Some subtle visual tweaks and more fundamental changes under the skin add up to a worthwhile refresher for the latest Mazda 3.
You might be forgiven for failing to notice much difference between the new Mazda 3, fresh in the showrooms this month, and its immediate predecessor. From the outside, it’s all very subtle, so much so that you’d have to be a current owner, or a total Mazda aficionado, to notice any change.
The badge on the front grille has moved, downwards, by a few millimetres. As a result, the front edge of the bonnet is now a smooth line without a little curve where the badge used to cut in. The central beams in the front headlights are now half circles instead of full ones. Then at the rear of the car, the tail lights have been modestly revised.
By now you’re probably thinking: ‘so what?’ Yes, externally very little has changed. But where much more work has gone into this latest Mazda 3 is inside, upgrading the cabin and the way the car drives.
There wasn’t much wrong with the interior of the pre-update Mazda 3, but you do notice the improvements in this new one. A design overhaul and lots of little improvements to the trim and fitments add up to a more club class ambiance. Better-quality fabrics are used, the old-fashioned mechanical lever handbrake has been upgraded to a neater, space-saving electronic one. The door bins are bigger, the steering wheel is now leather-clad, the front seats have a heating option.
Unseen, but an important upgrade, is the addition of a lot more noise-suppressing materials inside the roof space, door panels and dashboard, making the cabin more hushed and insulated against engine, wind and tyre noise permeating the interior.
Compared with the old car you do notice the difference, both in being able to hold a conversation with a passenger without any need to raise voices on a fast drive, and in a more hushed environment for listening to music on the stereo.
G-Vectoring, what’s that?
The Mazda 3 has always had pert handling that made it an enjoyable car to drive, and that continues with one very significant addition to its repertoire. It’s called G-vectoring. It’s a form of torque vectoring, which is a system that controls and varies power delivery to individual wheels as a means of sharpening cornering precision.
It works as a result of constant monitoring of the car’s speed, throttle position and steering inputs, to compute where fractional extra inputs or reductions of torque to either front wheel are needed. Mazda engineers have spent years developing the system, which was introduced first on the more upmarket Mazda 6, and has now been also been used to equip its smaller brother.
Does it work? Well the proof of the system is in the way the Mazda 3 now drives, with a handling poise that for a keen driver makes it one of the most rewarding cars of its size to drive.
There’s really very little to criticise in the way the car behaves, and much to like. It has good body composure, with minimal lean on the bends. It is grippy and surefooted on a fast country road. The gear change action is pleasant and the steering is nicely weighted and informative. Ride quality is generally pretty good, not unduly disturbed by surface undulations.
Mazda has a philosophy of trying to achieve Jinba Ittai, a Japanese term for horse and rider behaving as one. Driving the Mazda 3, you understand what they’re getting at.
Mazda 3 Stats Review
Model tested: Mazda 3 SE-L Nav 1.5 Skyactiv-D
Top speed: 115 mph
0-62 mph: 11.0 secs
Economy: 74.3 mpg
CO2: 99 g/km
Images: Sue Baker