From Auto Express
With the launch of the Mazda3, the Japanese company's range resurgence is complete. Hoping to emulate the success of the superb Mazda6 and understated acclaim of the Mazda2, this five-door hatchback is closely related to the forthcoming new Ford Focus. It's certainly one of the most distinctively-styled cars in the family car sector, with boldly-flared wheelarches and strong body creases which owe a lot to the seductive RX-8 sports coupe. It's a similar story inside, but some will object to the black-and-red theme which looks a bit 1980s. There's plenty of room though, and comfort is high. Equipment levels are generous; TS models have all the essentials, Sport models are opulent.
As it draws from the Focus (with Mazda6-based rear suspension and other distinctions), a good drive should come as no surprise. It corners with alacrity and generally rides with composure; it trades the all-encompassing comfort of a new Golf for a sporty, keen stance through corners. Oddly, the 1.6-litre feels more satisfying than the ostensibly-racier 2.0-ltire Sport. This is because lesser models feature 'traditional' power steering, whereas the 2.0-litre offers a less-satisfying electro-hydraulic set-up. The smaller engine is also sweeter and quieter, though it does need a few revs to perform. Coupled with good composure and refinement at speed, as well as those low prices, it's currently the Mazda3 of choice - we've yet to sample the diesels. A worthy new entrant in the family car sector, which we expect to shake up the order.