Mazda 3

28 Sep, 2009 6:33pm

Facelifted Japanese hatch is surprise package of 2009 with good build quality, great steering and sporty chassis.

Mazda is aiming to shake up the popular trio of the VW Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra with its latest family hatch.

We first drove the 1.6-litre diesel 3 in January 2009, but it's the 1.6-litre petrol variant that's predicted to be most popular.

With its sharper face, the new 3 is a distinctive machine. Wide arches, smart 17-inch alloys and bumper spoilers on our TS2 mean the design certainly fits Mazda’s ‘Zoom-Zoom’ mantra.

Inside, the layout is well put together, yet it doesn’t live up to the promise of the exterior. We like the rakish aluminium-trimmed dials, but otherwise the cabin is unremarkable

Yet on the road the 3 doesn’t disappoint, and it feels more potent than this engine’s 103bhp suggests.

The chassis is what really shines, though. Pliable suspension irons out bumps, and there’s grip to spare in the bends.

Direct, communicative steering makes cornering a rewarding experience. One of the best aspects of the new 3 is that, at 1,180kg, it’s 15 per cent lighter than before. This helps drop CO2 emissions to 149g/km, while the 1.6 petrol model hits 45mpg, so it’s greener than its rivals.