MAZDA3: the changes are subtle but rewarding

dsc0485IT’S only when you put the latest Mazda3 alongside the model it’s replacing that you notice the oh so subtle changes in its look.

But changes there are – vital in a sector of the market that includes the Focus, Golf, Leon and Astra – and vital to ensure that sales of the neat 3 continue to rise as they have in recent years.

But the biggest change trumpeted at the UK launch is one that you definitely won’t see but one you should, on a trip, benefit from.

dsc4309In these days of active chassis controls, where you can – at the touch of a switch or button – select a setting that suits your driving, Mazda have effectively made the choice for you by debuting G-Vectoring Control on the 3.

This SKYACTIV-VEHICLE DYNAMICS technology varies engine torque to optimise the load on each wheel and improve the handling and comfort the car delivers.

It’s not something you’ll initially be aware of but at the end of your journey – in our case a 200 plus mile romp round the Cairngorms – you won’t be feeling the pain.
Simply put, it effectively monitors each wheel so you are not having to continually making steering corrections as you drive – the end result is less lateral movements for you and your passengers and hence less stressed occupants at your destination. It seemed to work well enough for us.

dsc1467The Cairngorms offers up a varied selection of roads – narrow and twisty, long and sweeping, but all with magnificent views – and puts the pressure on any car to show how it performs.

The frugal and sub 100g/km 1.5 SKYACTIV-D diesel, introduced to the range last year, is included in the 2017 range, along with the 150ps 2.2 diesel and petrol variants offering 120ps and 165ps of the 2.0 SKYACTIV-G.

dsc2705The 3 hits a very much oversubscribed sector of the market, and having to score points off the aforementioned quarter of top performers is a hard act to follow and even more difficult to better.

But with prices starting at £17,595 it’s having a go. Trim levels on offer are SE Nav, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav, all with a respectable level of standard equipment and all featuring a much tidier cabin.

dsc2577The smaller diesel won the vote as the best over the 2.0 petrol version sampled on the launch, feeding back a bit more response through the steering and exuding a more planted feel on the road. The 3 is respected for its pin sharp handling and its evident here.

We get the new model here in the UK ahead of the rest of Europe (so there are benefits of Brexit!) and Mazda showrooms up and down the country have also had a makeover to welcome the 3.

dsc0392The cosmetic revisions include a distinct connection between the front grille and the new led headlights as well as a new colour keyed rear bumper.

The interior sees higher quality switch panels, push button start, a new and neater trim insert to the dashboard and the adoption of an electric parking brake which creates a bit more space on the centre console.

And overall refinement is enhanced with added noise suppression material in all the right places.

Zoom zoom indeed!

>FASTFACTS: Mazda3 SE hatchback; £19,095; 1499cc four cylinder diesel, 105ps, 270Nm; top speed 115mph, 0-62mph 11secs; six speed manual gearbox; combined fuel 74.3; CO2 99g/km; will it fit the garage? 4470/1795/1465 (l/w/h).