The Mazda3 has been a firm favourite and is one of the most popular models in the Japanese manufacturer’s range. The 3 can be traced back to 2003, and was then followed by a second generation model launched in 2009. SkyActiv technology was introduced in 2012 and a year later third generation model followed.
Late last year the fourth generation model was launched at the Los Angeles Motor Show featuring the very latest SkyActiv technology. Some time has passed since I last took the wheel of this popular Mazda and my test car was a SkyActiv D 116PS GT Sport. My test example was in the popular hatchback guise, but saloon versions are also available. I can recall when the first Mazda3 reached our shores, it like so many other cars, was a talking point as it was very much the complete package with very few options, simply because they were already included. While my test car was diesel powered, it’s worth noting that Mazda’s unique Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI) technology with SkyActiv-X is the world’s first production petrol engine to exploit the benefits of compression ignition. This gives drivers the free-revving performance of a petrol engine with the superior response of a diesel. The two litre four cylinder 180PS SkyActiv-X engine features the highest compression ratio for a production petrol engine in the world, while its lean burn capabilities ensure outstanding fuel economy and low emissions. The entry point to the SkyActiv-X line up, the manual Sport hatchback, emits 100g/km, while the identically priced Sport saloon emits just 96g/km.
Across both body styles the SkyActiv-X powered newcomer is offered in a number of trim levels depending on the market, with a choice of automatic or manual transmission across all models. The SkyActiv-X models are specified with a level of standard equipment never seen before on a Mazda in this sector, with high-end technology such as a windscreen projecting colour head-up display with Traffic Sign Recognition, Mazda Radar Cruise Control and LED headlights across the range. Every model in the line-up also features navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and an advanced eight speaker audio system. Even the Sport trim entry point to the SkyActiv-X range has a cabin enhanced with chrome detailing, a frameless rear view mirror and rear privacy glass, while Sport Lux models feature a reversing camera, smart keyless entry and heated front seats. GT Sport sees the introduction of black leather seats with power adjustment, a heated steering wheel and Bose audio, while the range-topping GT Sport Tech features a suite of additional active safety equipment, including a 360o camera and Driver Monitoring System with interior camera. The exterior styling is thoroughly modern and the interior is stylish cabin with every aspect of the cockpit laid out in perfect horizontal symmetry with the driver to deliver and all models feature a seven-inch colour TFT driver instrument display, while the latest version of the Mazda Connect infotainment system features a larger 8.8-inch central display, improved navigation and a revised multimedia commander control dial.
Returning to engines and to lessen any confusion that might arise- X refers to the petrol engines while D refers to the very economical diesel engine as tested here. With the latter, one can expect to achieve excellent economy on a regular basis. With five doors and a reasonable boot the newcomer will appeal to a wide audience and the availability of diesel power will have great appeal to buyers throughout Ireland Highlights for me? Well, I really appreciate when a manufacturer equips a vehicle with a head up display and in the best traditions of Mazda a very slick, almost sporty six speed manual transmission. While my test car was badged GT, I have to be honest it does not rate highly in terms of performance. I would best describe it as adequate, and the fact that it has a diesel power unit compensates, in a manner, by delivering wallet pleasing economy. To sum up, the Mazda3 is a compact well appointed hatchback with distinctive styling and onboard equipment to suit all ages.