This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Mazda 3 Hatchback review.

Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

The Mazda3 hatchback performance stats make interesting reading. Three of the engines from the previous Mazda3 are carried over to this model, but there's also the choice of two quick diesel versions in the shape of a 2.2-litre also used in the Mazda6. The standard 150bhp version will accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds, while the higher powered 185bhp version will do the same in 8.2 seconds.

Both versions are incredibly quiet and refined, yet offer strong pace. The base 1.6-litre petrol is the same as in the original Mazda3 with 105bhp and is lively enough as an entry-level car with a 0-62mph time of 12.2 seconds. The 110bhp 1.6-litre diesel is quicker, taking just 11 seconds to cover the acceleration benchmark and both these engines come with five-speed manual gearboxes.

The only automatic transmission available at launch is a five-speed transmission offered with the 2.0-litre petrol engine. It will satisfy the needs of most people who need an automatic, but it's disappointing to see Mazda hasn't offered an auto on other models. The other 2.0-litre petrol is the Sport model with a revised engine that's fitted with a system called i-stop.

This automatically switches off the engine whenever the car is stationary (and in neutral) and then restarts it when the driver pushes the clutch the pedal. As a result economy is 42mpg while emissions are 159g/km of CO2. Yet it's still quick with a 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds and good to drive.

The previous Mazda3 was always able to engage driving enthusiasts thanks to its sharp responses and surefooted behaviour. While there may be a danger of losing some of these characteristics in making the 3 more refined, Mazda has managed to retain everything about the previous version of the car that made the driver feel fully involved in the driving experience.

The Mazda3 plays the dual roles of refined motorway cruiser and agile B-road champion.