Mazda3 GT Sport Tech

Mazda3, side static
Mazda3, front action
Mazda3, rear static
Mazda3, front seats
Mazda3, rear seat
Mazda3, boot

MAZDA has long been a firm that prides itself on its individuality. No herd-following for this maker.

While most designers have downsized engines towards the 1.0-litre bracket, Mazda plonk a lusty 2.0-litre under the rakish bonnet of the Mazda3.

Despite its capacity, the svelte looking five door hatchback is frugal enough to squeeze 40 miles from a gallon.

Sporting striking metallic red paintwork - called soul red crystal - and a neat body that majors on curves and subtle angles, the 3 GT manages to stand out from the crowd in the busy family hatch sector.

Of course, there are compromises - the slope of the roof reduces rear headroom a smidgeon and back seat passengers may find life somewhat claustrophobic with dark seating and narrowing side-windows. But the visual effect is excitingly different.

The newly introduced 2.0-litre, 4 cylinder engine e-SkyActiv engine pumps out 182bhp with boosted torque and lower emissions.

Coupled to one of smoothest, slickest six-speed gearboxes, it gives you a car that blends punchy performance with top-class dynamics to deliver above average driving satisfaction.

With a sub-nine second sprint time to 62mph, the 3 GT is definitely in warm hatch territory. Maximum is 130mph-plus.

Suspension settings strike a good balance between smoothing out most road irregularities and suppressing excessive cornering roll when travelling briskly. Steering is positive quite light for parking manoeuvres.

It sits squat on the road and handles in vice-free fashion with high levels of adhesion and sufficient road-feel to reward a spot of keen driving.

The engine is quiet and refined with an appealing ability to rev freely and unfussily up to the red line. Noise levels are generally low with little wind noise or tyre rumble.

Around the 40 to 45mpg mark should easily be in reach of most owners - our own average which included some fast cross-country journeys was 41.6mpg.

The GT Sport Tech, driven here, has loads of tasty goodies - heated seats, sat nav, heads-up display and tinted alloys.

The cabin is fairly sombre in dark hues but there's a classiness and a clarity about the design which escapes many car makers. Plenty of soft-touch plastics and high grade fitments. Dials are traditional and easy to read with white markings on a black background - so much better than the arty efforts of some rivals.

While there's ample legroom up front, those in the back may feel a little less generously catered for. Front seats are well-shaped and very comfortable with ample lateral support. No complaints, either, about those in the rear.

Oddment space is rather limited for those in the front with narrow pockets and a small central area for storing loose stuff.

Luggage space in the hatchback boot will be enough for most family trips but it trails the boot space offered by either Focus or Golf.

FAST FACTS

Mazda3 GT Sport Tech

Price: £30,465

Mechanical:2.0-litre, 182bhp, 4 cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 134mph

0-62mph: 8.1

Combined MPG: 32

Insurance Group: 54.3

C02 emissions: 118g/km

Bik rating: 28%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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