Mazda3 1.6D TS214 | 08 | 2010Scotcars rating

    Good-looking family workhorse is a wee gem


    Under-rated and often passed over for more brash hatchbacks, the latest Mazda3 is a surprising car. The build quality is superb and the latest styling, which links across the family of Mazda2 and Mazda6, is subtle yet effective. Created in the company’s European design centre in Germany, it is very much influenced by European thinking and demands. The result is it combines Japanese innovation, reliability and superb technology with the down-to-earth robustness that we demand in this part of the world.

    Fuel consumption, emissions and weight have all been cut which makes the car a very efficient performer whatever it’s asked to do. There are 14 models in the range with the TS2 test car featuring lots of interesting toys. The Mazda3 is the most popular in the range with the previous model clocking up around 65,000 sales in the UK. It began life in 1977 as the 323 and has helped Mazda become the third best-selling Japanese brand in the UK behind Toyota and Honda.

    The car a very efficient performer whatever it’s asked to do

    On the road

    The Mazda3 draws lessons from its big brother, the Mazda6, with a stiffer chassis and enhanced suspension, brakes and steering to improve the feel of the drive and the overall performance on a range of road surfaces. It also stops better thanks to disc brakes all round and an advanced anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution and traction control.

    I tested the car during atrocious winter weather with deep snow and treacherous ice and it behaved impeccably. Tackling one steep side road which had a light covering of snow over some sheet ice, I found that taking off the traction control gave me the power to get up. In better conditions, it’s a sure-footed machine which may not be the fastest, but the 1.6-litre diesel engine is a hard-working and useful unit with amazing economy of almost 63mpg.

    Comfort & Safety

    I really like the interior layout of the current Mazdas which focuses on the driver’s need for clear and concise instruments and controls. The designers call the whole package the “cabin architecture” — all I know is, it is just right. Things you need at hand – volume control for the audio and computer readings – are on the steering wheel and are easy to use.

    The seats are larger and have more support with bigger side bolsters and taller seat backs. There’s also an interactive ambient LED interior lighting system which means driver and passengers benefit from footwell and door handle lamps. The system also acknowledges driver instructions — when any of the audio or climate controls are touched, a change in lighting acknowledges that the command has been received.

    On the TS2 test car, there was the standard fitting of an upgraded Bluetooth phone system which was one of the easiest I found to link with my mobile phone, the whole procedure carried out by voice commands. Also on the test model as standard were front foglights, 16-inch alloy wheels, dusk-sensing auto lights, rain-sensing auto wipers and particularly useful over the freezing winter months, a heated windscreen which almost instantly melted the morning frosted screen.

    Should I buy one?

    Yes, if you want a cost-effective, efficient and well built family hatchback which will be a reliable workhorse.

    Alan Douglas

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £17,390 / £17,390
    Engine / Power: 1598cc / 109bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 11.0sec  Max 115mph
    How big/heavy?: H1470mm W1755mm L4460mm / 1323kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 62.8mpg / CO2 119g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 5E / Band C, £35
    Alternatives: Alfa Romeo MiTo; Audi A3 Sportback; Honda Civic; Toyota Auris

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