The Mazda 3 has always been something of an outside choice in the hatchback market, with the Skoda Octavia, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf somewhat stealing the limelight
However, with interesting styling and a high-quality interior, the 3 would make a decent alternative to the more established names.
With the model recently undergoing a mid-life refresh – an all-new version isn’t expected until 2018 – we decided to take a look at the different trim levels to see which are best for different needs and budgets.
The smart choice for those on a budget: Mazda 3 SE
You could be forgiven for thinking that the entry-level model would be rather spartan inside, but it comes with a generous amount of kit as standard.
There are electric windows all around, air conditioning and an engine start/stop button. There’s also a seven-inch touch screen display with Bluetooth, CD, MP3 and USB connectivity as well as AM/FM and DAB radio.
The exterior gets heated, power-folding wing mirrors, dual chrome exhausts, a rear roof spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels.
We’d recommend the 118bhp, 2.0-litre petrol engine. The 104bhp diesel might offer amazing economy on paper, but it’s a little underpowered and less enjoyable to drive – not to mention the fact that it comes at a £2,000 premium.
The petrol is no gas guzzler, though. It offers 55mpg on the combined cycle, and with CO2 emissions of 119g/km it’ll cost just £30 per year in road tax.
The Mazda 3 SE starts at £17,595.
The smart choice for value for money: Mazda 3 SE-L Nav
If you’re looking for long-term value for money, look no further than the SE-L Nav – and this time we do recommend a diesel.
In this trim, you have the option of the 148bhp unit, which is much better suited to a car this size and makes good economy figures much more achievable.
Again, it comes at a slight premium of about £1,500, so if you don’t do many miles the savings on fuel might make the petrol the better choice over the length of your ownership. Still, with an official combined economy figure of 69mpg compared with the petrol’s 55mpg, you’ll probably make your money back fairly quickly.
Inside there are improvements over the SE thanks to dual-zone air conditioning and cruise control. The exterior now gets privacy glass and LED front fog lights, while driver aids include rain-sensing wipers and rear parking sensors.
As the trim name suggests, this model gets satellite navigation as standard, and includes three years of free European map updates.
The Mazda 3 SE-L Nav starts at £22,045.
The smart choice for technophiles: Mazda 3 Sport Nav 2.0 165ps
Thanks to fairly generous kit at all levels, technical geeks should be well catered for no matter what the trim is, but the true technophiles out there should go for the Sport Nav 2.0 165PS.
The premium feel comes from 18-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and LED headlights. Further safety equipment includes front parking sensors and dusk-sensing headlights.
The infotainment system increases to seven inches here and sound comes from a Bose system.
Despite only being marginally pricier than the ‘value for money’ trim above, long-term running costs will be considerably more thanks to the fact this has a slightly more performance-orientated petrol engine, making 163bhp.
The Mazda 3 Sport Nav 2.0 165ps starts at £22,370.