MAZDA'S rebirth in the post-Ford partnership era has been nothing short of remarkable.
Relatively small car makers can falter when they're no longer part of a big family, with all the commensurate benefits that brings, but they can also thrive.
It's certainly been the latter with Mazda, which embarked on a reinvention programme with the aim of being very much a pace-setter as opposed to an also-ran.
At the heart of this regeneration has been the company's SKYACTIV technology, a kind of holistic all-over thing rather than any one aspect in particular, with the over arching aim of losing weight.
The philosophy and engineering in its wake spans engines, transmissions, body, and chassis and it brings much to vehicles to increase both fuel efficiency and performance.
The Mazda3 has been part of the SKYACTIV programme for some time and recently underwent a mid-life makeover.
On the outside the changes are fairly subtle rather than revolutionary.
A new grille features more of a 3D look, with the familiar winged badge sitting inside the frame.
Other changes include the front fog light bezel, revised door mirrors featuring wrap-around indicators, while hatchback versions like this get a new rear bumper which now matches the car's body colour.
On the inside the new features are considerable and certainly more noticeable.
Chief among them are higher quality switch panels and handle bezels on the doors.
The dash has also been given a new look and the old manual handbrake has been replaced with an electronic one, which frees up space between the passenger and driver to offer a couple of cup holders, which always come in handy. Another addition is a full colour head-up display.
Engineering enhancements include SKYACTIV G-Vectoring Control and Natural Sound Smoother.
G-Vectoring Control monitors the amount of power at each wheel during cornering, adjusting torque at each wheel for increased grip, along with enhanced handling.
Natural Sound Smoother is something that's now fitted to all Mazda diesel engines and helps reduce noise.
There are two diesels on offer, a 103bhp 1.5-litre or a 148bhp 2.2-litre.
This was the smaller diesel and proved a pleasingly smooth and potent powerplant.
It offers great economy - 74.3mpg on the combined cycle - though to be fair the larger diesel is not too far behind it in the economy stakes.
The big plus point for the smaller diesel is its green credentials, with emissions of just 99g/km.
Other engine options are a pair of 2.0-litre petrol units delivering 118bhp or 162bhp. Impressively both are pretty economical too.
The Mazda3 still looks good, commendably so for a car that's mid-way through its model life.
Mazda's design language is definitely one of the marque's strong points at the moment and it's a family hatch that still looks stylish and sporty.
Its sporty character extends to the driving experience too. That SKYACTIV technology brings much to the 3's handling.
It's a fun car to drive - light and agile - and seems to enjoy been thrown around corners fairly vigorously.
Ride quality is commendable and the 3 also delivers as a practical and family-friendly hatch, with a roomy cabin and a decent sized boot too.