Mazda3: prove downsizing works?

Mazda 3 with stop/start joins Parker's fleet

Car downsizing is becoming a trend - a smaller car means smaller bills in terms of buying and running it. Trouble is if you have a family then a capacious car is essential to not only transport your tribe, but everything that goes with them. There are trips to the tips, family days out complete with bikes and vists to the flat-pack stores. When I tested the Mazda 6 it did all of this with ease not least because it had such a massive boot and good space for the rear passengers.

So the new Mazda 3 is here to see whether downsizing does work, can it do all the load lugging its bigger sibling was so good at?  

I've chosen the 2.0-litre Sport petrol version of the 3 because it comes with a good level of kit as standard, (it's the top trim level) this includes sat nav, heated front windscreen, six-CD changer, aux connection for MP3 players, Bluetooth connection, heated front seats and electrically adjusted wing mirrors. The only option on the car is the paint - Velocity Red added another £410 to the £18,280 price tag.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine also offers good performance so should be assured and does the sprint to 62mph in just over 10 seconds - a respectable time. But this needs to be balanced with economical motoring so this version is the first Mazda to be fitted with stop/start technology. The Sport manages 41mpg on average with CO2 emissions of 159g/km that puts it into VED band G, so current showroom tax charge is £155. This compares to the other 2.0-litre petrol in the range that comes with an auto gearbox that manages 37mp, emits 175g/km of CO2 and sits in VED Band H, so the first year showroom tax currently costs £250 - that's nearly a £100 more. So the Sport looks good for cutting costs but over the next few months I'll be finding out whether it can do all the jobs a bigger family hatchback can do.

Current mileage: 1098

Average mpg: 34.2