This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Mazda 3 Saloon review.

Parkers overall rating: 3 out of 5 3.0

There are only two petrol engines and one diesel in the Mazda3 saloon line-up. All are shared with the hatchback model and the entry-level engine is the 1.6-litre petrol with 105bhp and a 0-62mph time of 11.2 seconds. It's refined and fairly economical but feels a little lacklustre on open roads. The 147bhp 2.0-litre is far more sprightly but far from a 'hot' hatch with a 0-62mph time of 9.1 seconds.

It does however only come in Sport trim which adds a bodykit and larger alloys . The diesel is a popular choice and it's easy to see why. It's 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds is respectable but it has a more relaxed nature than either petrol while economy is 56mpg. All models come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard while a four-speed automatic is optional.

From 2006 the 2.0-litre has a six-speed gearbox.

The 3 is based on the same platform as the Ford Focus and as a result handles neatly with well weighted steering and good body control. On more demanding roads the Mazda can be surprisingly good fun, with decent grip and predictable handling - it's certainly safe and composed. Unfortunately the ride isn't as polished and although good on the motorway the 3 fidgets over bumps and potholes with noticeable vibration through the cabin.

There are two steering systems - the 1.6-litre petrol is hydraulically-assisted, while the 2.0-litre and diesel powered models get a more-sensitive electric/hydraulic set up. Cars built after the 2006 facelift benefit from a revised suspension set-up which provides more stability when making direction changes.