This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Mazda 3 Saloon review.

Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

MPS aside, the original Mazda3 lacked true high-performance versions that would have been in-keeping with the company’s ‘zoom-zoom’ slogan. Three of the engines from the previous Mazda3 are carried over, but there is also the choice of two quick diesel versions. The new diesels are 150bhp or 185bhp versions of the 2.2-litre diesel launched in the Mazda6 in 2009.

The standard 2.2-litre will accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds, while the high-power version will do the same in 8.2 seconds. Real pulling power is available from low down and it’s a superbly refined and quiet engine, even when revved hard. Both versions of the 2.2-litre diesel are fitted with six-speed manual gearboxes. 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 same benchmark. Both these engines come with five-speed manual gearboxes. While these acceleration times match those of the Mazda3 hatchback, the more slippery shape of the saloon makes it capable of slightly higher maximum speeds. The 2.0-litre Sport model has 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 Mazda3 saloon has always be 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 this version of the car more refined than before, 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.