Sales of the Mazda3 have passed the six million mark, making it the fastest selling vehicle in the history of the company. Introduced in 2003, it replaced the 323 model and at that stage was known as Axela in the home market. Throughout its generations it has become more European in its styling and Skyactiv technology was introduced in 2019.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a week with an updated version which I thoroughly enjoyed and for those who like and appreciate high tech, there is no disappointment in this area with full connectivity. The latest version sees the debut of the updated version of Mazda’s unique Skyactiv-X SPCCI Spark Controlled Compression Ignition petrol engine, renamed e-Skyactiv X; this version delivers increased performance and even more efficiency, all good news. The latest two litre e-Skyactiv X engine produces 186PS at 6,000rpm and maximum torque of 240Nm at 4,000rpm an increase of 6PS and 16Nm respectively and the torque improvement is most noticeable from 2000rpm onwards. However, e-Skyactiv X’s torque output has improved in almost all engine speed ranges, and particularly under acceleration from partial-load driving situations most commonly found during daily driving. Efficiency has also been improved, with CO2 emissions dropping by 5 to 11g/km, depending on model, transmission and trim level. The updates to this engine have been achieved through adjusting the compression ratio from 16.3:1 to 15.0:1, while other modifications include the optimisation of combustion control, modified pistons and updating the Mazda M Hybrid mild-hybrid system’s software. This results in a broader operating band of combustion efficiency, which ensures e-Skyactiv X not only delivers higher maximum engine torque but also improves real-world fuel economy and we all applaud this news. The intake valve timing has been adapted through modifying the intake camshaft, this leads to a reduction in pumping losses and further increases the engine’s specific heat ratio, resulting in improvements to the e-Skyactiv X’s fuel consumption.
Behind the wheel, I did note a much brighter engine with smooth acceleration and my test car had a six speed manual transmission. After having a line of cars recently with automatic transmissions which in a way does spoil one somewhat; I found the Mazda manual transmission to be silky smooth in operation and at last I felt in full control. Looking at performance, very acceptable, rest to 100kph (62mph) in 8.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 216kph (135mph). Other changes may be small for the Mazda3, such as a sunroof added to some models. My test car was in GT Sport Tech trim N.I.); GT Sport (ROI).
The Mazda3 last year became the second Mazda to win the World Car Design of the Year award, the first been the MX-5 in 2016. The Mazda3 was the first vehicle to showcase the latest developments in the company’s ground-breaking Kodo design language, a more mature rendition targeting greater styling prestige through the elegance and rigor of a minimalist, less-is-more aesthetic inspired by the purest traditions of Japanese art and the beauty of space between objects. Certainly I discovered the Mazda3 in its current form does catch the eye, its smooth flowing lines, uncluttered and an extremely well appointed interior, it all adds up to making it very much a driver’s car. All very well being good in the looks department; I also found the hatchback style very practical and I was surprised just how much I could get in the boot and by folding down the rear seats a really generous load space. Finally and to choice, Mazda offer an array of trim levels in which equipment levels vary.