As good as it looks? 2019 Mazda3 first drive

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Mazda is a brand that has churned some stunning looking cars in recent years, and the new Mazda3 is no different. It’s not too often that a new car stays so true to the concept, but Mazda has managed that here – the new car is a real looker if you ask me. You have a long, purposeful bonnet, and if you run your eyes down the clean side profile you’ll find a curvy rear end that wouldn’t look too out of place on a coupe.

Style over substance?

There’s a danger here that the designers spent so long on the aesthetics that they’ve forgotten that the 3 is a family hatchback, so it needs to be practical. It’s easy to look at the swooping roofline and to think, “Oh dear, that’ll eat in to rear headroom”. Thankfully, you are able to fit someone of my height (6’2″) in the rear, with a decent amount of legroom and headroom. Granted, it’s not quite as much as what a Ford Focus can offer you, but I wouldn’t call it cramped.

Mazda3 First Drive

The boot is also of a decent enough size, but it’s actually a tad smaller than the previous version. It offers 358 litres, which isn’t bad, but it’s behind rivals such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf. There’s a decent amount of cubbyholes in the cabin, plus it’s easy to get a good driving position, so the Mazda3 should be a pretty easy car to live with.

Enough of that, what’s it like to drive?

Positive, to put it short. Step inside the 3’s well finished cabin and you’ll find a driving position that’s lower than you may have expected, giving you the impression you’ve slipped in to a coupe. Some may want to be perched higher, but for me, it was a pleasant surprise.

Mazda3 First Drive

For the time being there’s two engines to choose from – one petrol and one diesel. Mazda’s new innovative Skyactiv-X petrol engine will be offered later down the line, in case you are wondering. In the here and now buyers can either choose from a 2.0 litre naturally aspirated Skyactiv-G petrol engine, or a 1.8 litre naturally aspirated Skyactiv-D diesel engines, which offer respective power figures of 122hp and 116hp.

Mazda3 First Drive

Both engines feed their power to the front wheels and can be either be mated to a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic gearbox. I was able to have a quick spin in the petrol engine fitted to the 6-speed manual, which offers a snappy, positive change. Work it quickly enough and you’ll crack 62mph in 10.4 seconds, and keep going until you max out at 122mph. Want to know about fuel economy? On a combined run Mazda states you can expect up to 44.8mpg, and the engine emits 119g/km of CO2.

Mazda3 First Drive

Let’s get back to how the car drives; the Mazda 3 is a satisfying car to drive whether that be in a straight line or through the corners, although I’d argue the latter is where most the smiles will come. That’s because the body roll is well controlled, there’s a good amount of grip and the car feels accomplished performing such an exercise.

Mazda3 First Drive

Because of its competent handling you would expect the Mazda3 to offer up a firm ride, but no, the suspension set up is pretty supple. It makes the car feel beautifully balanced, giving you a sense that Mazda has been hard at work in the chassis department. I do have a small gripe, though – I found the driver’s seat didn’t offer me enough support whilst cornering, meaning I was flopping about a bit more than I’d want to.

Mazda3 First Drive

How much is it? What’s included?

The Mazda3 starts from £20,595, and climbs all the way up to £25,495 with five trim levels available; SE-L, SE-L Lux, Sport Lux, GT Sport and GT Sport Tech. The model tested for this review was the Sport Lux, which starts from £22,795. This trim level offers features such 18″ alloy wheels, LED headlights, ED rear lights, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, 8.8″ touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, smartphone connectivity, as well as a good suite of safety systems.

Mazda3 First Drive

So then, how safe is it?

Very. This is thanks to standard safety aids such as driver attention alert, seven airbags, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed assist, autonomous emergency braking, hill hold assist and a head up display. All these features combined were enough to warrant a five star rating from Euro NCAP.

Mazda3 First Drive

Final thoughts

I may not have spent a long time with the Mazda3, but it certainly made an impression on me, so it’s clear Mazda is doing something right. It offers good looks both inside and out, a decent amount of kit, high safety levels, and a pleasing drive. The only downside for some will be that it’s not quite as spacious as its rivals, but when it comes to out-and-out design I think the Mazda3 will be hard to beat.

Mazda3 First Drive

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