Mazda3 Sport Lux 2.0

SkyActiv-G

Mazda3, side action
Mazda3, front action
Mazda3, rear action
Mazda3, dashboard
Mazda3, rear seats
Mazda3, boot

The Mazda3 comes under the family hatchback banner - but this is far too staid a description for an exciting motor that makes driving a pleasure.

It is rare indeed to sit in a car and feel totally at home but adjust the powered seat and steering wheel to achieve the perfect position, push the ignition button and the experience that follows is something that represents as close to driving perfection as £20,000 can buy.

Mazda has developed the fourth generation ‘3' with the Japanese concept of ‘Jinba Ittai' at the forefront of its thinking - for those that don't speak the language it is car and driver in perfect harmony.

The 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G petrol-powered beauty has looks to die for with sleek lines suggesting speed even when it is parked on the drive. And it does feel quicker than the 10.4 seconds it takes to reach 62mph from a standing start - via a slick short-shift six-speed manual gearbox - on its way to a top speed of 122mph.

The engine - a mild hybrid with cylinder deactivation - also offers decent fuel economy and emissions of 119g/km.

But the real joy is in the ride and handling characteristics. The hatchback is smooth as silk on our pot-holed highways with virtually all humps and hollows easily absorbed.

The handling is sublime with neat accurate steering giving a great feel for what is happening on the road. Corners can be taken as if on rails with the driver-friendly chassis and superb suspension exerting their considerable presence on proceedings.

Add all this to supportive, comfortable sport seats and the result is a motor that excels - whether cruising on a motorway or taking on tight country lanes.

I do have one minor quibble. The sloping roof does impede vision at the back - so the rear view camera is a must when it comes to parking - while thick pillars up front also made negotiating a couple of crossroads more of a chore than it should have been.

At the end of the day though - with the camera installed - a better view is a small sacrifice for the drop-dead gorgeous looks.

The Sport Lux has a price-tag of £22,795 but feels like it should cost far more as it boasts a plethora of kit including a colour head up display which offers sat nav information as well as your speed and the limit in force as well as adding a jet fighter feel to proceedings.

The modern cabin is a class act with lovely lines and a cosy atmosphere controlled by a dual zone air conditioning system that initially caused confusion as the controls sit on a ledge facing up rather than out towards the driver.

An easy-to-use rotary dial surrounded by four buttons behind the gear lever operates proceedings on the slimline 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen which is nicely positioned in the centre of the dashboard.

The sat nav benefits from decent graphics - but if you prefer to use your smartphone to show you the way then Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also available.

Other goodies include smart automatic LED headlights, DAB digital radio with eight speaker audio set-up, alloy wheels and clever radar cruise control,

There is plenty of room up front but things are a little tighter for two adults in the rear as the swooping roofline makes its presence felt slightly on headroom - although legroom is fine - while the small rear windows make the cabin feel a tad dark.

A third passenger can be accommodated in the back but a transmission tunnel and slightly raised cushion make things a bit of a squeeze.

Boot space is also a little tight at 351 litres, although the rear seats split and fold to offer more capacity when required. But if practicality is your priority rather than the sportier family hatchback recipe offered here, then you should be looking at other options on the market. That said there is plenty of storage for a family's nik-naks with a covered box between the driver and front seat passenger as well as a large cubby hole ahead of the gearlever as well as the usual cup holders.

FAST FACTS

Mazda3 Sport Lux 2.0 SkyActiv-G

Price:£22,795

Mechanical:122ps, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:122mph

0-62mph:10.4 seconds

Combined MPG:45.6mpg

Insurance Group:16

C02 emissions:119g/km

Bik rating:27%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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