Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Driver-centric interior is plush
  • Uncomplicated high-resolution screens
  • Generous door bins and storage

The first thing to notice is how minimalist it is inside the Mazda 3. The dashboard isn’t overloaded with design streaks, gadgets and gizmos. All of the surfaces are clean and all of the buttons are easy to reach and simple to use, whether it’s the climate control or rotary dial for the infotainment screen.

On top-spec cars, the steering wheel’s buttons can feel a little busy, though, forcing you to take a little longer than usual to get used to where everything is, but once you're familiar, it's all very intuitive.

Mazda’s gone as far as eradicating the touchscreen, situating its screen up on the dash out of reach of hand, but better positioned to actually see without taking your eyes too far from the road. All that is controlled by a simple rotary dial and supplementary buttons so there’s no frustrating sub-menu hunting when you want to do something as simple as change the temperature. The screen itself is hi-res, too.

The instruments are clear and neat, while there’s a standard head-up display and steering wheel-mounted controls for the cruise control, voice control and stereo system. A Bose surround sound system one is found on upper trim levels.

Getting a comfortable driving position will prove easy for the vast majority of drivers, with a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustments. You feel hemmed-in, too, reinforcing the sporty nature of the 3 by virtue of its snugness.

Comfort

  • Fantastic driving position
  • Ergonomic seats a pleasure
  • Ride firm but not uncomfortable

Road and wind noise are all but eradicated even at motorway speeds, as the 3 is a quiet, comfortable place to be regardless of your engine choice. Talking of the engines, you'll only really be aware of them being vocal as the revs climb significantly - even the now-defunct diesel impresses with its quietness.

Mazda says its seats have been designed to emulate the perfect spine angle, with the hope that drivers willing to spend many hours on long journeys won’t become uncomfortable. Based on our experiences of a 250-mile continuous run, you're unlikely to reach your destination feeling fatigued or pained. Side bolstering is ample and if you choose the highest trim, cloth is replaced for high-quality leather.

Improvements have been made over other recent Mazdas with particular regard to the infotainment system. The controller feels much more intuitive and the slender screen mounted on top of the dash looks slick, but its narrow aspect ratio makes viewing sat-nav mapping tricky at more complex junctions.

Indeed, the cabin as a whole is rather well appointed. We’d even go as far to argue that the fit and finish of the 3’s interior betters that of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Volkswagen Golf. Big praise indeed. Let's just hope that some of the more interesting colour combinations make it to the UK to lift the cabin's dourness.

We've tested models on 18-inch wheels and, while that usually results in a bumpy ride quality accompanied with high levels of road noise, the 3 manages to retain a high level of comfort. The suspension is still on the firmer side of the scale, but remains absorbant enough to balance it's impressive body control in the corners with everyday comfort, while there's enough noise suppression to maintain a serene cabin environment.