New Mazda3 a real

bargain

Mazda3, 2017, side, action
Mazda3, 2017, front, action
Mazda3, 2017, rear, action
Mazda3, 2017, boot
Mazda3, 2017, rear seats
Mazda3, 2017, display screen
Mazda3, 2017, interior
Mazda3, 2017, console

IT could be argued that just like loveable B&B owner Basil Fawlty, Mazda might have gone a little bit crazy.

For just three years after the launch of the latest Mazda3 family-sized hatch and saloon pairing, the machine has gone under the knife for some cosmetic surgery.

However, that's probably not so crazy as you may first think. For by keeping the 3 duo fresh and up-to-date, it prevents the likes of the all-new Renault Megane and Vauxhall Astra gaining ground on the Japanese marque in what is a highly-competitive sector.

So what's new? Well, along with exterior styling enhancements, the Mazda3 also benefits from new on-board technology along with revisions to the cabin inspired by its larger award-winning Mazda6 sibling.

A quick glance of the exterior will not have you foaming at the gills with excitement, for the outer changes are pretty subtle. Yes, there's a revised grille displaying a stronger 3D look, while the winged badge sits inside the frame instead of sitting slightly proud of the top edge.

Other changes include a new front fog light bezel, revised door mirrors featuring wrap-around indicators, while hatchback versions get a new-look rear bumper which is now painted in the car's body colour.

Inside, the cabin has been given a host of tweaks and upgrades which sees higher-quality switch panels and handle bezels on the doors, along with a new-look dash, gloss black trim and redesigned leather-covered steering wheel, which in some models, is even heated.

To create space for a couple of decent-sized cup holders in the central console, the handbrake lever has also been replaced with an electronic switch, while a full-colour head-up display puts the final touch to what is now a beautifully-designed and top-quality interior.

Mazda has also added a couple of high-tech advances throughout the range in the form of what they call Skyactiv G-Vectoring Control and Natural Sound Smoother.

G-Vectoring Control monitors the amount of power at each wheel while the car is cornering, adjusting torque for precise and smooth handling.

Natural Sound Smoother is another new advance for Mazda. Fitted to both diesel engines, it helps reduce noise and engine clatter at start-up and during low-speed acceleration.

On sale now, the newcomer is offered with a choice of a 103bhp 1.5-litre or a 148bhp 2.2-litre Skyactive-D diesel engine, both featuring Transient Control for positive throttle response and reduced turbo lag.

Official combined fuel economy for the smaller diesel is a highly-credible 74.3mpg, while the more powerful oilburner is not too far behind on 72.4mpg. However, Mazda don't expect sales of the 2.2-litre to come close to those of the 1.5-litre with its low emissions figure of 99g/km.

These are complement by a twin-pronged two-litre Skyactive-G petrol line-up producing either 118bhp or 162bhp and returning 55.4mpg and 48.7mpg respectively.

Our route to try out the new Mazda3 included a run south from Aberdeen to Forfar, then over to the Spital of Glenshee, past what was once the old Devil's Elbow and on to Braemar, before heading east to Ballater then over The Lecht to Tomintoul, continuing to Oldmeldrum via Dufftown.

Skiers will know this route only too well, as it takes in two of Grampian's busiest ski resorts and with altitudes ranging along the way from near sea level to more than 2,100feet on the infamous Cockbridge to Tomintoul section, the helter-skelter gradiants provided a decent enough test for any vehicle.

After trying both diesel and petrol power, my preference would have to be the low-powered petrol model. Smooth, with enough power to cope with even the steepest gradiants, it certainly won the day on the price front.

Yes, the more powerful 158bhp version did the job with a lot less effort, but it would be hard to justify a near £2,300 price differential.

The 2017 model Mazda3 is available in eight colours including Machine Grey Mica, which makes its production debut. Another new colour is Eternal Blue Mica, while Sonic Silver is offered for the first time on the Mazda3.

SE and SE-L Nav spec cars are fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, while Sport Nav models feature new style high-sheen 18-inch alloys.

With prices ranging between £17,595 and £24,195, the new model works out at around £200 more expensive than the outgoing car.

But when you consider all the additional features, the Mazda3 looks like something of a bargain buy.

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