2013 2014 Mazda 3 review (c) Mazda

Driven: all-new Mazda 3 hatchback

Meet the third-generation Mazda 3. Based on an all-new platform, this is the third model using Mazda’s Skyactiv philosophy, which offers a combined package of design, build and powertrain measures to deliver improved efficiency with a fun driving experience.

Basics first: the Mazda 3 is a family car, available as either a five-door hatchback, or a four-door fastback saloon for even more practicality, offering an impressive 420 litres of boot space.

It’s offered in five trim levels – SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav – and comes with a choice of three petrol and one diesel engines. All of these engines are Skyactiv units, so although the petrols may not use turbochargers like some rivals and the 2.2-litre diesel might seem rather large compared to the competition, they all deliver excellent efficiency AND strong performance.

For example, even the most powerful six-speed automatic version of the 165hp 2.0-litre petrol emits no more than 135g/km CO2, while the diesel has returned as much as 74.2mpg in official EU testing. Not bad considering it also delivers 150hp and 0-62mph in a swift 8.0 seconds flat.

Driven: Mazda 3 (c) Mazda

The Mazda 3 makes the most of Mazda’s sporting heritage, too, with a delightful six-speed manual gearbox reminiscent of the Mazda MX5, sharp steering and a good sense of being planted on the road.

Unlike many cars, it gets better the faster you drive, dealing with bumps quickly and cornering with very little body roll. The brakes are excellent, too.

This doesn’t mean it only caters to enthusiastic drivers, however. This new model sees a significant step-up in terms of interior quality – and we’re not just talking about the materials or how it has been screwed together.

Everything about the way the Mazda 3 functions inside has clearly been extremely well thought through.

All of the controls are easy to use, and a great deal of attention has been paid to the ergonomics, with symmetrically positioned pedals and even a head-up display on top spec models that gives you access to important information without requiring you take your eyes off the road.

New Mazda 3 interior (c) Mazda

Another key addition is the seven-inch touchscreen as part of Mazda’s amazing new MZD Connect in-car infotainment and connectivity package, fitted as standard on all versions and mounted on top of the dashboard.

This has satellite navigation on the ‘Nav’ trim lines, as well as extensive smartphone integration, including the ability to access Facebook, Twitter and Internet radio.

As well as being a touchscreen, there’s also a simple rotary controller and a voice command option – so Mazda has all preferences covered. Bluetooth and USB connectivity is also standard.

The new Mazda 3 is even more practical and roomy than before, too, as the Japanese firm has extended the car’s wheelbase and widened the track to increase passenger space.

The Mazda 3 now offers best in class shoulder room and generous rear legroom. The front seats are a special anti-vibration design, both comfortable and supportive.

Mazda 3 review (c) Mazda

Final string to the Mazda 3’s bow is an impressive array of safety technology, grouped under the heading ‘i-Activsense’. The six standard airbags and stability control are boosted by more advanced features, including autonomous braking to help avoid or reduce low-speed accidents (Smart City Brake Support).

Overall it’s an appealing package. Add in the striking ‘Kodo – Soul of Motion’ visual design, and the Mazda 3 has certainly got what it takes to stand out in the family car crowd.

We want to know what you think though. Do you like the sharp new design, amazing, advanced in-car technology and superbly efficient AND powerful engines? Why not let us know on twitter or Facebook.