Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4

Should you buy a Mazda 3 Hatchback?

Put aside some concerns about outright practicality and focus on the driving enjoyment on off and the 3 has what it takes to lead the class as we discovered when we pit it against four of its key rivals, beating-off the likes of the Ford Focus, Kia Ceed and Toyota Corolla.

The Skyactiv-X engine boosts its appeal on an even more sensible level, offering mildly sporty degrees of performance with fuel efficiency more akin to that diesel motorists are accustomed to. However, it doesn't feel as pokey as a Ford Focus with a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol. 

Choice is rather limited otherwise. The diesel's additional low-rev grunt makes it easier to live with performance-wise, but you'll need to seek out a used model. The Skyactiv-G's petrol motor's a joyously free-revving example of engineering, but while the manual gearbox is a delight to operate, doing so at motorway speeds can become tiresome. Nevertheless, if you're a keener driver, the manual's likely to sate your desire to have fun more than the automatic will.

In terms of specifications, all are generously equipped, but the models in the upper echelons of the range, such as Sport Lux, GT Sport and GT Sport Tech are nevertheless expected to be the better sellers. We consider GT Sport to be the pick of those three, adding creature comforts such as a heated steering wheel, electrically adjustable seats, a head-up display system and a belting 12-speaker Bose speaker system boosting the Mazda's notable appeal even further.

Options-wise you're deliberately restricted, with Mazda instead preferring to progress you into the next trim level upwards. Essentially, all you can opt for is metallic or mica paint, but given that six of the eight shades are varying shades of grey - topped and tailed with black and white - your only real alternatives are blue or red.

Interiors are all darker than a mine shaft during a black-out with no immediate sign that Mazda will offer the 3 with some of the lighter, bolder two-tone shades offered in other markets. Unless you go for dark red leather, which does add a bit more interest.

Need something a bit larger? How about the closely-related CX-30 SUV?