WITH competitors like the Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra the Mazda3 has a battle on its hands.
But after a week of driving one I'm convinced it's a car well able to fight its corner.
Available as both a hatchback and a fastback (booted version) this is a very stylish, good looking family five-seater.
If your priority is fuel consumption then the best-selling 1.5-litre diesel could well be your choice with its promise of more than 74 miles per gallon.
But with almost 69mpg the larger 2.2-litre I opted to drive is not too far behind.
The latest version has undergone a few minor changes recently, although externally you would be hard pressed to spot the differences which have been restricted mainly to the grille and lights.
Inside the cabin the changes are more significant with the fitting of an electric handbrake instead of a manual one which gives space for two cupholders, a new-look dashboard and gloss black trim on the doors and around the gearshift.
The old Mazda3 could never be accused of being noisy but the Japanese car maker has decided to add even more sound deadening material to the new one to ensure occupants can chat comfortably without raising their voices.
Smart embossed cloth seats are comfortable and the front ones are heated and boast sporting side bolsters.
Onboard features include a multi-function leather steering wheel and a centrally set seven-inch colour touch screen which controls the car's "infotainment and connectivity system".
In plain English that means it gives access to the satellite navigation system, the DAB audio system, the on-board computer and connections for your mobile telephone.
For the size of the car a 2.2-litre diesel is a relatively big engine so you would expect lively performance and the Mazda3 doesn't disappoint.
There's plenty of gutsy response from this 150bhp unit and it's delivered in a refined manner ensuring that the cabin is comfortably quiet.
This year's models benefit from Mazda's Transient Control, which the company says reduces turbo lag and provides the sort of throttle response normally associated with a petrol engine.
It's certainly a car which has the uncanny knack of being able to combine the comfort and ride quality of an up-market hatchback with the handling and agility of a sportscar.
Revised dampers have not only improved the ride but helped with the feedback to the driver.
A short throw gearshift is slick and easy to use and while sensors on the rear make parking easier there are none on the front, although you could argue they are not needed on a car of this length.
Sometimes good interior space in a car of this size means a tiny boot but in this case there's a generous 364-litres with the seatbacks up and 1,263-litre with the 60-40 split rear seats folded down.