Mazda 3 2.0d

This Mazda 3 looks subtle, but it is Britain’s most powerful diesel hatch

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

There’s no shortage of pace on offer from this hot Mazda 3 diesel – and that’s backed up by impressive economy and low emissions. Sharp steering and an agile chassis mean the car is fun to drive, too, making it a very worthy alternative to the 168bhp VW Golf GTD – and not least because of the £21,195 price. If only it looked less like a regular 3 and more like a hot hatch, we are sure Mazda would be on to a winner.

It’s the UK’s most powerful diesel family hatch, and at £5,000 less than the VW Golf GTD, this hot Mazda 3 looks strong value for money.

The facelifted car debuted at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and this model offers 182bhp from its 2.2-litre turbo. It goes on sale in January, for £21,195, as a five-door only.

You’ll need to squint to spot the differences between this car and its predecessor. But changes to the shape of the grille and rear bumper, plus new alloys, add 

a touch of class to the design.

Inside, the switchgear has been upgraded with a new brushed alloy finish on the heater controls, and the dials are backlit, too. A raft of kit includes touchscreen sat-nav, while a blindspot warning system illuminates LED lights in the mirrors should a car be lurking unseen over your shoulder.

Unfortunately, the overall appeal is let down by clunky wheel-mounted buttons and hard, scratchy plastics on the dash and doors. The driving position isn’t great, either, as the seats are mounted very low to the floor. However, you’ll find it difficult to complain about the performance.

The 3 has always been good to drive, and this top-spec diesel is no exception. The firm suspension offers fantastic poise and balance through tight bends, and the new electro-hydraulic power-steering boosts feel, too. The brakes are powerful, and the 17-inch wheels and tyres offer plenty of grip. 

In-gear pace is exhilarating, and the diesel feels nearly as potent as the 255bhp 3 MPS turbo. It can go from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds and has a 132mph top speed, yet claims impressive 52.3mpg economy and 144g/km CO2 emissions. All of this is good news for company car drivers, as the car drops a tax bracket.

However, with so much performance on offer, it’s a shame Mazda hasn’t done more with this car’s looks. There’s a small rear spoiler, but a more thorough overhaul of the styling would have ensured it had the visual impact to match its muscle. Now that would be something worth getting excited about.

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