Mazda are a manufacturer that have a slightly different ethos to many others. Whilst the functionality of their products is important, driver engagement is always of high priority even in city cars or even their late Mazda 5 people carrier. The Mazda 3 faces tough competition, but its keen handling has always given it an edge over many rivals. Can the updates to this facelift 2017 Mazda 3 keep it in the fight?
“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” goes the saying and that is very true for the Mazda 3 hatchback. At launch its athletic stance and stimulating lines set it apart from others in the car park. For this model year it receives revised front and rear bumpers as well as more emphasis being placed on the chrome trimmed grill. The long bonnet and short rear proportions give it a sporty demeanour and our top specification test car looked sharp against the backdrop of the Scottish highlands.
The biggest changes are to be found inside where the cabin has become more refined. Leather inserts now line the transmission tunnel and doors, whilst the use of soft touch materials has increased. An ergonomic layout makes the interior an easy place to live whilst sculpted features are a nice departure from traditional bland grey facias found in most hatchbacks. Well bolstered leather seats firmly hold you in place and actually sit relatively low in the chassis. Another sporting touch is the centrally located rev counter within the instrument binnacle. The rear bench seats three and the outermost passengers do receive good levels of head and leg room. However, central occupants do have to contend with a transmission hump in the floor. Boot space surpasses the likes of the Ford Focus at 364 litres.
Mazda firmly believes that there is more efficiency to be gained out of petrol engines before jumping on the bandwagon of downsizing and turbocharging. This car claims 55.4 MPG and emits 119g/km CO2. Under the bonnet is a 2.0 litre naturally aspirated unit producing 118 BHP. It isn’t the fastest machine in the world, 0-62 MPH is completed in 8.9 seconds, but it loves to rev and it is certainly an enjoyable engine especially when paired with a slick 6 speed manual transmission. On some invigorating stretches of tarmac the 2017 Mazda 3 clearly displays all of the attributes of a well engineered chassis. It controls its lateral motions well and the car feels dynamic in its setup. Sharp steering and a brake pedal full of feel means that you can work closely with the car through technical sections. This 2017 model features something called Active G-vectoring of which momentarily adjusts the torque to shift the weight forward in the car. By doing this upon corner entry the front tyres are pressed harder into the tarmac maximising grip. The net result is less mid-corner corrections from the driver and a smoother transitioning of weight. It is a clever piece of technology that works seamlessly int he background. So the new 2017 Mazda 3 is fun to drive at a pace, but what about in everyday use? Well, it is good news here too as increased cabin insulation keeps unwanted noise at bay and relatively light control waits makes for an easy drive. The SkyActiv engine revs freely, you will need to work it to make brisk progress, and overall day-to-day tasks are made easier by good visibility. It does ride firmer than some competitors, the trade-off for its focused handling, but going for smaller alloy wheels does help.
The 2017 Mazda 3 builds upon an already winning formula. More tech, better perceived quality, and a few exterior tweaks makes for a convincing alternative to many other mainstream models. Mazda are tightening their grip on the C-segment and chief rivals should be worried, especially with this cars star handling characteristics. The new Mazda 3 range starts from £17,595 with entry level models receiving plenty of standard equipment such as 7” infotainment screen and DAB radio.