By Mike Torpey on 2022-01-09 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Mazda3 2.0 Sport Lux
PERFORMANCE plus efficiency with oodles of style is the name of the game for latest versions of the popular Mazda3 hatchback.
Leading the way is a powerful new compression-ignition 2.0-litre petrol engine called e-Skyactiv X, which develops a healthy 186PS of punch along with a torque, or pulling power, figure of 240Nm.
The uplift over the unit's predecessor is only about six horsepower but the difference it makes is noticeable out on the road, and welcome when you consider there's also a drop of 6g/km in emissions.
The Mazda3 may be a family hatch but it's one geared very much towards driving enjoyment - few of its rivals can match its dynamics, whether that be the way it hugs the road, the balance of its steering or the slick action of its manual transmission.
Lively performance of 0-62 in 8.1 seconds and impressive average fuel economy of 53.3 miles per gallon is also strengthened by the addition of a 24v mild hybrid system, aimed at smoothing out performance and powering the electrics.
From whichever way you view it, the Mazda3 is a tidy looker and a worthy winner of the 2020 Car Design of the Year Award.
Racy in profile and with a tapering rear roofline it looks especially cool in the Soul Red crystal metallic paint of our tested Sport Lux model, and worth the extra £810 it adds to the price.
Step inside and, apart from the premium quality of the fittings and upholstery, you are immediately struck by the ‘less is more' ideal of what Mazda calls its Kodo - Soul of Motion design philosophy, with the driver very much the priority.
To that end the driving position is spot-on, includes lumbar support in this model at least, along with ample steering wheel adjustment and proper accessible buttons for the principal dash controls.
Things are fine for two adult rear passengers; not so much for three as the centre rear seating position is perched, firm and there's not much shoulder room either.
That said, you do get practicality in another form, notably in carrying capacity - Mazda3's boot offers 358 litres of space including the area beneath the floor and when you fold the 60/40 split rear seats, and load to the roof, that figure rises to 1,026 litres.
While all versions feature a seven-inch TFT colour instrument display combined with an 8.8-inch central display screen, we like the way Mazda prefers not to follow the touchscreen route employed by some rival manufacturers.
Instead there's a less distracting rotary control complemented by shortcut buttons and, on that distraction theme, all models now have a head-up display.
As for infotainment, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard across the range, you get an eight-speaker sound set-up (12-speaker BOSE in top spec models) and USB connectivity plus Bluetooth are also on every car.
Standard kit includes the likes of rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, heated/power fold mirrors, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, LED daytime running lights, DAB radio and sat nav.
Mazda3 2.0 Sport Lux
Mechanical:186PS, 1,988cc, 4-cyl e-Skyactiv X petrol enginedriving ffront wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
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