New Mazda3 up with

very best

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

THE latest revisions to the excellent Mazda3 have seen it outclass almost every competitor and even make cars in the executive bracket look to their laurels.

The changes introduced late last year have made an already very good car into a truly great one that sits alongside the VW Golf at the top of the class.

It doesn't quite match the Golf's looks but in every other way it has the answer to the equivalent German model.

From the outside, it looks very much the same, but inside, the cabin has been updated, and underneath, the chassis uses Mazda's SKYACTIV technology.

This has improved overall refinement, which was already up to a high standard, and suspension revisions have brought a improved ride and reduced vibration, while at the same time bringing better handling.

Ride comfort is so much better that it tops every other car in the class apart from the Golf. It rolls over speed humps with consummate ease, and takes the worst surfaces in town beautifully.

Yet it's also very agile and safe through the corners, with tremendous grip, marvellous roadholding and wonderful balance.

It can be chucked around like a sportscar, instilling immense confidence in the driver.

I recently drove both the 1.5 105bhp diesel borrowed from Ford, and the 2.0-litre 120bhp petrol. Other engines available are the existing 150bhp 2.2 diesel, and the 165bhp 2.0-litre petrol.

Both diesel engines now feature what Mazda calls Transient Control, to give a more positive accelerator response by reducing turbo lag, and they also have a sound smoothing system that reduces the knocking sounds during starting and at low speeds.

All cars in the range come with stop/start as standard and unlike some others, it works well every time.

The 1.5 diesel is not the quickest, but delivers linear acceleration in the bottom five of six gears.

What is astonishing about it is the level of smoothness the company has achieved - right up there with the very best oil burners on the market.

And 74mpg with 99 grammes per kilometre emissions is not to be sniffed at.

Good though it is, the petrol would still be my choice. This is a smooth, easy revving and tuneful 2.0-litre that is simply marvellous to drive.

It has to be revved to give of its best, but once up to speed, cruises at motorway speeds with excellent refinement. And if you keep the revs up, there is plenty of urge for swift and safe overtaking.

Inside, there's space for five, or four for a long trip with enough space in the boot for all their stuff.

Standard in all hatchback models are sat nav, alloys, autofold heated mirrors, see you home headlights, trip computer and 60/40 fold rear seats.

FAST FACTS

Price: £19,695

Mechanical:105bhp, 1,499cc, 4 cylinder diesel driving front wheels via 6 speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:115mph

0-62mph:11 seconds

Combined MPG: 74

Insurance Group: 16

C02 emissions:99g/km

Bik rating: 19%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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