By the time we made it home, the crack had extended right the way across the screen in an arc.

Mazda 3 windscreen

The upside, I suppose, was that this gave me a chance to experience Mazda’s dealer service, and the staff at MKG3000 in Twickenham were as helpful as you could wish. The only downside was that I had to spend almost a fortnight waiting for a new windscreen to be shipped from Japan.

When the windscreen arrived, the fit was a simple job, with the only complication being a first journey home without adaptive cruise control or any driver aids as the radar (which looks through the windscreen) recalibrated. Now we’re back to normal and enjoying life once more.

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