Prac­ti­cally per­fect? One of th­ese Maz­das is tough to find fault with

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - MOTORING - Fred­eric Manby Road test

HERE’S A story about two Maz­das. The first is the mildly re­vamped Mazda3 hatch­back from last au­tumn. Af­ter a week I had to con­cede de­feat. There was noth­ing I didn’t like, or to put it an­other way, noth­ing which was an­noy­ing. Al­most.

The 2 litre petrol en­gine was smooth and eco­nom­i­cal. It gave lively per­for­mance in car which was as re­fined as any­thing in the class, in a body which shouted style.

This “kodo” de­sign sig­na­ture dis­tin­guishes all Maz­das. Kodo trans­lates to “soul of mo­tion” but you can find all that ori­en­tal blah blah in pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial, plus the model range.

There is torque vec­tor­ing on the driven front wheels to im­prove han­dling. Diesel mod­els got noise sup­pres­sion on start-up and in first gear ac­cel­er­a­tion. All ver­sions have bet­ter sound proof­ing in doors and seals and fas­cia, and added vi­bra­tion damp­ing at the back.

The front and rear sus­pen­sion were re-tuned to im­prove com­fort and re­duce harsh­ness. There were cos­metic and mi­nor tweaks in the cabin, an elec­tric park­ing brake and the op­tion of a heated steer­ing wheel.

In this way, the very good 2014 Mazda3 Hatch and Fast­back were en­hanced. Both have five doors. My demo car from Mazda GB was the mid range Mazda3 2.0 118bhp SE-L Nav Hatch, at £19,895. The sparkling blue paint added £550, tak­ing the bill to £20,445 be­fore you start the hag­gling – there are plenty of ri­vals af­ter all (the sub 4.5 me­tre class of Golf, Focus, As­tra). At the time of writ­ing, Mazda was of­fer­ing zero per cent fi­nance and £1,500 de­duc­tion.

The en­gine pro­duces 118bhp at 6000rpm and 155 lb ft ft at 4000rpm so com­pared with the diesel ver­sions you lack oomph at lower en­gine speed but it is no slug­gard, claim­ing a 0-62mph sprint in 8.9 sec­onds, which used to be called hot hatch pace.

The 16 inch al­loys are tyred for com­fort, with a 205/60 ra­tio soak­ing up sur­face itches.

In­side, the cabin width gives more el­bow room than most ri­vals, with a sim­i­lar width in the boot area – which flat-floors when the back seats are folded away.

There is an al­ways-use­ful specs holder in the roof and the cen­tral cupholder area has a roller blind cover. The SE-L Nav is one rung up from the en­try SE grade and adds “city” safety in­ter­ven­tion, au­to­matic lights and wipers, rear park­ing bleep­ers, heated front seats (thank you), cruise con­trol, a speed lim­iter left/right cli­mate con­trol and Mazda’s own nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem which worked flaw­lessly.

Mazda favours larger un­blown petrol en­gines over smaller turbo en­gines for econ­omy and quotes a 55.4mpg av­er­age (and 119g CO2). True, diesel gives you more but the 104bhp en­gine costs an ex­tra £1,500.

On test, I drove quickly and re­turned 47mpg on a fa­mil­iar mixed 50-miler and 42mpg in hilly driv­ing. The Mazda3 five door hatch range starts at £17,795 for the 118bhp SE. Au­to­matic gears are avail­able from £19,595. The other petrol en­gine is a 163bhp (163bhp) Sport Nav model at £22,570. Diesel mod­els are the 103.5bhp (from £19,295 for the SE) and the 148bhp (148bhp) from £22,245 for the SE-L Nav (£23,445 au­to­matic).

The five-door Fast­back range is smaller, of­fer­ing the 118bhp en­gine from, £19,895 in SE-L trim, plus the 103.5bhp and 148bhp diesels, all with man­ual gear­boxes.

En­hance­ments on pre­mium mod­els in­clude black leather seats (£1,000) and a brighter light stone leather at £1,200. An £800 safety pack which in­cludes adap­tive LED head­lamps, mon­i­tor­ing of mir­rors blind spots and cross­ing rear traf­fic and city brak­ing is also re­stricted to cer­tain mod­els. Ver­dict: May be per­fect.

In con­trast, the CX-3 118bhp Sport Nav which fol­lowed the Mazda3 was a dis­ap­point­ment.

On its own, this com­pact “cross-over” five door hatch­back does have things to com­mend it – the sharp styling grabbed at­ten­tion and gives pres­ence – maybe the best in its sec­tor.

So did the 18 inch wheels with 215/50 tyres but th­ese con­trib­uted to the road noise which was too high on nor­mal sur­faces and al­most in­tol­er­a­ble at speed on con­crete.

The en­gine, the same one fit­ted to the Mazda3, sounded rougher and felt less ea­ger

– but ac­tu­ally gives sim­i­lar ac­cel­er­a­tion fig­ures.

On paper it’s 120kg lighter but at the pumps it falls away, rated at 47.7mpg and 137g.

How­ever, in use it matched the econ­omy, pint per mile, of the Mazda3 over sim­i­lar routes. From the out­side it looks bulkier than the Mazda3 but is shorter, nar­rower and slightly taller and lacks the seat­ing and lug­gage room of the 3.

This shrinks the width of the cen­tral tun­nel – so the pad will not take a larger phone. It re­tains a hand­brake. If its name is mis­lead­ing you to think it is based on the 3 it’s ac­tu­ally based on the smaller Mazda2 and dates from the sum­mer of 2015. As such, why not call it the CX-2?

Kit in­cluded a rear cam­era, LED head­lamps, Bose au­dio, head-up colour dis­play, for £20,695. £400 safety pack added blind spot and rear cross­ing mon­i­tors and high beam auto switch­ing.

Pric­ing matches the larger, bet­ter Mazda3 so that’s from £17,795 for the 118bhp CX-3 SE and 103.5bhp diesels from £19,295 with au­to­matic op­tions.

There is one dis­tinc­tion,

4x4 trac­tion with the

148bhp Sport petrol en­gine at £22,695 and the diesel Sport at £23,695 and, au­to­matic gears, £24,995.

Ver­dict: Lovely styling if mis­named and noisy, but who am I to talk? The 4x4 au­to­matic diesel is a rar­ity in this sec­tor. Model for model,

I’d take the Mazda3 with­out hes­i­ta­tion. And that “al­most” in the in­tro­duc­tion? Both have a rear par­cel shelf which is awk­ward to re­move.

SHARP LOOKS: Mazda 3 SE-L Nav Hatch in sparkling blue, main im­age. The CX-3 five-door hatch­back cross-over, above.

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