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First drive: Mazda3 Fastback. Image by Mazda.

First drive: Mazda3 Fastback
Most buyers will stick with the five-door Mazda3, but we reckon the new four-door Fastback model is worth a closer look.

 



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| First Drive | Frankfurt, Germany | Mazda3 Fastback |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

Traditionally, five-door hatchbacks dominate the C-segment, but the new four-door Mazda3 Fastback may cause some buyers to reconsider their options. For what is likely to be a modest premium there's more space and to our eyes it's the best-looking variant offered.

Key Facts

Model driven: Mazda3 2.2 diesel Fastback
Pricing: to be confirmed
Engine: 2.2-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: Audi A3 Saloon, Volkswagen Jetta
CO2 emissions: 104g/km
Combined economy: 72.4mpg
Top speed: 132mph
0-62mph: 8.0 seconds
Power: 150hp at 4,500rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,800rpm

In the Metal: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Mazda calls its eye-catching design language 'Kodo - Soul of Motion ', but it doesn't need a fancy marketing name to sell, as it's highly successful. The Mazda3 takes over where the Mazda6 and CX-5 left off and it's just as attractive. It looks good from every angle and the saloon (Fastback in Mazda-speak) is particularly pleasing to the eye. It's a full 120mm longer than the hatchback, at 4,580mm. Both cars have a 60mm longer wheelbase than before, and at 2,700mm it's claimed to be the longest in the class. The new Mazda3 is also wider (by 40mm) and lower (15mm) than the outgoing model.

But the previous Mazda3 wasn't a bad-looking car; it's the interior that really sets the new model apart. It's a modern design and even without the higher specification seats and head-up display it feels of high quality. That's helped by the use of soft-touch plastics in all the right places. Mazda states that the new car 'offers best-in-class shoulder room front and rear, and is close to best in terms of legroom.' The rear certainly feels quite spacious for the class, while the boot is among the biggest at 419 litres (the hatchback has 350 litres of space) - and the rear seat backs fold flat.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

A disclaimer or two: while we had plenty of time in the Mazda3 (and we tried three different variants) the cars were classed as pre-production, so it's difficult to know how close to the finished article they are. On top of that it was lashing rain the whole time making it difficult to judge refinement levels or handling capabilities.

Saying all that, the Mazda3 comes across as quite wieldy from the outset, with direct steering, good body control and a keenness to turn into a bend. On the motorway it felt stable and comfortable, though back in town traffic the suspension seemed to jiggle about a little more than we'd like.

The 2.2-litre diesel engine, as previously tested in the CX-5 and Mazda6, is a gem. It's refined and effortlessly potent. There's no need to seek out the peak power at 4,500rpm, but instead ride the wave of torque available much lower down the rev range. Most people will go for the six-speed manual gearbox, which is perfectly fine, but the automatic option is worth looking at, as it's a great transmission and it doesn't hurt economy and emissions too much.

What you get for your Money: 3 3 3 3 3

Mazda is staying quiet about pricing for the moment, which is no surprise given that the Mazda3 won't be on sale in the UK until later this year. Along with the 2.2-litre engine tested there will be 1.5- and 2.0-litre naturally aspirated options, the latter in 120- and 165hp states of tune. Emissions and combined economy for the all-new 1.5-litre unit, producing 100hp, are 118g/km and 56.4mpg, but the 120hp 2.0-litre engine nigh on matches that at 119g/km and 55.3mpg. The higher power option emits 135g/km while returning 48.7mpg.

Worth Noting

Mazda talked us through the mindboggling process of designing an infotainment system that does everything the 'connected' consumer of today wants while minimising distraction from actually driving the car. The head up display is just part of it, but the high-level colour screen and its rotary controller are key. Availability has yet to be confirmed, but this system includes the Aha service, which allows internet access to about 30,000 stations, plus podcasts, etc. It also features audio feeds from Facebook and Twitter, and there's more to come apparently - all in a bid to ensure it doesn't date and is easy to update.

Summary

Mazda's new 3 shows a lot of promise. The hatchback may still edge it in terms of sales in the UK, but to our eyes the Fastback is a more elegant shape - and it has more boot space. The interior is as stylish as the exterior and it seems well made and spacious. Though there are no smaller diesel engines available, the 2.2-litre option is highly efficient and first impressions suggest that the car drives well. We look forward to trying the finished product.


Shane O' Donoghue - 12 Jul 2013









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2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.

2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.



2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.
 

2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.
 

2013 Mazda3 interior. Image by Mazda.
 

2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.
 

2013 Mazda3 interior. Image by Mazda.
 

2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.
 

2013 Mazda3 saloon. Image by Mazda.
 






 

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