Mazda3 - The dark horse of family hatchbacks

Join us on our Mazda3 test drive, complete with the newest Skyactiv-X engine and heads-up display...



What we drove:

Colour: Soul Red Crystal Metallic
Interior: Black Leather
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
Model Line: GT Sport Tech 
Wheels: 18inch Alloys
Engine: Skyactiv-X 2.0-Litre Petrol MHEV
0-62: 8.2 Seconds
PS: 180
Price: OTR from £20,595

Find out more on the Mazda3 

Available Engines

Mazda have tried really hard to come up with a range of engines that produce fewer harmful emissions. There's the Petrol 'Skyactiv-G' to go alongside the Diesel 'Skyactiv-D' - both featuring Mild Hybrid technologies and then there's their new baby... Skyactiv-X. 

We drove the 2.0 Litre Petrol 'Skyactiv-X' which is Mazdas' answer to Hovis' Best of Both. Essentially it's a petrol engine with the efficiency of a diesel engine thanks to it's Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI), and in theory produces more power from less fuel. 

In all honesty we didn't have the chance to put this to a proper test. Due to a lot of stop/start driving we came back with 31.4mpg but I have no doubt you could do better than that.



The car looks great and has a real presence on the road. I’d read other reviews where they slated the Mazda3 for its terrible blind spot visibility and whilst, no, it’s not great, it’s really not as bad as I was expecting. And the thing is, Mazda are aware of this; which is why all models get blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alerts as standard.

These prevent you from moving into the path of another vehicle and monitors traffic coming through blind spots when reversing – this means the large door pillars don’t really cause a big issue. It’s worth noting though that this only recognises motor vehicles, so might not recognise people, push bikes etc.

There’s dramatic styling throughout all trims, and this means you don’t have to spec up to get a lot for your money. You get tonnes as standard, and there are certain features that you get with this car that you wouldn't even get with luxury cars (I’ll get more in to that later).

Its new developments bring it right up against high-flying family hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.


The Experience

No point beating around the bush... I massively enjoyed driving this car. In all honestly, I went in with fairly low expectations and I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Not only does the car look great, it's also a really lovely drive. It's not massively quick, but I don't think you'd be looking at this car if speed was your main priority. It's slightly sporty, but has all the comfort you'd want from a car of this size and class. 

In terms of wheels, standard models get 16” alloys; you can then upgrade to various 18” alloy options. There are no 17” options available- it’s just a straight jump from the 16" to the 18".  


Interior and Space

Where you want quality, there’s quality. There’s soft-touch or high gloss finishes on pretty much every surface, surrounded by chrome accents that brighten up a fairly dark, but lovely interior.

Speaking of the interior, ours was black leather, but you also have the option of burgundy or stone leather, as well as black cloth. I’d be interested in seeing if these lightened up the space a bit, as the car can feel a bit dark, especially when you’re sat in the back seat, with the stylish but small windows. 

Anyone under 6ft will find riding in the back a really comfortable experience, but the sloping roof will cause issues for anyone taller. Also there’s a hump in the floor that makes it a bit less practical for a third adult. There’s a good sized boot – but again the practicality is slightly hindered by the design, and there’s a very tall boot lip if you’re lugging heavy suitcases or have a smaller dog. That being said, for standard loads this won’t be too much of an issue. 


Technology and Connectivity

There’s an 8.8 inch screen that does not vary between model lines. Most importantly this is not a touch screen. Mazda have instead opted for drivers to control everything via voice or centre dial. Whilst some might miss this, I’m not overly fussed by a touchscreen – often thinking it’s more of a distraction than anything. And this system is so intuitive that I really don’t think you’ll miss the touchscreen.

If you want a massive selling point, heads-up display also comes as standard on all Mazda3 models. You don’t even get that on luxury models, so well done Mazda.

All models get DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard - remember that you won't get this in many and the BMW 1 Series doesn't allow Android Auto at all! 

There's also rear parking sensors as standard and depending with the spec you go for, you can also get front sensors, a reversing camera and a 360 degree camera. A real plus is also the extensive list of safety features you get on this car, so definitely explore those in further detail if you can. 

Speaking of what comes as standard, let's have a look at the model lines...


Model Lines - What you'll get

As I mentioned before, the Mazda3 comes with a truckload of features as standard, both inside and outside. Here is just a snippet of the kit you'll get with each model line. 


  • Black radiator grille
  • Head-up display with traffic sign recognition
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Android Auto
  • DAB Radio
  • Blind Spot monitoring
  • Manual Air Conditioning
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Radar Cruise Control

SE-L Lux

  • Heated front seats
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Reversing camera
  • Smart keyless entry
  • Elec­tron­ic Park­ing Brake with auto-hold and auto-dis­en­gage func­tion


  • Adaptive LED headlights
  • SOS calling with GPS
  • Manual air Con
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Frame­less auto dim­ming rear-view mir­ror

Sport Lux

  • 18” AlloysDriver Attention Alert
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Electrically, heated auto-power folding door mirrors
  • Rear sig­na­ture LED lights

GT Sport

  • Black leather trim
  • 12-speaker Bose surround sound system
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Smart City Brake Support – front
  • Heated Steering Wheel
  • Chrome Start Button

GT Sport Tech 

  • Driver monitoring
  • Front cross traffic alert
  • Rear cross traffic braking
  • Cruising and traffic support (CTS)


I’ll get the flaws out the way first. The cockpit is a quite dark, and the small rear windows could make some feel a little claustrophobic. The boot lip might put off some, but it’s worth looking into dimensions to see what you are trying to fit in and if it’ll work for you. Also, it maybe didn’t have as much ‘oomph’ at the get go as some may like. That’s it, those are my main bugbears.

What I loved? A lot. The gearbox was smooth and easy to use. The steering felt satisfyingly heavy in all the right ways, as did the steering wheel. You know when you just like how a steering wheel feels? 

The driver’s seats were comfy and the cockpit makes you feel like you're in a much sportier car. For anyone looking for a family hatchback and haven’t thought to give the Mazda3 a try, please do. I’m sure you won’t regret it.


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Alice Poole

Alice Poole

Alice applies her extensive test drive experience and her passion for motors to bring you informed and characterful articles and vehicle reviews.