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Perhaps the most obvious aspect that's been refreshed is the looks, and very much for the better. The recent new models in the Mazda range have seen the external appearances of the cars change from somewhat drab to striking. Thankfully, the 3 follows in this trend and the crisp lines and sharp angles on the bonnet and boot bring it in line with its attractive bigger sibling, the 6. The rear is its best angle, with the bonnet's 'smiley face' the only area that might not appeal to everyone.
Mazda seems to be aware that many drivers are downsizing to cars in this class, for the interior quality is to a very high standard. Everything feels solid and well put together. The designers have spoken of putting the focus in the cabin very firmly on the driver, so all the instruments are laid out within easy reach and sight from behind the wheel. While this is helpful for lone drivers, it does make it tricky for the front Seat passenger to alter things such as temperature and stereo volume.
Standard heated front seats and dual zone climate control will mean driver and passenger are both well catered for though. Passengers in the back won't feel hard done by, either, with rear leg and headroom adequate although not class-leading.
Pricing is yet to be announced so we haven't got a full costs figure, but Mazdas have traditionally performed well for residual values against more mainstream volume rivals. Although it's in the same 19% BIK band, the Honda Civic's lower 140g/km CO2 figure and more premium badge make it 'our pick', but we'd expect the new 3 to run it close on a cost per mile basis.
Although the 3 will never be the subject of driving enthusiasts' lust in its standard form, the latest version of Mazda's best-selling model will mean that fleet decision makers will start looking at it with a lot more interest.
Mazda 3 2.2d Sport 5dr manual
Model price range
CO2 (tax band)
BIK 20/40% per month
group 8 (est.)
Boot space (min/max)
On sale date
11 May 2009
Mazda’s most important car can now step up and lead the way in fleet too