Mazda3: distance driving

Mazda3 gets a good workout

In my quest to determine whether the Mazda3 can really be an effective company car, I took it on a raft of long motorway journeys hacking up and down the country's highways.

The first thing I noticed about the 3's cruising ability is how well geared it is. The 2.0-litre engine takes a bit of prodding to get up to speed, but once you're moving at motorway speeds it's easy to change speed to adapt to the conditions. Cruise control also helps on longer journeys, and it's simple to operate too.

Start/stop is a nice addition for a company car because it reduces emissions by 16g/km and improves economy (from 36.7mpg to 41.5mpg). However, there have been situations where I've managed to ‘fool' it and the car has remained off when I've wanted it to move. Not a catastrophe - you just need to push the clutch, take it out of gear and try again - but it is slightly worrying when it happens.

A small fuel tank means I'm only getting around 300 miles per each fill-up during normal driving, so you need to ask yourself whether you would have a problem with regular visits to the petrol station. The car costs around £50 to fill up, so although you're not actually losing money on the economy, you do have to stop more often.

The seat is comfortable and supportive, and the steering quite direct yet not too heavy. The cabin is quiet and the sat nav is very simple to operate using the steering wheel-mounted controls. It's quite an intuitive unit too: when entering a postcode it automatically discounts the letters and numbers that don't exist, leaving you with a choice of real places. The screen for the navigation unit is quite small, yet somehow Mazda has managed to make it work. It's not intrusive but still shows you everything you need to know about your journey.

Current mileage: 5,100

Average mpg: 34.3