RAC Cars News


New Mazda 3 for 2014

By raccars Published

The small hatchback sector is one of the most crowded and competitive in the auto market, but as the biggest selling market segment, it is one in which manufacturers absolutely must have a presence. Nonetheless, the likes of Mazda, releasing its new 3 model in January next year, have their work cut out to distinguish itself from rivals. What does the new Mazda 3 have to offer?

Stylistically, the new car follows the family design language already seen on the company's 6 and CX-5 models. It also shares the brand's impressive light weight SkyActiv platform architecture, economical engines and slick gearboxes. Two body shapes are being made available, four door saloon or five door hatchback.

The engine options include three petrol units – a 1.5 litre with 99bhp and a 2.0 litre with 118bhp or 162bhp, and a 2.2 litre diesel with 148bhp. The standard transmission is a six speed manual but the diesel and the junior 2.0 litre petrol model will get the option of a six speed automatic.

Behind the wheel, the focus is on neat, agile handling. The engines don't benefit from turbo assistance so you'll need to work your right foot to get access to the output that is undoubtedly available. That's not too much of a chore though, with power delivered in a balanced and progressive manner and a smooth, accurate gear change mechanism.

The car is impressively stable at speed and on corners, with responsive steering that could nonetheless do with a bit of extra weight under speed. The ride is comfortable but surprisingly firm for what is ostensibly a family car, particularly if the car is fitted with the larger 18 inch alloy wheels, rather than the entry level models' 16 inchers. Similarly, refinement falls short of premium brand levels.

The cabin is more successful, with a comfortable and spacious layout and plenty of driver seating adjustment options. The dashboard is logical and user friendly in layout and pleasantly minimal. Many of the important driving functions are controlled via a seven inch colour touchscreen infotainment interface or a centre console mounted scroll and press dial mechanism.

Mazda appears to have taken on board past criticisms of poor quality fit and finish, and the 3 feels impressively expensive on the inside, with smart materials and robust switchgear.

Overall, the Mazda 3 is pretty much on a par with its immediate rivals, such as the Seat Leon, Kia C'eed and Skoda Octavia. It does all it should but has few stand-out features for its £16,695 starting price.

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