Mazda's BMW-beater

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

DON't ever buy a BMW 1 Series or 3-Series diesel until you've driven the Mazda 3 Sport.

This is a brilliant sporting hatch that still manages to have a comfortable ride even over rough surfaces.

And, most unusually, the 2.2 engine sounds pretty good - the first four cylinder diesel to do so.

It's smooth and refined and has urge to spare, giving great acceleration from any speed. The way the power is delivered is hugely impressive and from the inside there is little to tell it's a diesel.

As well as the excellent ride, it has huge reserves of grip giving fantastic road holding. It feels safe and sure through every corner and is a joy to drive.

The steering is superb and it's matched by the excellent chassis both of which feed information to the driver.

It's very economical and the clutch is light, but my only criticism is the gearchange action of the six speed gearbox, which is too strongly sprung towards the centre line.

It comes with built-in sat nav, climate control, and excellent, very supportive seats with great adjustment.

: BMW 118d

FAST FACTS

Price: £19,570

Mechanical: 148bhp, 2,184cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox.

Max Speed: 127mph

0-62mph: 9.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 52

Insurance Group: 8

C02 emissions: 144g/km

Bik rating: 20%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles

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