When you have sold more than five million examples of a family hatchback, it would not make a lot of sense to start making radical changes.

And Mazda, being a hugely sensible company, has played it safe with the latest version of the good looking, sharp handling, upmarket Mazda3.

So the exterior changes are subtle – a revised grille, new door mirrors with wraparound turn indicators and a redesigned rear bumper – and there is some added technology, but the real differences hit you once you sit inside.

For it is in the cabin where the effort has been made to update the five-seater hatchback. So in come higher-quality switch panels and handle bezels on the doors, and a newly-designed trim insert on the dashboard. The fitting of an electronic parking brake creates space for a twin cup holder with a sliding cover, and the sleeker, leather-trimmed steering wheel can be heated.

All very luxurious and extremely comfortable, but the test car had a few more surprises up its sizeable sleeve.

On a practical note, the boot is large enough to carry a full-size wheelchair lying down, with no need to adjust the split-fold rear seats.

Mazda has also tweaked the engine, which was first introduced on the Mazda3 last year, to cut turbo lag and boosting pulling power, to deliver a distinctly petrol-like engine feel.

It also delivers some unexpected statistics. It is 1.5 litres, uses diesel and produces 105 horsepower, yet it emits just 99 g/km of carbon dioxide and comfortably delivers 65mpg in day-to-day driving.

Mazda also says it has improved overall refinement across the range with added noise suppression material in the roof, doors, dashboard and transmission tunnel area and made tweaks to the suspension to deliver improved ride comfort and cut vibration.

With a choice of four specification levels, the 2017 Mazda3 is priced from about £18,000 to more than £24,000 on-the-road, and in Sport Nav trim that means everything from LED headlights, daytime running lights and rear lights, to reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors and a Bose audio system.

In front of the driver, the head-up display is now in colour, and for the first time incorporates traffic sign recognition.  

Standard on all models are alloy wheels, air conditioning, driver and passenger seat height adjustment, tyre pressure monitoring, power windows front and rear, seven-inch colour touch-screen, DAB radio, USB/iPod connectivity and Bluetooth hands-free system.

Standard from SE-L Nav trim onwards, Mazda’s updated smart city brake support system automatically stops or reduces the speed of the car when there is a risk of collision with the vehicle in front. If there is the danger of a collision, the system alerts the driver using a warning sound and graphic indication, and if it detects a collision is imminent and unavoidable, the system automatically applies the brakes.

Smart, safe, comfortable and economical. Mazda’s comprehensive package still packs appeal.


Auto facts

Model: Mazda3 1.5 Sport Nav Diesel

Price: £22,345

Insurance group: 17E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 74.3mpg

Top speed: 115mph

Length: 447cm/176in

Width: 179.5cm/70.7in

Luggage capacity: 12.8 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11.2 gallons/51 litres

CO2 emissions: 99g/km

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles