MAZDA has really raised the bar in the family car sector with the launch of its all-new Mazda3 model complete with stunning good looks, a wealth of technology and all the exhilarating driving dynamics associated with the sporty brand.
First impressions are vital and the Mazda3 doesn't disappoint with its contoured lines, sloping roof, smart alloys, tinted windows and twin tail pipes.
Move inside and the interior oozes class with a less-is-more, clutter-free approach. There is black leather upholstery with heated seats and steering wheel, a smart 8.8-inch infotainment screen that is angled towards the driver along with a generous selection of techno treats to explore.
Creature comforts include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a superb Bose sound system, DAB radio, sat nav, a power-adjustable driver's seat, air conditioning and a simple rotary controller dial plus short-cut buttons between the front seats to access the on-board systems. There are also practical buttons for the climate control which makes adjusting the temperature on the move a simple process.
Powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine delivering 120bhp and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, the Mazda3 can complete the 0-62mph sprint in a very creditable 10.4 seconds, maxing out at 122mph. And according to official figures, the car can deliver a combined 44.8mpg with carbon emissions of 119g/km.
But it's not any old standard 2.0-litre petrol engine beneath the bonnet of this car - the Mazda version is called Skyactiv-G M Hybrid and features a 24-volt mild hybrid set-up that uses cylinder deactivation whenever possible to help save fuel and improve performance along the way.
To be honest, when you're driving the car, you don't even notice this clever engine technology - your main focus will be getting the most enjoyment out of the Mazda and it certainly delivers on that front.
The acceleration through the gears is both smooth and responsive and there is always a constant supply of power on tap so overtaking slower moving vehicles is a breeze.
Mazda engineers have worked tirelessly to improve the refinement levels within the latest ‘3' and they have succeeded with a beautifully hushed cabin even when the car is being driven at higher speeds.
The dynamic styling of the car and low centre of gravity results in great cornering with impressive road holding even when bends are attacked enthusiastically. You can expect to feel the odd bump and dip along the way but that's a small price to pay. And on the matter of cost, the Mazda is competitively priced at Â£25,495. A few paint options on saw that cost creep up to Â£26,285.
Comfort levels within the car are impressive and there is enough room for a couple of adults to sit in the back provided the front seats are not pushed back too far. On the downside, taller passengers will notice their hair brushing against the roof lining due to the dynamic sloping roof design of the car.
Storage options impress with a deep boot that can swallow 351 litres of luggage. That limit can be increased by lowering the 60:40 split-folding rear seats and there are lots of practical storage options throughout the car, including a glovebox, central cubby, door bins, an overhead sunnies compartment and cup holders.