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Mazda rolls out winning double 

MAZDA rolled out a fleet of no less than 36 models – 21 hatchback and 15 fastback – when it launched the new 3 in the UK at the turn of the year.

And a recent back-to back drive in two of them was enough to convince me that Mazda has a new star double act.

I prefer the look of the fastback – that’s the saloon – with its sloping roof but the five-door hatch has lots of style as well.

The new models are powered by a choice of three of Mazda’s SKYACTIV-G petrol engines – 99bhp 1.5-litre, 118bhp and 163bhp 2-litre – and a 148bhp SKYACTIV-D 2-litre turbo diesel unit.

There is also automatic transmission available on 13 models but my preference would be for the slick six-speed manual box I sampled on both cars.

The first third-generation 3 I tested was a top-of-the-range 2.2 Fastback 150PS Sport Nav Diesel.

It costs £22,145 but extras took it to £24,375 with the lovely black leather interior and power adjustable driver’s seat costing £1,000.

All-round comfort for driver and passengers was good in both models although three adults in the back seats could be a bit cramped on long journeys.

The 148bhp engine in this model provided excellent overall power going up and down the gears.

It pottered around town nicely and instant acceleration was available when required for overtaking on some minor roads.

It wasn’t slow off the mark with a zero to 62mph time of eight seconds and with a top speed of 132mph sat quietly and ever so smoothly at maximum motorway spe-eds

Mazda has upped the interior quality and equip-ment level in the new 3 which offers a choice of five trims – SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav.

The entry level spec includes smart city brake support, secondary collision reduction, I-stop idle-stop system, alloy wheels, air conditioning, seven-inch colour touch screen, USB/iPod connectivity and Bluetooth hands-free system.

Move up to SE-L models and standard items also include privacy glass, rain-sensing front wipers, LED running lights, front fog lights, rear parking sensors, cruise control and speed limiter.

The test Fastback Sport Nav’s spec included 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors, a BOSE audio system with nine speakers, remote keyless entry, digital speedometer and a head-up windscreen speed display.

The new infontainment and sat-nav system is excellent and I found it a lot easier to use with its touch screen and control between the front seats than a lot of others I have sampled.

The second model was a 2.0 120ps SE-L Nav hatchback, priced at £19,625.

Again, handling and ride comfort couldn’t be faulted during my time with the car but the 118bhp petrol engine lacked a bit of the mid-range bite I had enjoyed in the diesel-powered model.

That said, it was smooth enough cruising on the motorway and was fairly smart picking up speed, going from standstill to 62mph in 8.9 seconds.

Hatchback buyers look for the extra load space versatility and on this model it expands from 364 litres to 1263 litres with the rear seats folded. The fastback’s 419 litres isn’t too bad for a saloon either.

The build quality on both cars couldn’t be faulted and these two models produce exceptional economy and CO2 figu-res.

The fastback’s combined figure is 72.4mpg with 104g/km emissions with the hatchback’s equivalent figures 55.4mpg and 119g/km.

With prices ranging from £16,695 to £23,345 there is lots of choice for new Mazda3 buyers – whatever style they decide to opt for.