Mazda 3

It's been crash, bang, wallop with our Mazda 3 Sport, but how's it performed when it hasn't been in the wars?

  • Appealing styling, good performance, comfortable and spacious cabin, blue paintjob, decent handling
  • Dated interior, limited boot opening, disappointing fuel economy, noisy seatbelt alert

Ever heard of the phrase that suggests "bad things always come in threes"? It couldn't be more appropriate for our Mazda 3, which has endured a succession of misfortunes since its arrival on the fleet just over a year ago.

Crash! Disaster one happened on the M4 in south Wales last April, when a Citroen ran into the back of the 3, crunching the bumper and causing £470 of damage. BANG! The bumper was in the wars again when the careless parking of a colleague from another magazine left a series of unsightly scratches down the side. WALLOP! The next misfortune saw the driver's side rear window smashed when an opportunist thief took a fancy to an empty box on the back seat.

And just as we were going to press, there was further woe as a waste disposal lorry rear-ended the 3, causing more damage to the cursed bumper - it looks as if the bad luck just won't run out.

Thankfully, our parking scrape and smashed window were repaired without breaking the bank. Xclusive Bodyworks of Park Royal, north London, carried out the first job (pictured right) for a very reasonable £188, returning the bumper to its pristine Winning Blue. And after a couple of false starts - when the glass for a 3 hatch rather than a 3 saloon was ordered - Autoglass of Camden fitted a new window. Mind you, the £234 cost came in under our insurance excess.

After all this wretched luck, it's almost with relief that we wave the 3 goodbye as it returns to Mazda. Who knows what the next disaster would be? But that's not to say it's leaving on bad terms. For the most part, it's been a reliable and enjoyable car to drive. It handles well, delivers strong performance and is one of the few saloons to cut a real dash on the road. As a six-footer, I'm pleased to report that it's spacious, too.

Minus points include the small boot opening, which prevents large loads being carried, poor economy of 25mpg and an interior which seems to have dated in front of our eyes. The hard plastics now appear cheap and, although nothing has actually broken or fallen off, the cabin does not feel as high-quality as you'd expect of a £15,500 car.

So in the final analysis, a hit or miss? Well, after all those bumps, bruises and prangs, there's only one answer to that - a definite hit!

Second opinion

I agree with Graham that the Mazda is a decent enough car to drive, but a couple of niggles take the shine off it for me. While the xenon headlights are standard, they need adjusting, plus BBC Radio One keeps cutting out for a split-second. This also happened in the RX-8 coupe we ran on our long-term fleet a couple of years ago; so is it a particular Mazda gremlin?Piers Ward, road tester

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