The Mazda3 hatchback is one of two bodystyles available in the revised Mazda3 range the other is a saloon.
The 3 is an important car for Mazda in Ireland as both it and the Mazda2 make up the bulk of Mazda cars sold here.
In hatchback form it does offer more in terms of versatility than the saloon so this week I am road testing the Mazda3 GT 5-door hatch powered by a new 2.0 litre 120 bhp low emission petrol.
There are three trim levels to choose from, Executive, Executive SE and GT.
I am testing the GT model.
Well the style is certainly a winner.
The cool design works with stylish front and rear bumpers and other minor cosmetic upgrades.
The long wheelbase, short overhangs, and solid proportions give the car a dynamic profile.
With lovely alloy wheels and deep red metallic paint this Mazda3 stands out from the crowd.
Slip inside and you will immediately notice the quality of trim and cabin fittings.
The dashboard is a model of clarity and good design.
The driver is confronted with a sporty looking instrument panel and a centre console that is both functional and elegant.
I like the centrally located touch information screen for audio and climate settings and the simple menu and rotary controller.
A very good design and functionality.
All cars come pretty well equipped, with 6 airbags, ABS with EBD 15 inch alloy wheels a CD player, remote locking with alarm, power windows and heated electric mirrors. Bluetooth, cruise control and voice activation are also standard.
The Executive is the entry-level spec, move up to the Executive SE and they add some other goodies such as, leather steering wheel with multi-function audio controls and a different velour seat trim, the GT on test adds two tone leather trim, a HUD (Head Up Display), drivers power seats, navigation, auto dimming rear view mirror, reversing camera and much more.
Its very well kitted out indeed.
The 2.0 litre 120 bhp Skyactive petrol proves to be a very refined and frugal powerplant.
The slick 6 speed gearbox is light and precise and the ratios make the best of the engines power.
I did find the gearing a bit tall though and revving much past 5,000 rpm is of little benefit in acceleration terms.
0 to 100km takes about 9 seconds so its not as quick as you might expect from a 2.0 litre petrol.
Over some 600km or so it proved economical though burning just 5.9 litres of petrol per 100km and road tax is just €200.00 for a year. Its a very nice engine.
The 3 feels taut and well balanced even on poorer road surfaces.
The well weighted steering gives the driver plenty of feed back as to just what the front wheels are doing.
In short I found this a fun car to drive, something lacking in many of its class competitors.
Overall levels of refinement are good the car is generally quiet with wind and engine noise both well suppressed.
Prices for the Mazda3 start at €23,295 for the Executive 1.5 SkyActive petrol, for the bulk of sales of this car will I guess though be powered by the diesel engine and prices for this model start at €24,995 for the 5 door.
The 2.0 litre GT costs from €28,165
Overall then the Mazda3 2.0 litre petrol offers versatility, economy and a touch of individuality and style that sums up to a car that is a very enticing alternative to a VW Golf, Ford Focus or Renault Megane.
I really loved it!