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Small saloons such as the four-door Mazda 3 Fastback - or hatchbacks with boots - are not typically strong sellers in the UK.
They have seen a slight resurgence of late though, with new models such the Audi A3 saloon and the Skoda Rapid (although it's technically a hatchback), the thinking being they can scoop up some customers from the diminishing upper medium segment.
Sleek styling makes Mazda's offering a bit more visually appealing than your average small, boxy four-door, while new tech for the 3 includes a suite of apps and a head-up display on certain models.
The 150hp diesel engine tested here is as strong as it has been in the recently updated upper medium Mazda 6 and CX-5 SUV. It has immense amounts of mid-range pull and makes the 3 feel genuinely quick.
At 104g/km, this is the cleanest powertrain in the line-up, which is impressive given the size of the engine. Petrol engines - a 2.0-litre with 120hp or 165hp and a 100hp 1.5-litre - are also available.
The diesel engine's size may count against it though: at 2.2-litres, it's a big unit given the car's proportions, and even though it's clean and frugal, the size may stop it from appearing on some fleet choice lists. Equally, it isn't hard to find a sub-100g/km lower medium diesel these days.
Mazda's trademark sharp handling and responsive steering are as present as ever though, and the 3 is one of the better and more enjoyable cars in its class to drive.
Road noise is an issue, particularly on Sport models with bigger wheels and lower-profile tyres, but cabin quality has come on a long way from Mazdas of old, and it's essentially a compact version of the equally smart upper medium 6.
With the rear seats upright, the Fastback has a lot more boot space than the hatchback - 419 vs. 364 litres - and there's a surprising amount of head and legroom for rear seat passengers.
Mazda 3 Fastback
Model price range
Service, Maintenance and Repair
Vehicle Excise Duty
Cost per mile
BIK 20/40% per month
Smart and spacious all-rounder that's also good to drive