WHEN sampling Mazda motoring it always seems that you are driving a car from a class above.
Mazda models have premium feel in their DNA and I have certainly never driven one that disappoints.
The looks and quality of build are exceptional, but what says it allare the handling qualities of this brand.
The latest incarnation of the Mazda3 proves the theory conclusively.
Slotted in the range between the 2 and the 6 model, the Mazda3 is an arch-rival of the Ford Focus and VW Golf.
Such quality hatches are rarely cheap and to survive in such a hotly contested market they have to be exceptional.
The 2.2-litre 150ps SE-L Nav desel is typical of the effort Mazda is demonstrating to gain a firmer foothold in this all-important arena.
At £22,045 this Mazda3 is no cheapie, but as soon as you get behind the chunky black steering wheel of this car you feel that you are driving something much more expensive.
And this is not done by the smoke and mirrors of gimmickry but by sheer driving quality.
Under the bonnet is Mazda's renowned SKYACTIV four-cylinder 16-valve diesel engine which provides a top-speed of 130mph and a 0-62mph sprint factor of 8.1 seconds.
Impressive stuff, but when you see that the car's combined mpg figure of 68.9mpg and emissions figure of just 107g/km you realise you are not dealing with any old family hatch.
The economy and feel of this car is aided by Mazda's SKYACTIV technology all designed to make the cars as efficient as possible
With definite eco benefits, the technology provides integrated control of the engine, transmission, chassis and body to give the driver a feel of being at one with the car.
This is no idle boast. Believe me, it works.
Apart from the overall driving quality of this car which is on a par with German premiums, the one thing that is foremost is ride comfort which is the best I have experienced in a car of this type.
Beautifully balanced and a thoroughbred when it comes to enthusiastic driving this is also a very good looking car, especially in its five-door version.
This version has masses of space for five, with enoughroom in the boot for all their kit.