Sales of small Mazdas are in overdrive, thanks to a comination of special finance deals and the introduction of improved, new well-equipped models.
We brits bought more Mazdas than any country in Europe last month, with record sales of almost 11,400 and a three per cent market share.
The Japanese marque has earned a reputation for stylish cars offering a high specification and good reliability.
It’s not surprising that they are doing so well, since they are offering buyers £3,000 against their 10 year old bangers, instead of £2,000 and 5.9% finance over three years under the scrappage scheme.
It means Mazda3 ownership can start at £10,500.
If you are not buying through the scrappage scheme, a new Mazda3 costs from £13,500.
Now when you consider this against the price of the similarly sized new Astra coming out in December, the Mazda undercuts the Vauxhall by £2,000.
Astra prices range from £15,600 to £23,600. The Mazda 3 runs from £13,500 to £21,500.
Like a downscaled Mazda 6, the 3 is a very stylish five door hatch or four door saloon that majors on smart looks, reliability and value for money.
Buyers have a choice of three petrol engines – 1.6litre 105bhp, 2.0 litre 150bhp or the high performance 2.3 litre 260bhp MPS. Or there are three diesels 1.6 lire 110bhp, 2.2 litre 150bhp and 2.2 litre 185bhp.
Permute this with four specification levels and other options including satnav and six-speed manual or five speed automatic transmission, and you have a wide range to chose from.
Even the S entry level Mazda 3 model is reasonably well equipped, coming with stability and traction control, six airbags, rear spoiler, remote central locking, air conditioning and an MP3 compatible audio system with four speakers and auxilary input.
I was driving the new 2.2 185bhp diesel. With this engine you can expect a good combination of performance and economy – 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds, a top speed of 132mph, and more than 50mpg.
The 2.2D Sport has the new compact satnav with a four-inch screen in the dash and duplicate controls in the steering wheel
Solid feeling switchgear and a well put together cabin help make for a very good drive, with responsive steering and plenty of grip. The ride is on the firm side and there’s a fair bit of road noise.
The cabin is comfortable, though leg room for rear passengers is adequate rather than generous.
Boot space is good. Under the boot floor there’s a space saver spare wheel , and they’ve located a sub woofer speaker in the well of the square so you have to take a bit more care when you haul the spare out if you get a puncture.
If economy is a prime consideration you might look at the 1.6 diesel which give more than 62mpg.
On the other hand the two litre petrol sport model offers start/stop fuel saving. At £18,025 this engine automatically cuts out when you are stationary for more than a few seconds, and restarts the engine when you select first gear.
The fuel saving is claimed to be 20 per cent and can result in 41.5mpg while still giving good performance (10.4 secs and 128mph)
All new Mazda3’s have high safety credentials with dynamic stability control and an emergency stop signalling system.
This automatically activates the hazard warning lights when you emergency break at cruising speed.
MAZDA 3 2.2D Sport
Engine: 2.2 litre diesel
Top Speed: 132mph
Combined mpg: 50.4mpg
OTR price: £19,900