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Mazda's small changes make a big difference

THEY say it's the small things in life that matter -- and it's true. Not that the Mazda3 is small, far from it.

No, it's the dots on the 'I's and the crosses on the 'T's that make all the difference.

You see, we here at Top-Gear are big fans of the Japanese saloon and even ranked it up there with C Segment royalty -- the Ford Focus.

But there were a few minuscule things which separated the two cars making one great and the other truly great.

The devil is in the detail if you like and the the absence of Bluetooth, cruise control and a six-speed gearbox hampered the Mazda.

Now, I'm not suggesting for one second that this enormous corporation read the very positive but frank review of the old 3 then summoned the team of engineers, bollicked them and suggested they put it right.

No sir, but somebody was listening and all of the above are now standard on the refreshed 3 (bar on the Comfort model).


They've also been tweaking under the bonnet updating the 1.6 litre diesel giving it more power and torque.

Improvements to the turbo and injection system sees the poke increase from 109 to 115bhp while reducing emissions to 115g/km which means it resides in the lowest tax band of just €160 annually.

But efficiency and economy are the biggest winner as the new oil burner sips the juice -- returning an amazing 65mpg (4.3L/100km).

The addition of the 6th gear and cruise control makes motorway cruising effortless while also squeezing a little more on consumption.

The driving experience is greatly enhanced by these changes making the 3 one of the best in this cut-throat segment.

Thanks to a new electro hydraulic setup the steering is crisp, sharp and informed while the suspension and brakes have also been improved to give a more taut, confident ride.

Available as a 4-door saloon or 5-door hatchback, the 3 comes in three specs: Comfort, Executive and Sport.

Standard kit on the Comfort model includes 15" alloys, air con, front, side and curtain air bags, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction control and an MP3/AUX connection.

For €1,000 more the Executive gets snazzier alloys, cruise control, Bluetooth, leather steering wheel and gear knob, folding door mirrors and a 6-CD changer.

So, has it done enough to worry the Focus?

Unfortunately it's been pipped again as the new generation Blue Oval badge is simply heaving with affordable technology, is bigger, more comfortable, is a blistering drive and most importantly of all -- costs pretty much the same money.

Prices for the Mazda3 start at €19,795.