Mazda3 AWD GT Sport

Tech

Mazda3, front action 2
Mazda3, front static 2
Mazda3, side action
Mazda3, rear static
Mazda3, dashboard
Mazda3, boot

IN a world of look-alike cars it's refreshing to drive something that stands out.

And the latest Mazda3 in GT Sport Tech format is certainly a car which commands attention - not to mention a lot of enquiring questions from fellow motorists anxious to know what it is.

And what it is is a low slung sporty hatchback that's been engineered to look powerful even when it's stationary.

It's eye catching both inside and out and comes with a lot of high tech gadgetry to please the most ardent technophile.

For starters it's a mild hybrid but it also uses Mazda's unique SkyActiv-X engine, which means it has the highest compression ratio of any production petrol engine in the world.

And that means an abundance of smooth, refined, useable power combined with sensible economy. Think the frugality of a diesel engine and the quietness of a petrol one.

And in the case of the car driven here there's the added bonus of all-wheel-drive to complete the package.

For most buyers, however, a car is all about looks and the super sleek lines of the Mazda3 make it hard to resist.

Inside there's a stylish, slightly minimalist look dashboard, full leather seats, piano black inserts around the gearshift and on the doors and a Bose audio system.

There's a centre set 8.8-inch infotainment screen with sharp graphics and it's all controlled using a dial near the gear shift rather than the ubiquitous touch screen chosen by most manufacturers.

Creature comforts include heated seats, a heated steering wheel and a head-up display projecting the car's speed into the windscreen so you don't have to take your eyes off the road ahead.

And while there are front and rear sensors to make parking easy they are just one part of the belt and braces approach on this car which also has front and rear facing cameras to simplify things even more, not to mention a 360 degree view of the car from above. If you can't park your Mazda3 with all that kit on board you shouldn't be driving it.

Other features include cross traffic alert to warn you of cars approaching from the side - particularly useful when getting out of supermarket car bays - and rear smart brake support to help avoid low speed accidents.

Mazda has a reputation for delivering family cars with a sporty bias and this one is no exception.

The steering is pin sharp and the short throw, super smooth six-speed manual gearbox is a delight to use and one of the best in the business.

The handling too is spot on with barely any roll on corners and the added grip of the all-wheel-drive is always reassuring.

The 0-62 acceleration time of 8.5 seconds means this car is never really lacking on the performance front but at times I felt it could perhaps be just that little bit sharper.

On the practical front the Mazda3 is a good five-seater with - for its size - sensible leg room for both front and rear travellers. The boot will take some 351 litres of luggage which is more than adequate for most people but if you you're packing for a cruise and need more the 60/40 split rear seat back folds down to accommodate.

FAST FACTS

Mazda3 AWD GT Sport Tech

Price: £30,540

Mechanical: 180bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via six speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 133 mph

0-62mph: 8.5 secs

Combined MPG: 45.6

Insurance Group: 23

C02 emissions: 142 g/km

Bik rating: 32%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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