Mazda 3

On sale next month, the Mazda 3 gets subtle exterior and interior changes, improved equipment levels and suspension tweaks

The revised 3 drives well, has a high-quality interior, and an excellent range of petrol and diesel engines. Trouble is, it’s just a bit too bland. We think Mazda has missed a trick with this revised version, because rivals such as the Honda Civic and SEAT Leon are far more distinctive and interesting to own. That said, the 3 remains a decent and practical, if unremarkable, car.

There's no chance that you’ll miss the storming new MPS when it joins the Mazda 3 line-up in 2007, but it’s not the only car in the company’s range to warrant attention.

Say hello to the facelifted 3. On sale next month, the compact family hatchback is also available as a saloon, and gets subtle exterior and interior changes, improved equipment levels and suspension tweaks.

It’s never been very popular with UK buyers – Ford’s Focus outsold it 10 to one last year – but will this round of updates improve sales for the Japanese maker? Auto Express tested a 1.6-litre diesel to find out.

With a barely altered grille, slightly different front and rear bumpers and LED style tail-lights, you’ll have to be eagle-eyed to spot the new 3 from the old one. Changes are minimal inside, too, although the centre console now comes in black or grey trim.

However, the options list has grown. In comes a Renault-style smart ‘keycard’ and a seven-speaker Bose stereo with a hard disk capable of storing 3,000 songs. Under the bonnet, the 2.0-litre petrol gets a new gearbox and an electronic throttle – but apart from that the line-up is unaltered.

So do the changes transform the Mazda 3? Not really. Our diesel was just as punchy – but also as noisy – as the previous car. Around corners it also feels similar to its predecessor, with a comfortable ride and good agility, but lacking the sharpness of the Focus.

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