Mazda 3 1.6 D

Hatch holds its own against mainstream rivals

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

We’ve always been fans of the Mazda 3, but this evolution has to be the best yet! The 1.6-litre diesel is gutsy, and the car is both practical and well designed. Handling and refinement help lift it to the top of the class. While it can’t match, say, the VW Golf for outright luxury, it offers great value for money and should prove an individual choice.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that there is much more to the familycar market than the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra. Sodominant are these three models, other rivals barely get a look in!

Butwith the facelifted Mazda 3 hitting the UK’s roads this month, all ofthat could change. It benefits from a bold new look, comprisingRX-8-style headlamps, while there’s also a refreshed line-up of low-CO2engines, ranging from a 1.6 petrol powerplant to a fiery 2.2-litrediesel.

We tried the 1.6 version of the oil-burner, which ispredicted to be the top seller. This engine produces 107bhp and 240Nmof torque, while CO2 emissions of 119g/km and 63mpg economy ensure it’sa wallet-friendly choice.

On the winding roads of our testroute it was fun to drive, delivering its torque low down in the revrange, and proving surprisingly refined.

In addition, Mazdaclaims a significant reduction in cabin noise, with wind and road roarvirtually non-existent. Practical and well equipped, the new 3 alsoserves up a decent portion of all-round usability – and then there isthe revamped selection of colours. With a fresh palette of boldmetallic hues, including red, gold and blue, turning heads should proveno problem!

All of which points to one thing... That choosing anew family model should no longer be a simple process of decidingbetween the usual Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen suspects. For the timebeing at least, 3 sales volumes are unlikely to match those of itscompetitors, but this talented all-rounder looks sure to get therecognition it deserves.

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