Mazda3 2.2D Sport

185PS

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

THE Mazda3 has much going for it, not least the fact it is one of the best looking cars in its class.

Its sharp lines really stand out and arguably give it an aesthetic advantage over many of its rivals.

A new version of the car was launched in 2009 and though at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking nothing that much had changed there's plenty applaud in this second generation model.

Premium makes like Audi favour an evolutionary design approach with most models and here Mazda have not deviated too far from the overall look of a car that always had plenty of fans.

The first generation Mazda3's distinctive design lines have been sharpened further and it features a front end that's far more dynamic and imposing with plenty of modern styling touches that give it a truly contemporary look.

The contemporary theme continues on the interior with a fascia inspired by the classy Mazda6.

Special attention has been paid to the driver with a seat that offers plenty of adjustment and a steering wheel that can be adjusted for rake and reach. The result is it's very easy to find a comfortable driving position.

The only gripe in the cabin is less space in the rear compared to some of its rivals, though the space constraints are marginal rather than critical.

Likewise boot space might not measure up to some its competitors but even so it seems to have enough to cope as a family hatchback.

Mazda like to trumpet its ‘Zoom Zoom' philosophy, cultivating an image as a manufacturer that turns out cars with a sporty look and feel.

Utilising the Ford C1 platform on which the Ford Focus is also based the Mazda3 should have a head start as a driver's car and it certainly does not disappoint. It feels well balanced and offers a more than satisfying drive.

The 2.2-litre diesel Sport sits near the top of the range and so one would expect it to really cut the mustard when it comes to driving dynamics.

It's certainly fun to be behind the wheel and its precise steering helps complete the package.

The ride errs on the firm side and you're aware of road noise when travelling at higher speeds, but both these limitations seem like small beer when considering its merits.

Reliability was one of the strengths of the previous model and there is every reason to expect this latest model will follow suit, helping to preserve high residual values.

As good as the higher-powered 2.2-litre diesel Sport model is, it also comes with a price tag that starts to creep into more premium territory - though to be fair you get quite a lot of equipment for your money, as well as stop-start technology to reduce fuel consumption.

All such systems have a slightly unsettling quality until you get used to them but the Mazda version works particularly well with the engine firing back into life quickly and smoothly.

Other models lower down the range are probably more likely to appeal to most buyers in this segment.

FAST FACTS

Mazda3 2.2D Sport 185PS

Price: £20,345

Mechanical: 185bhp, 2,184cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 134mph

0-62mph: 8.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 50.4

Insurance Group: 12

C02 emissions: 149g/km

Bik rating: 21%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles 

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