Mazda 3 Hybrid review

We review Mazda's first production hybrid car, the Mazda 3 Fastback Hybrid

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

While Mazda is late to the hybrid party, fitting Toyota’s tech has given the Mazda 3 Hybrid a boost. The petrol-electric drivetrain works as well as in a Toyota, plus this car handles and rides better, and it’s more refined and more attractive. For now, the Hybrid will only be sold in Japan – but on this evidence, we’d say fans of eco motoring in Europe are missing out.

Hybrids account for 60 per cent of new car sales in Japan, yet the Mazda 3 Hybrid is the brand's first.

It blends the company’s 2.0-litre SkyActiv petrol engine with hybrid technology borrowed from Toyota. This new car is only on sale in Japan, but the deal with Toyota doesn’t preclude sales in Europe – although buyers here are more likely to stick with the efficient diesels.

This 3 is offered only as a saloon, and the batteries shrink the boot by 107 litres and increase weight by 80kg. But as the batteries, electric motor, CVT gearbox and hybrid control systems are the same as in the Prius, there’s a familiar feel to the way the Mazda operates.

• Mazda 3 Fastback review

With gentle throttle loads, it’ll drive in full zero-emissions EV mode for short periods – but as with Toyota’s hybrids, the engine will fire into life readily. The 3 features a similar energy flow display and stubby gear selector, too.

However, with better-quality materials and a modern dashboard, this car feels more upmarket than the Prius or Auris Hybrid. Crucially, the driving experience is a step ahead. With sharper steering, agile handling, better body control and a more comfortable ride, the 3 Hybrid is likely to impress anyone switching from a Prius.

Engineers also focused on brake pedal feel – and on the evidence of our brief drive, we’d say they’ve been partially successful. You still know you’re in a hybrid, but the pedal feels less ‘grabby’ than in a Prius.

Furthermore, the Mazda engine’s more refined nature means you don’t notice the CVT transmission holding the revs high quite as much as you do in Toyota hybrids. It’s also smoother as it switches on and off from idle and EV running.

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