Mazda 3 review - talented family hatch, but lacks sparkle - Ride and handling

Mazda's C-segment contender should be taken seriously

Evo rating
Price
from £17,095
  • Good refinement, space, tech and diesel engine
  • Question mark about residual values, base models not so attractive

Though we'd be tempted to go for the far more attractive 18-inch alloy wheels for their aesthetic appeal, they should come with a health warning, as they noticeably reduce ride comfort, most obviously in an urban situation with broken tarmac and speed bumps to negotiate.

Out on the motorway they have less of an effect on comfort and the lower profile tyres help the Mazda3 feel more alert in the corners too. In contrast, the 16-inch rims that are standard on much of the line-up come with tall (read: ugly) sidewalls that absorb everything the road can throw at you, though then reduce sharpness in the bends. Easy, we hear you say: go for a 17-inch wheel to split the difference. Yet Mazda doesn't offer such a thing on the 3. Bizarre.

Subscribe to evo magazine

evo is 21 and to celebrate, we're returning to 1998 prices! Subscribe now to SAVE 39% on the shop price and get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £25!

Nonetheless, while the Mazda3 can't quite match the refinement of the Golf, nor the fluidity and feel of the chassis of the latest Focus, it is, by any other measure, good to drive. Body control is excellent, it's stable even if you're a lummox with your braking or accelerating mid-bend and there's some adjustment of its attitude to be had on the throttle.

The driving controls are well-weighted and linear in response too, which means you always know how much to squeeze the brake pedal or turn the tactile steering wheel. In a way it's satisfying, but in saying that, this isn't a car you'd grab the keys for a drive in for the enjoyment of it. In essence, it's A-to-B transport, but owners will be quite contented with how it goes about that. Perhaps if there was a sporting model in the line-up it would be easier to get excited about.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

If you want such a thing, the aftermarket is currently your only option. Brackley-based BBR builds on the 3's already-impressive suspension setup with a package to make it a great deal sharper. For £1052.40 you can drive out with a full alignment and a set of lowering springs and Koni adjustable dampers - not cheap, but enough to give the 3 the cornering chops to match its sharp looks.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/toyota/yaris/201932/toyota-gr-yaris-revealed-in-full-return-of-the-homologation-special
Toyota Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris revealed in full – return of the homologation special

One of most sought after hot hatchbacks of 2020 has finally been revealed: the Toyota GR Yaris
10 Jan 2020
Visit/subaru/202102/2020-subaru-levorg-sti-prototype-revealed-at-tokyo-auto-salon
Subaru Levorg

2020 Subaru Levorg STI prototype revealed at Tokyo Auto Salon

Proving there’s still life in Subaru’s STI performance sub-brand, the Levorg has benefited from some tweaks
13 Jan 2020
Visit/honda/civic-type-r/202099/new-2020-honda-civic-type-r-makes-debut-at-tokyo-auto-salon
Honda Civic Type-R

New 2020 Honda Civic Type R makes debut at Tokyo Auto Salon

Honda has released the first images of the revised Civic Type R that’s being shown for the first time in Tokyo
10 Jan 2020
Visit/features/22907/hyundai-i30-fastback-n-versus-the-col-de-turini
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 Fastback N versus the Col de Turini

We take the Hyundai i30 Fastback N up the Col de Turini, a 31km stage of the Monte Carlo World Rally Championship
19 Jul 2019