Mazda 3

It's been a slow start to life on our fleet for the Mazda 3 - literally. As consumer reporter, much of my time is spent in the city ferrying products between the office and my flat for testing. So, I have rarely had the opportunity to see what the car is capable of at higher speeds.

  • Attractive styling, comfortable driving position, spacious rear, blue paintjob, good gearchange
  • Black plastic trim scuffs easily, access to load bay

It's been a slow start to life on our fleet for the Mazda 3 - literally. As consumer reporter, much of my time is spent in the city ferrying products between the office and my flat for testing. So, I have rarely had the opportunity to see what the car is capable of at higher speeds. However, all that time spent in the cabin in London's congested streets has given me the opportunity to appreciate what a fine piece of work it is. With chunky, easy-to-use switches, a simple layout and solid feel, Mazda has got it just about right. It's a pity there's so much dark plastic, though, as it shows scuffs too easily. What's more, the interior is spacious, too. Even the tallest drivers in the office can get comfortable, and a recent airport run to drop off friends showed there is plenty of rear leg and headroom. Unfortunately, the trip to Heathrow also highlighted a shortcoming: while the saloon is the best-looking 3 in the range, its practicality is reduced. Although the boot eventually swallowed the two huge - and heavy - suitcases of my US-bound pals, getting them in proved a battle. The opening seemed very small compared to the hatches I am used to, and I'd prefer something with a more accessible load area for future 'Good Samaritan' jobs. Looks-wise, though, the boot is a winner - as the cool kids on my street will testify. I've left my flat a couple of times to find salivating teens admiring the 3. The vivid Winning Blue paintjob and smart alloys add a touch of pizzazz to the well proportioned body, and I've even heard a couple of the youngsters expressing amazement at the Mazda badge. "Definitely thought it was German," was how one put it. Meanwhile, on the road the 3 has proved a pleasing companion. The gearshift is one of the best I've experienced, making some rivals feel sloppy in comparison. And not even the abundance of speed bumps on my local streets can compromise the comfortable ride. One possible point of concern, though, is the fuel consumption. With the 3's extended stay in the city to date, and the engine not fully run in, its visits to the petrol station have been more frequent than I'd hoped, and the car is averaging only 24.3mpg. Hopefully relieving it of its product carrying duties and treating it to some longer-range trips will see a marked improvement in this area.

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