Our long-term Mazda 3 is a mobile nightclub

Published: 06 January 2021

► CAR lives with a Mazda 3 hatch
► Complete with Skyactiv-X tech
► Prettiest family hatch on sale?

If you're a regular reader, you'll know I like my music thumping and loud, and I can't go on about a long-term test car without talking about its sound system at least once. Mazda's Bose system, standard with GT Sport trim, is up there with the best.

Even before getting into how it sounds, you just have to admire the brushed-aluminium speaker inserts in the doors, enhancing an already good-looking interior. There's also an amp that fits under the boot floor where the space saver spare wheel goes, but Mazda has confirmed to me that you can still spec a spare even with the Bose system, as the unit bolts on top.

This system uses two of Bose's branded technologies: Audiopilot is a very basic level of active noise suppression when you're driving over particularly coarse roads, while Centrepoint completely changes the sound experience to something very like surround sound. My favoured bass-heavy house music comes alive with clarity when the tech is active, but I have to turn it off if I'm listening to podcasts.

I just need some Mercedes-spec ambient lighting, sticky carpets and a burly bloke in a black jacket checking IDs at the door, and it'll be just like old times back in the nightclubs of my student days.

Logbook: Mazda 3 GT Sport Skyactiv-X

Price £26,675 (£27,465 as tested)
Performance 1998cc four-cylinder, 178bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 134mph
Efficiency 48.7mpg (official), 36.4mpg (tested), 131g/km CO2
Energy cost 14.3p per mile
Miles this month 204
Total miles 3715

Month 2 living with a Mazda 3: mixed messages

Mazda 3 ltt dials

Uh oh! Vehicle System Malfunction! Not an error message you want to see come up on the dash during a long drive. Odd, though, as the 3 felt fine at the time, drove fine and sounded fine. Not helping matters was the lack of detail – the car didn't divulge specifically what was wrong, just asked that it meet with 'an expert repairer' pronto via the central infotainment screen. Alright then, keep your secrets.

Off to Donald's Mazda in Peterborough it went. I was expecting the worst but then had the call to tell me the error message had come up... in error. All the car needed was a software update under warranty – and the message was gone. Props for the speedy service from the team at Donald's; my 3 was taken in, investigated, fixed, cleaned and even sanitised in line with pandemic protocols in under three hours. Easy peasy.

Mazda 3 ltt rear light

And that brief blip hasn't detracted from the joy I get whenever I jump in the 3. I'm getting nods of approval from family and friends on the car's style and the interior quality is just a knockout. Clean layout, great driving position and simple, well weighted controls.

By Jake Groves

Mazda 3 Skyactiv-X GT Sport: logbook

Price £26,675 (£27,465 as tested)
Performance 1998cc four-cylinder, 178bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 134mph
Efficiency 48.7mpg (official), 42.1mpg (tested), 131g/km CO2
Energy cost 14.6p per mile
Miles this month 506
Total miles 3511

Month 1 living with a Mazda 3: hello and welcome

Mazda 3 ltt side

What a stunner, amirite? Park my new Mazda next to a Golf, Focus or... (shudder) a 1-series and the 3 is in another league, design-wise. I did the original launch for the 3 and, at the time, project manager Kota Beppu said it took design inspiration from the 2015 RX-Vision and 2017 Vision Coupe. The clean surfacing, simple details and smooth silhouette all point to concept-car inspiration. Indeed the 3 was crowned World Car Design of the Year 2020.

Climb in and the neat simplicity continues. I'd argue the 3's cockpit has better-quality materials than a Mercedes A-Class, and some cars in classes above it. There's a big, thin-rimmed steering wheel, clean instrumentation and a bright and glossy infotainment screen nestled on top of a smooth dashboard, operated only by a click-wheel – no touchy touchy here.

Our 3 is a GT Sport and fully loaded: head-up display, 12-speaker Bose stereo, heated seats and steering wheel, adaptive cruise and more semi-autonomous safety systems than I know what to do with. The only cost option is Mazda's classic Soul Red Crystal paint for an extra £790. The three-layer colour uses light-absorbing metallics and super-reflective aluminium flakes to bounce light off the 3's smooth surfacing. Frankly, it's one of the best colours out there, and accounts for 26.5 per cent of UK sales.

mazda 3 ltt interior

Under the bonnet is Mazda's Skyactiv-X technology, which uses both spark and compression ignition in the combustion process. Meanwhile a 24-volt mild-hybrid system provides a gentle torque boost at low revs and helps keep the start/stop system seamless. On paper, the X engine emits less CO2 and gives 20 per cent better fuel economy than the 120bhp Skyactiv-G engine. But in tests to date we haven't been entirely convinced. More time in which to cover some steady miles and get used to the engine's lack of torque, weird gearing and odd sound may change my mind.

Still, it's perhaps telling that Mazda has confirmed a turbocharged 2.5-litre Mazda 3 will go on sale in the US. Now, if we could just get that over here...

By Jake Groves

Mazda 3 Skyactiv-X GT Sport: logbook

Price £26,675 (£27,465 as tested)
Performance 1998cc four-cylinder, 178bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 134mph
Efficiency 48.7mpg (official), 37.3mpg (tested), 131g/km CO2
Energy cost 12.2p per mile
Miles this month 498
Total miles 3005

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches