Mazda 3

Double trouble! That's what we've encountered in recent weeks as the Mazda 3 became the second car on our fleet to require a new rear bumper. As was the case with the Nissan Micra (issue 861), the Mazda was hit from behind - this time at low speed while stationary on the M4 - suffering cosmetic damage serious enough to warrant a replacement bumper. Thankfully, we were able to claim on the insurance of the driver responsible.

  • Attractive styling, comfortable driving position, spacious rear, sporty drive, big boot, good performance.
  • Drivers who don't pay attention on the M4, being referred to Ford dealers.

Double trouble! That's what we've encountered in recent weeks as the Mazda 3 became the second car on our fleet to require a new rear bumper. As was the case with the Nissan Micra (issue 861), the Mazda was hit from behind - this time at low speed while stationary on the M4 - suffering cosmetic damage serious enough to warrant a replacement bumper. Thankfully, we were able to claim on the insurance of the driver responsible.

A couple of dents and a glaring panel gap had us searching through the Yellow Pages to find a dealer in north London which could quote us for the repair. And that's when our problems started...

Mazda Colindale was the first port of call, but with no bodyshop on-site, it couldn't do the job. "We can recommend a good place in Alperton (Middlesex)," staff promised. With this endorsement, we called the Alperton garage and took the 3 along for a quote - only to find we'd been referred to a Ford dealer (Dagenham Motors) that wasn't Mazda-approved. No one at either Mazda Colindale or Dagenham Motors had bothered to mention this when we made the booking. Thanks, guys!

Just when it looked as if we were back to square one, Xclusive Bodyworks in Park Royal - which is Mazda-approved - was recommended to us, and stepped in to do the estimate. This proved satisfactory to the other driver's insurer and, a few days later (during which we had a Mazda 2 courtesy car), the 3 was returned in pristine condition. Xclusive's technicians (main image) gave the car a thorough clean, too, with even the wheels and tyres in as new condition. Our faith in Mazda's back-up restored, it was time to pile some miles on. And the good news is that our unscheduled piece of cosmetic surgery hasn't affected the 3's fun factor. As it's based on the Ford Focus chassis, involving handling is taken as read, and the 2.0-litre engine delivers plenty of pace. The ride is comfortable - albeit not quite as absorbent as the Ford - while a couple of trips to Wales proved the driving position is faultless... crucial for a six-footer like me!

Unfortunately, those two journeys emphasised one of the Mazda's main drawbacks as well: its fuel thirst. With a range of about 300 miles, fill-ups costing £40 and an average of 27.8mpg over the last 1,000 miles, it's not the most economical car.

Other niggles include the air-con, which after only 2,500 miles is already a bit whiffy, and the screenwash warning light, which lit for six weeks before we ran out of fluid. These are minor complaints, though, in a car that continues to impress. Graham Hope

Second Opinion I really enjoyed my recent spell behind the wheel of the Mazda - it feels pretty nippy round town, and looks great, too. But I am not convinced by the interior, which seems a little cheap compared to the cabin of the Toyota Corolla Verso I'm used to. Darren Wilson, art editor

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