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  • The new Mazda 3 replaced its somewhat anonymous-looking predecessor at the beginning of this year,

  • and brought with it the company's new design language and light-weight engineering ethos.

  • The result is a handsome arrangement of curves and swooping lines that come together at the

  • front where they intersect the headlights and create the wing motif grille that now

  • features across much of the Mazda range. The rear design has its share of neat touches,

  • too, with twin exhausts, shark fin antenna, and a subtle roof spoiler, while the proportions

  • themselves are not unlike a rear-wheel-drive car. Of course, it's still front-wheel-drive,

  • and that means there's more space for passengers, with a good range of seat and steering wheel

  • adjustment, and a high transmission tunnel that cocoons the driver. The dash itself is

  • well laid out - the ventilation controls operate smoothly, while the instruments are centred

  • around the rev counter with an inset digital speedo, the output from which also appears

  • on a head-up display that rises from the instrument binnacle. Most of the car's functions are

  • controlled by the company's excellent new media system, which you can interact with

  • either via the touchscreen, voice commands, or the twisty-turny controller mounted just

  • behind the gear lever. Some of the menus are a little convoluted, but overall it works

  • well, and the screen itself deserves special praise for its clarity. Rear seat passengers

  • should be happy enough, and despite the sloping roof-line, headroom is fine. Foot-room is

  • perhaps a little tight when initially climbing aboard, and there's quite a prominent transmission

  • tunnel to contend with. Still, the seats fold forward easily to accommodate larger loads,

  • and doing so increases cargo space from 364 litres to 1,263 litres. Four engines are available,

  • starting with a 1.5-litre petrol unit with 100PS and a pair of 2.0-litre units with either

  • 120 or 165PS, as fitted to our car. Pick of the bunch, though, is the 2.2-litre twin-turbo

  • diesel with 150PS and 380Nm of torque. The 2.0-litre is a little gruff on start-up and

  • at low revs, but settles down nicely enough once on the move. More noticeable, though,

  • is the fabulously slick-shifting gearbox, and Mazda have given the 3 their trademark

  • stubby and short-throw gear-lever that makes ratcheting your way through the ratios a real

  • pleasure. On paper, the 2.0-litre isn't slow, with an 8.2 second 0-62 time and a 130mph

  • top speed, but it can feel a little lethargic at low speeds. Perversely, however, it's also

  • very forgiving of being in the wrong gear, and there are even times when the shift indicator

  • will advise 6th gear at just 30mph. We'd still choose the diesel, though, its substantial

  • torque reserves making it feel the nippier of the two in real-world driving. It's also

  • more efficient, and while our average with the petrol model was around 43mpg - not far

  • off its government figure of 48.7mpg - the diesel's official figure of 72.4mpg is nothing

  • short of incredible. Also surprising is the ride - the suspension seems to deal particularly

  • well with large imperfections and even smoothers speed bumps into submission. This suppleness

  • doesn't corrupt the handling, thankfully, and on a set of twisties the responsive steering

  • combines with the well balanced body control to produce something agile and consistent.

  • There are no gimmicks to it - it's just good old well-sorted handling. In fact, our only

  • criticism is that the larger 18-inch wheels of our Sport model do generate quite a bit

  • of road noise, but that's hardly a deal-breaker. The Mazda 3 is available in three grades - SE,

  • SE-L and Sport - each with the option of satellite navigation. They're all well equipped and

  • prices start from £16,695 for the 1.5 or £19,245 for the diesel. We've driven every

  • model in the range and while the diesel is our favourite, there's not a duff model amongst

  • them, and even the most basic model is quite a cheerful place to be. The Mazda 3, then,

  • doesn't just drive well - there's also something very trustworthy about it. And if I had to

  • choose between this, a Golf and a Focus, I'd choose the Mazda.

The new Mazda 3 replaced its somewhat anonymous-looking predecessor at the beginning of this year,

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Mazda 3 Review

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    馮体康 posted on 2014/12/06
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