I’m a bit sad to be writing this particular report, as the time has come to send our plucky 3 back to Mazda head office. Our Techno Grey example has had quite a time with us over the last 12(ish) months, and despite lockdown after lockdown we’ve managed to put a respectable 14,000 miles on the clock.
The last year has been hard on everyone – and actually, hard on the poor Mazda too, but for slightly different reasons. It’s had not one, but two windscreen replacements in the last year – one caused by a hefty stone chip, and the other (we think) from a bit of falling rubble from a building site.
Then a few weeks ago, the dreaded tyre pressure warning light illuminated. Thankfully Mazda’s system is clever enough to show exactly which tyre is at fault, and provides a live reading of the pressure – so at least you get an idea of whether you’ll be able to limp home or not.
The culprit was pretty obvious: a nail in the tread, causing – luckily – what must be the world’s slowest tyre deflation. Even better, a trip to Kwik Fit revealed it was repairable for the measly price of £25 – job done.
Neither of these things were the Mazda’s fault, of course, though the 3 hasn’t been completely without niggles.
Firstly, the keyless entry isn’t always very… responsive. Most of the time it’s fine – key in back pocket, touch door handle, car unlocks, all is well. But every now and again, inevitably when you’re standing in a monsoon or carrying half a ton of shopping, the 3 would decide that only a button press on the remote was going to cut it.
Secondly, our car’s driver information screen (the bit with the speedometer, in English) had an intermittent fault where a whole line of pixels wasn’t so much dead, but a bit slow to warm up. Not a biggie, and a quick Google reveals that it’s a known fault with an easy fix under warranty.
Beyond that though, it’s been faultless – which I suppose is exactly what you’d expect from a Mazda.
It is still, however, not the spec I would’ve chosen. Grey has been very much in vogue for car colours over the last few years, but I don’t think it shows off the curvy 3 as well as it could – particularly combined with the black alloys of our car. No, I’m afraid the only answer for what colour to paint your 3 – or indeed any Mazda – is still Soul Red.
As for the trim level, ours is a sensible-ish mid-range Sport Lux, and despite my usual aspirations for as many toys as possible, I actually think this one is bang on the money. Last month I had the chance to see if the grass is greener in a posher spec car – in this case the £1,800 more expensive GT Sport – and to be honest, Bose stereo aside there’s not much in it.
In fact, Mazda has been so generous with the specs of the 3 that even the base SE-L has some surprising standard features. I can’t think of another manufacturer that gives away radar cruise control and a head-up display on the entry-level car, for example.
As for the Skyactiv-X engine, I’m now officially a convert. Compared to its rivals’ downsized engines it has its quirks – including a slight lack of low-end grunt, as a trip to hilly Edinburgh last year proved – but you soon adapt, and it consistently rewards you with some pretty impressive economy figures. I managed 48mpg pretty much all the time – which for a 178bhp 2.0-litre petrol isn’t to be sniffed at.
I also find myself preaching to everyone – whether they’re listening or not – that the 3 has the best interior of its class, and perhaps even better than some in the class above. A recent drive in a new Audi A3 confirmed my suspicions – the 3’s cabin is a much more pleasant place to sit than even this more expensive rival.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting brilliance from the 3 when it was first thrust upon me – it’s yet another mid-sized hatchback in a sea of Golfs, Focuses, Astras and so on.
But over the last year, the 3 has really won me over – not just for its looks or the way it drives, but for how easy it is to live with – including a really well-thought-out cabin.
Still, all good things must come to an end, and we’ll be welcoming Mazda’s first electric car – the MX-30 – in place of the 3 very soon. Watch this space…
Model: Mazda3 Skyactiv-X Sport Lux
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol engine
0-60mph: 8.0 seconds
Top speed: 134mph
Fuel economy: 48.7
Emissions: 103g/km CO2