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Mazda 3 steps up a gear

 
Created on 26/11/2014 @ 11:31
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Test Drive by Graham Breeze

Mazda has really stepped up a gear in the last couple of years and the new Mazda 3 hatchback is probably the best of an impressive model range.

 

The company has been producing cars that are well made, well priced and fun to drive and the 2.0litre 120ps SE L-Nav tested is a first class example of the progress being made -  and is as good as anything in its class.

And that’s saying a lot because sitting in the opposition camp you will find Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, VW Golf and Kia Ceed so the competition is fierce.

Three main trim grades split the Mazda 3 range. The range starts with an SE, then SE-L, the top-spec is Sport, while adding sat-nav to your car upgrades it to a ‘Nav’ variant, hence the test car an SE-L Nav.

Mazda’s recent success hinges on its ‘SkyActiv’ engineering technology, which focuses on high-tech manufacturing methods and reduced numbers of components to save weight and improve efficiency and agility. 

The technology is really evident in this model as it’s lighter, cheaper to run and better to drive than the old one.

Quality hasn’t always been Mazda’s strong point but things have moved on and the 3 rivals anything in class now with an attractive cabin complete with dense, soft-touch plastics on most of the dashboard.

The well equipped SE L-Nav gets rear parking sensors, Bi-Xenion headlights complete with impressive automatic levelling and cleaning, LED daytime running lights, front fogs and privacy glass.

Inside there’s heated seats and dual control climate control air conditioning. You get Mazda’s own navigation system, an adjustable speed limiter, cruise control, rain sensing wipers and dusk sensing lights too.

I’m a big fan of Mazda’s infotainment technology and all functions are easily accessed using a seven-inch colour touch-screen that sits on top of the dashboard, or via a controller mounted between the front seats.

You should have no trouble getting comfortable up front as there’s a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustments available. The dipping roofline make things a bit tight in the back for three though.

Boot space is competitive and the 3 easily passed the golf club test.  Rear seats fold almost flat and lie flush with the boot floor but there are more spacious options in this class.

Front and side vision is fine but drivers will find that narrow rear windows annoyingly inhibit views.

The 1988cc engine produces 120ps at 6,000rpm and you can expect to get 55.4mpg on the combined cycle while only producing 119g/km of emissions. There’s 0-62mph in 8.9seconds and a top speed of 121mph.

All versions come with six airbags, stability control and a tyre pressure-monitoring system. The 3 also achieved a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.

Handling is OK but if I’m being really picky I’d have to say there are better performers in the class. There’s some body roll and quite a bit of road noise too.

The test car had an on-the-road price of £19,395 but with metallic paint, leather interior and safety pack that price jumped up to over £23,000.

There’s a lot of competitors in this sector but the Mazda3 is a genuine player and well worth the money.

 

 

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