Long-term tests

Mazda 3

We're on first-name terms with our Mazda dealer after a spate of calls to sort a problem on our 3 MPS. But it hasn't spoiled our enjoyment of our superb car

  • ENGINE There’s plenty of usable power from 2,000rpm and great punch at the top of the rev range.<BR><BR>COLOUR The near fluorescent red paintwork is really in your face, and attracted numerous favourable comments.<BR><BR>PRACTICALITY We love the quick change from load-lugger to family taxi, plus the numerous cubbies – and what has to be the biggest glovebox around!
  • CLUTCH After 10,000 miles at the wheel, it’s still hard to master. It’s very sharp and made consistent, smooth driving impossible. A real pain.<BR><BR>RIDE At slow speeds on rough roads you feel every bump, making town driving unpleasant. It’s smoother at speed, though.<BR><BR>STEREO A system that doesn’t offer iPod connectivity and can’t play MP3 files is always going to be lacking these days. It’s time for an update.

I’ve rung both Mazda Assist and my local main dealer so often recently that I’ve ended up putting their phone numbers on my mobile’s speed dial. Don’t get me wrong – the 3 MPS has never left me stuck at the roadside, nor even run anything less than perfectly. The cause of my frequent calls has been the engine management warning light, which illuminated the dash at the slightest excuse.

It took two visits from Mazda Assist and a further five trips to a franchised garage to get it sorted, which involved replacing two inlet valve solenoids. All the time, though, the MPS ran faultlessly, the only other problem being the front number plate coming unstuck. However, that was easily rectified by reattaching it using bolts instead of glue.

If it hadn’t been for that wretched warning light, my time in the 3 MPS would have been just about perfect. After running a series of diesel cars, it was good to get into something with a bit of power. And the 2.3-litre turbo unit has that in spades – although it did mean average fuel returns of less than 25mpg over the course of the 10,000 miles I covered in it.

Its stay coincided with me replacing my kitchen, and I was concerned that the MPS would struggle to double up as an MPV. But I need not have worried. Everything I had to dispose of – including the outgoing sink – was despatched to the council dump with ease.

I also loved the massive glovebox. It was more than capable of swallowing all the electronic kit that I’ve tested in the Mazda this year – which includes the fitted Smartnav route guidance.

There are few complaints. I hated the fierce clutch, which made driving smoothly difficult, and the ride could be choppy, especially at low speed. The sound system won few fans, as it cannot cope with an iPod, and its internal hard disc didn’t recognise MP3 music files. Despite these hassles, I’m sorry to see the MPS go. It delivered a great compromise between practicality and fun.

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