New Car Review: Mazda3 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X M Hybrid

Starting Price: €28,595

Price as tested: €37,220

GOOD STUFF

  • Delightful handling and road manners. Great interior quality, handsome looks. 

BAD STUFF

  • A little thirstier than we expected. Rear space restricted. 

WHAT IS IT?

The Mazda3 is Mazda’s often-overlooked rival to the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Opel Astra and almost certainly is prettier than all three before we even start. The Mazda3 has evolved nicely since it first arrived in 2005 and features what Mazda calls a “more mature” interpretation of the Kodo design. Mazda itself doesn’t have a big market share in Ireland (1.15% and their sales are down almost 5% this year compared to last and the Mazda3 sales are down 22.5% compared to last year, at just 237 units (as of September 2021) – so the Mazda3 is a rare enough sight on Irish roads, in a segment that is suffering (i.e. it is not an SUV). But are buyers missing out by ignoring the Mazda3?

HOW ABOUT THE LOOKS?

I think it could be safely argued that the Mazda3 is the best-looking car in the compact hatchback segment. From what was a slightly awkward-looking car in its previous iteration, the new Mazda3 is a very low-slung, striking-looking car that very much gives the impression of a coupé. What is most remarkable about the design is the total absence of character lines, which is a clever move, as they are pretty much the first thing to age a car’s design. Instead, Mazda designers focussed on curved body panels which Mazda say “reflect the surrounding environment”. The effect is quite a matte look to the car, regardless of the colour. Overall this car is really striking and really beautiful. 

WHAT IS THE INSIDE LIKE?

The cabin adopts a very minimalist approach – Mazda says that all elements of the cockpit are kept as simple as possible to give the cockpit zone “added presence”. You sit very low in the Mazda3 and it is the perfect antidote to an SUV. It has the feel of the MX-5 to the cockpit – you sit low and the gearshift has a very short, direct shift. This is one of the best cabin’s we’ve sat in, in some time. The centre display, which admittedly is smaller than we are getting used to of late, at least is properly angled towards the driver. Mazda uses an 8.8-inch widescreen centre display, which enables a split-screen view. While the user moves through the menu on the left side of the screen, the right side contains an illustrative display and it is pretty intuitive. Not having a touchscreen does feel a little weird in 2021 but you get used to the menu system pretty easily. Space upfront is decent, but the rear is quite compromised both in terms of headroom and especially legroom If there are taller drivers in the front. We were driving the 100th Anniversary Edition which is similar to the Mazda6 version we drove a few months back – and it features special Burgundy leather seat trim with ‘100 Years’ logo and it is heaving with equipment. There is everything from Adaptive Cruise Control, heated front seats to a superb 12-Speaker Bose surround sound system, with Bose CentrePoint, Bass Match and AudioPilot technology. This is a really nice place to spend time. 

The cabin is excellent – with great quality and a driver focus.

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

The Mazda3 is brilliant to drive. This feels like the closest you can get to a Mazda MX-5 that you can bring your kids to school in. The 186PS 2.0 Skyactiv-X M Hybrid is more than just a mouthful, but a responsive and eager engine. Fuel economy didn’t appear to be brilliant over the few days we had it – a combination of some enthusiastic driving and quite a small fuel tank (51 litres) meant a return of 6.4 l/100km which isn’t awful and actually isn’t all that far off the 5.7 l/100km that Mazda claims for this car. What stands out about this car is the handling and agility and for this alone, it’s a reason I’d like this car. It is really entertaining to drive and the perfect antidote to the bland SUV boxes we have all moved to. 

WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY?

This one is at the higher end of the market – costing almost €38,000 and you would really want to be committed at this price point. Sure it is fast, it is really well equipped and it drives great – it just doesn’t really feel this price. But I’d still love it. A GT version makes more sense, costing €33,870 – with the M Hybrid and 186PS. 

IS IT SAFE? 

The  Mazda3 is equipped with various active and passive safety features. There is a newly developed Driver Monitor System that detects fatigue and a new Front Cross Traffic Alert ensures greater safety at T-junctions. There are also items such as the 360 View Monitor which offers an all-round view of the car’s immediate surroundings. 

VERDICT: 

The Mazda3 is excellent. It is hard for it to compete at the moment for the simple reason that everyone wants SUVs, but if you don’t then this makes a handsome, fun to drive alternative to the more obvious Golf, Astra et al. 

Spec Check:

Mazda3 100th Anniversary Edition 

Engine: 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X M Hybrid 

Power: 186PS @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 240Nm @ 4,000rpm

0-100km/h: 8.4 seconds

Fuel Economy: 5.3 l/100km

Top Speed: 216 km/h

Transmission: 6-speed manual 

Co2: 120g/km

Annual Motor Tax: €190

Luggage Capacity: 358-litres with the seats up, 1,026 with the seats folded flat

Price as tested: €37,220

For more information log-on to www.mazda.ie