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Mazda Mazda3 2.2 MZR-CD

Driven January 2009

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See more pictures of the Mazda3 Funny how some cars slip unnoticed into our congested roadscape, unloved and unnoticed. Cars like the Mazda3. You just don't see many around, despite it being the company's biggest-selling car, accounting for one in three of all Mazdas sold around the world. This new version should sell in similar numbers, and hopefully it'll make itself known this time. It looks great, like a squashed Mazda6 or big Mazda2, with a little bit of RX-8 mixed in for fun. It's not an all-new car, technically, but there's a new interior to go with the updated looks, and the chassis (based on the Focus platform) has been tuned to make it drive even better than the last car. It has more bracing and stronger welds to stop it flexing through corners, which sounds a bit lo-tech but actually makes a huge difference. Through corners, it feels poised and precise, and although it doesn't quite match the Focus for handling, it still manages to feel like good fun. The new 2.2-litre high-power diesel (182bhp, 294lb ft) helps it feel quick, while offering up a quiet and refined ride on the motorway. It's a success, then. Prices haven't been announced yet, but if they're competitive when the car comes to the UK in May, expect it to become a much bigger presence on our roads. Dan Read

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