Mazda 3

When was the last time you saw a Mazda 3 on the road? Mazda wants to remedy the situation and has launched a revised version of the 3

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

The Mazda 3 is a capable and good-looking car which has few major flaws, but there is little to get excited about, either. The interior is neatly styled and well built, yet the exterior lacks drama and there are no stand-out features. It is a decent rather than compelling alternative to the class leaders.

It’s clear Mazda knows a thing or two about British motoring tastes. The company which brought us the MX-5 and RX-8 is currently enjoying record success here in the UK.

Yet while it’s all smiles in some areas, it’s not so good in others. For instance, when was the last time you saw a Mazda 3 on the road? Can’t remember? Don’t be surprised – last year, the family car was outsold 10-to-one by Ford’s Focus, with which it shares its chassis.

This is a situation Mazda wants to remedy, so the firm has launched a revised version of the 3. Auto Express has driven the model on UK roads to see if it’s good enough to do the job.

Telling the revised car apart from its predecessor requires a discerning eye for detail. The grille, headlamps and bumper are merely tweaked; the trendy LED rear lights are a far more obvious addition.

Work has also been carried out in hidden areas. Revised suspension com­bines with a stiffer and more aerodynamic bodyshell to improve the Mazda’s handling and refinement.

But how do the changes stack up? On the road, you would need to compare the old and new cars back-to-back to tell the difference. As before, the 3 goes and stops well, yet the steering, while precise, is numb and lacks any form of communication.

Performance is strong and the handling agile, but keen drivers would be better off looking elsewhere because the chassis doesn’t have the polish of the class leaders. Refinement is disappointing, too. The low overall gearing of the new smooth-shifting six-speed transmission has the engine buzzing at high motorway speeds, compromising the model’s long-distance credentials.

At least our test car was fitted with the optional new seven-speaker Bose stereo, available with a 20GB hard drive capable of storing 3,000 songs. But will the revised model be music to Mazda’s ears? Good as it undoubtedly is, the changes carried out don’t do enough to lift the 3 to the top of the class. Your local Ford salesman is un-likely to be having sleepless nights.

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