Mazda3 isn't really a new car, more of a facelift



I'm sure they have cut down the noise, but there was a lot to cut down.It wouldn't take a genius to cut the noise of a helicopter landing outside your bedroom window by putting a pillow on your head, but it would still be pretty noisy. And so it is with the Mazda3.
The 1.6-litre engine generates an invasive and unpleasant racket partly, but not entirely, masked by the substantial road and wind noise.
Expect to see these driven by people who, from afar, look to have terrible constipation. But they will be pulling the face we all pull when subjected to a dismal and deafening din but can't take our hands off the wheel to stick our fingers in our ears.
It's not a peaceful and welcoming environment in which to meditate and think calm thoughts. So what does this new Mazda3 have to offer?
In fact, it isn't really a new car, more of a facelift. And at first glance, it looks pretty much the same as the old Mazda3: ie, not very exciting.
And once on the move, the road and wind noise soon become invasive and boring. That noisy 1.6-litre petrol engine is unchanged from the outgoing model.
It's gutless at the bottom of the rev range, but shows signs of springing to life as you push it harder. And just as you think it's about to put its back into it, it runs out of puff and goes all weedy again.
Unfortunately, the ride is suitably harsh to match the aural offensive and makes for uncomfortable progress across anything but the smoothest tarmac.
And there's little solace and comfort from the surroundings either. The plastic used for the dash and door panels feels cheap and flimsy. It will last a long time but that's an irritation because the best thing a substance as nasty as this could do is rot away within a week of leaving the factory.
Then there are the gizmos - millions of them. What Mazda appears to have done, maybe to take our minds off the nasty plastic and noise, is to make it available with every luxury and technical bauble known to car-kind.
Mine had dual-zone air-conditioning, heated seats, electric mirrors and windows and buttons on the steering wheel to control the stereo, your iPod, the telephone and the cruise control.
I wouldn't be surprised if one turned on my electric blanket. And I'd swap at least a third of the gadgets for nicer surfaces and a third less noise.
For this facelift of the Mazda3, it seems Mazda decided on the gizmos and features they wanted then tweaked the fit and finish to bring it all in on a budget.
I would rather they had started with a standard of quality and added only the extras they could manage for that budget.
Mazda has some top stuff at the moment. The 2 is excellent and the MX-5 is, for me, just about the best two-seater roadster on the market. With this though, they've dropped the ball.
There are far better mid-sized hatchbacks out there and I struggle to see why anyone would reject them all on the way to deciding it has to be the Mazda3.
The Rivals
Kia Ceed 1.6LS
Extended seven-year warranty, well-made, honest transport.
£13,745
Fiat Bravo 1.6 Mjet
Stylish Italian alternative. Closest rival to Mazda on price and power is a diesel. £15,750
Ford Focus 1.6 Style
Is it me or are Fords getting to be rather expensive these days? Top notch all the same.
£16,295
The Facts
Mazda3 five-door hatchback
Price: £15,500
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, 105bhp
0-62mph: 11.0sec
Fuel consumption:
39.2mpg

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