Mazda 3 1.5 SkyActiv review

The new Mazda 3 1.5 SkyActiv ignores the recent trend for small-capacity turbos

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

  • Smooth power delivery, great handling, stylish design
  • Less mid-range power than rivals, interior plastics

Even at the entry point to the range, the Mazda 3 1.5 SkyActiv is a fine car. The ‘right-sized’ engine is smooth, revvy and helps maintain the newcomer’s reputation as one of the best drivers’ cars in its class. The design is a big step forward inside and out, while the practical and well equipped cabin should help Mazda’s move into the mainstream.

This is the new Mazda 3 1.5 SkyActiv, and unlike so many of its rivals, it doesn't use a small-capacity turbo engine. Mazda believes downsizing engines to boost efficiency rarely gives the real-world benefit other makers claim, so while its new ‘right-sized’ 1.5-litre SkyActiv petrol replaces a 1.6 in the latest 3 hatch, there’s no turbo to boost power – although it’s cleaner and more powerful than the old engine.

• Full Mazda 3 review

By sticking with a naturally aspirated set-up, the Mazda 3 1.5 SkyActiv's power delivery is smooth and linear – something you just don’t get with a small-capacity turbo. The engine isn’t exactly powerful, but it revs sweetly when you’re driving enthusiastically, plus it allows smooth, quiet cruising.

However, the 1.5-litre’s 150Nm of torque means you miss the mid-range thump of a turbo, so you have to work the slick gearshift more often.

The new Mazda 3 is one of the best-handling cars in its class, and this entry-level version doesn’t let the side down. The engine is light, so this car weighs just over 1,100kg – as a result, it corners with agility, while the ride on the 16-inch alloys is comfortable.

The SE model’s interior is a big step forward over the old car’s, although some of 
the plastics used don’t feel quite as classy as in rivals.

Choosing a Mazda is a step away from the mainstream. But even in entry-level form, there’s a lot to like about the new 3, with its sharp drive and smart cabin.

Most Popular

'Boycott greedy fuel retailers whose gallons cost £8 or more'
Mike Rutherford opinion
Opinion

'Boycott greedy fuel retailers whose gallons cost £8 or more'

Mike Rutherford thinks current fuel prices are ripping-off the British motorist
5 Dec 2021
New Ford Bronco 2022 review
Ford Bronco - front
Road tests

New Ford Bronco 2022 review

The new Ford Bronco SUV is one of the hottest new cars in the US, and it could well be coming to the UK. We got behind the wheel to try it out...
7 Dec 2021
Insurance write-off categories explained: what are Cat N and Cat S cars?
Car crash
Tips & advice

Insurance write-off categories explained: what are Cat N and Cat S cars?

New Cat S and Cat N insurance write-off classifications have replaced the old Cat C and Cat D groups; we explain all.
29 Nov 2021