Mazda3 2.2D 150

Sport

Mazda3 Sport, interior
Mazda3 Sport, boot
Mazda3 Sport, rear
Mazda3 Sport, action
Mazda3 Sport, front

WE may be loathe to admit it - but most blokes who show the vaguest of interest in cars are frustrated boy racers at heart.

The passage of time, coupled with the other half's constant efforts to instil the mantra of sensible motoring may make the need for speed a distant memory.

But the fire will never be totally extinguished while we still have the strength to grip a steering wheel.

We all had that one mate when we were in our late teens or early twenties who somehow (usually through the largesse of his businessman dad) managed to afford and insure the latest hot hatch.

And, while we would never admit it to his face, we were eaten up inside by the green-eyed monster as we were reduced to toddling around in the battered old banger that our YTS money would stretch to.

Of course, those clever folks in the motor industry are well aware of this fact and are more than happy to tap into our youthful fantasies of hammering around like Michael Schumacher.

They know that if they can give what is effectively a family car a bit of extra oomph and some sporty styling that we'll be dragging the missus away from those sensible estates and MPVs in the showroom.

Mazda, therefore, should be on to a winner with the Mazda3 2.2D Sport.

For this aggressively styled and sprightly powered five door hatchback successfully combines the looks that us blokes are after with the practicality that 'er indoors will insist upon.

Already a good-looking family hatchback, the Sport trim adds front and rear sports bumpers, skirts and a spoiler, rear privacy glass, 17-inch alloys and a sports exhaust system to the Mazda3 which give it a sleeker, more powerful look.

The 2.2-litre oil burner under the bonnet also impresses, making sure that the Sport has the performance to match those looks.

It is responsive and punchy, accelerating effortlessly throughout the rev range, and versatile enough, in partnership with the six-speed manual gearbox, to cruise comfortably along the motorway or cope calmly with the school run.

And just as the missus starts tut, tutting and muttering about immaturity as you show off that acceleration at the lights you can put the smile back on her face by pointing out that, yes, you can do 0-62mph in just over nine seconds and hit almost 130mph, but you also get more than 52 miles per gallon on average so you're not breaking the bank.

You're also keeping the toddlers safe as they trash the back seats because the Mazda3 feels solidly built and sure footed and has a raft of electronic safety aids fitted as standard including anti-lock braking, electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control and dynamic stability control.

Add to that six airbags, active front head restraints to combat whiplash and an emergency stop signalling system, which automatically flashes the hazard warning lights during emergency braking, and the family should be as safe as houses.

Your tribe won't feel cramped either as rear seat space is comfortable and the boot is generous enough to meet most family needs, with the 60/40 split rear seat adding versatility to the load space.

If anything lets the Mazda3 down slightly it is a nondescript interior.

While the driving environment is spacious, comfortable and well laid out it can feel a little dark and uninspiring.

The Sport trim does incorporate a cracking 10-speaker Bose sound system and, with the option to add satnav, many high end extras are incorporated including keyless entry, heated seats and windscreen, plus automatic lights and wipers.

But it somehow lacks the extra pizzazz to completely carry through the sporty feel generated by the exterior styling and that willing engine.

FAST FACTS

Mazda3 2.2D 150 Sport

Price: £18,870

Mechanical: 148bhp, 2,184cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 127mph

0-62mph: 9.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 52.3

Insurance Group: 22E

C02 emissions: 144g/km

Bik rating: 20%

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