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New model can build on Mazda3’s success 

CAR manufacturers are continually churning out revised models in an increasingly competitive market.

There are some eye-catching new arrivals and I reckon that was the case when Mazda introduced its third-generation 3 back in 2014.

The hatchback and fastback models oozed style.

This was achieved by what Mazda describe as Kodo – its soul of motion design.

And when you get something right there isn’t really any point in changing it.

That’s why exterior changes to the 2017 Mazda3 are minimal – tweaks to enhance the car’s appearance.

The latest model has a revised grille, new front fog light bezel, new door mirrors with wraparound turn indications while the hatchback test car features a redesigned rear bumper.

Step inside and you get a higher quality finish that includes a new trim insert on the dashboard and leather steering wheel.

An electronic brake allows space for a centre console that gives you easy access to functions such as music, satnav and internet via the seven-inch colour touchs-creen sitting centre of dash.

There’s a generous level of equipment across the four spec levels – SE, SE Nav, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav.

Items on all models include alloy wheels, air con, tyre pressure monitoring, power windows front and rear, seven-inch colour touchscreen, DAB radio, USB/iPod connectivity and Bluetooth, with hands-free function.

There are other improvements in the new models that you don’t see – but add to the driving enjoyment.

These include the debut of G-Vectoring Control – Mazda’s Skyactive-Vehicle Dynamics technology.

This varies engine torque to optimise load on the front wheels, providing more precise handling and improved comfort.

Noise suppression across the car has brought a quieter cabin, and suspension revisions also enhance handling and improved ride comfort.

There’s an engine choice of 105ps 1.5-litre or 150ps 2.2-litre Skyactive-D diesel units and a petrol line-up that includes 120ps and 165ps versions of the 2-litre Skyactiv-G.

On-the-road prices start at £17,795, rising to £24,395 for the flagship 2.2 150ps Sport Nav Auto hatchback.

The test model was a 2.0 120ps Sport Nav, costing £20,645 and there was a lot to like in this hatchback.

It came with keyless entry, a push-button start, and the18-inch alloys added to its sporting image.

There was lots of room up front and in the rear, as well as plenty of storage spaces.

The petrol engine proved to be a quiet performer moving up and down what was a slick six-speed manual gearbox.

Acceleration through the gear brought plenty of power with this model going from zero to 62mph in 8.9 seconds.

The Mazda3 is fun to drive with good handling and grip as the power came through the front wheels on some winding roads.

You do need to use the gears a lot when looking for that acceleration but the engine was never too noisy.

And with a top speed of 121mph, travelling on the motorway was smooth and quiet for me, my front and rear-seat passenger.

Other standard features on this model included reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, a Bose audio system, LED head-lights with auto levelling and cleaning, LED signature daytime running lights and LED signature rear lights.

You also get a digital speedometer and a colour head-on driving display that I really liked.

It was ideal to have this when travelling daily along a motorway with changing speed limits due to road works, aided also by the cruising speed display that was easily set with its steering-wheel control.

Fuel economy was sup-ported with the i’stop system and the combined official consumption figure is 55.4mpg.

I did a lot of driving in and around town during my time with the car and didn’t hold back when accelerating yet still got a return of 44mpg.

The heated front seats were also very welcome on some frosty mornings in Scotland.

This hatchback offers one of the largest boots in the sector – 364 litres, ex-panding to 1,263 litres with 60/40 split rear seats folded.

The fourth-generation Mazda3 has certainly got the looks, performance and comfort to continue its sales success which saw global production soaring to over five million at the end of April last year.