Unless you look closely, it’s hard to tell the 2017 Mazda3 from the 2016 model it replaces. Each body panel looks remarkably similar, unless you get nearer and notice a smattering of minor modifications.
One of these changes, for example, is the front fog lights. The badge on the front grille has also been moved down a few centimetres. It’s a similar story inside, with a new centre console and steering wheel two of the most noticeable changes.
Why is Mazda making a big deal of the new 3 then? That may be because some bigger changes have been made to the underpinnings of the car.
G-Vectoring Control (GVC) – a system that improves front traction by braking and transferring weight onto the front wheels – has been applied to the Golf rival, utilising technology first used Mazda’s new 6 saloon. The 3’s range of diesel engines have also been changed to make them more responsive.
Looks & Image
The average passer-by will be hard-pressed to notice the changes between this 3 and the outgoing model. However, that’s no bad thing, as the previous car was a good looking beast, especially as a four-door fastback.
It remains a very pretty car, neither too fussy nor too boring. There’s just enough chrome touches to lift the look of the car without it appearing too flash, either.
The interior has a similar amount of balance, although the improvements are more noticeable than on the exterior. The new steering wheel is a lot less cluttered, and the centre console exudes a lot more quality than the one found on the previous car.
Space & Practicality
As the Mazda3’s basic shape has been left relatively unchanged, there’s still spades of practicality available. As before, the new 3 is still able to offer 364 litres’ worth of storage space, while still being able to seat four adults in comfort.
Behind the Wheel
Mazda has re-worked the mechanicals of the new 3 far more than the visuals. However, whether you’d be able to notice these changes out on the road is questionable.
The previous-generation 3 was always able to offer a compelling drive, either around town or on country roads.
Some may be able to notice the more refined diesel engine fitted to the new car, especially in terms of sound, as it’s a lot less gravelly than before. Apart from that, it’s still the same, comfortable car it always was.
Drive with a bit more vim and vigour, however, and you’ll instantly notice the GVC’s influence. You don’t feel the nose of the car dive on the entry to a corner, but you can feel the tyres biting the tarmac more effectively than they would have done in the previous model. It gives the impression that you could enter a corner at almost any speed and the car could handle it.
The impression is furthered by the car’s steering, which is precise without being too over-assisted. The gearchange is also impressively smooth.
Value for Money
Prices for the 3 start at £17,595, which gets you the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol engine with 118bhp. Despite being the base model, there’s a good amount fitted as standard, including air conditioning and keyless start, as well as a seven-inch infotainment system and Bluetooth connectivity.
The best of the bunch engine-wise is the 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel. Only found in mid- and top- spec cars, it comes with a rather hefty £22,000 asking price. However, its 7.9-second 0-60mph time and 68.9mpg make it an impressive proposition.
Who would buy one ?
The Mazda3 always was, and remains, an underrated car. It’s every bit as good as rivals such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, but for some reason gets usurped by them at every turn. However, because of that, it is an exclusive car to own.
Though changed, this latest 3 is hardly a huge step forward, more of a subtle improvement. That said, the differences do make an already good package just that little bit better.
Facts at a Glance
Model: Mazda3 SE-L Nav 105PS Skyactiv-D
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel (148bhp, 270Nm)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Performance: 0-60mph in 10.8 seconds, 115mph top speed