Mazda 3 long-term test review: report 4

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

Mazda 3

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 9025 List price £25,575 Target Price £23,989 Price as tested £26,365 Test economy 47.1mpg Official economy 48.7mpg

17 March – Dialling in

Here's my morning routine after getting into the Mazda. Foot on the clutch, I thumb the starter button and push the gearbox into neutral.

Next, on goes the heated seat, which swiftly becomes gloriously hot – to the extent that I’m happy to turn it off by the time I’ve hit the motorway. And then the air conditioning, which is also impressively snappy. 

2019 Mazda 3 interior

After this, I reach behind the wheel to press a button that reduces the brightness of the digital speedo. As I return home in the dark, this is always blinding in the next day’s early morning light. My eyes are sensitive; it wouldn't bother most people, but this button is for me as helpful as it is unusual.

Then my left hand reaches onto the chunky centre console to twist and press a large dial, firstly to alter the brightness of the central screen and then to turn off the head-up display, which irritatingly comes on as default. My vision always wants to focus on the display, with the road fading out of focus – the opposite of how things should be. 

Mazda 3

Finally, I press the button next to the dial that selects my iPod (plugged into a USB port hidden in the large central bin) and off I go. 

Every time I do all this, it reminds me just how much better physical controls are than touchscreens and touch icons. There are no nasty fingerprint smudges in my car, either.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here