Motoring Writer IAN LAMMING drives the future – and it’s not electric

THE last time I drove an electric car it seemed to me that the world just isn’t ready for them yet – and Mazda agrees.

Three cars a second come off various manufacturers’ collective production lines – that’s 95 million a year, expected to rise to 150 million – and the most common powerplant is the internal combustion engine.

That’s not to say that manufacturers aren’t trying their very best to clean up their acts and Mazda is now at the forefront of these efforts with its latest Skyactiv-X engine technology.

Now I won’t get too technical for fear of you glazing over but here’s the important bit – it produces just 95g of CO2, that’s the stuff that is contributing the most to global warming. Why is that significant? Well, if I’ve got this right, it means that Mazda won’t be ‘fined’ Euros95 per gramme over new tough limits coming into force next year, punitive measures which will costs other makers billions.

It stands out of the crowd for that and also the fact Mazda has opted for a non-turbo 2.0 petrol, with mild hybrid, where everyone else seems to be dropping down to 1.0 three cylinders, with a blower, to meet emissions regs.

In the pretty little Mazda3 it is a willing enough motor offering 180PS of poke, more than enough to give the hatchback decent performance – 8.2 secs to 62mph with a combined fuel figure of 52mpg.

Also daring to be different, Mazda offers the 3 with all-wheel-drive. What? Why? Why not? If my experience of roads is anything to go by then 4×4 isn’t just for off roading. The weather has gone haywire and can hurl anything at us in the form of torrential rain, ice and snow, sometimes on the same day. So having variable power to the wheels with the most grip is never going to be a bad thing.

In the dry, tested on an empty roundabout, grip is phenomenal and you can feel the car hunting and swapping the power around all four corners of the car.

Mazda is enjoying a greater share of the market at the moment where others might be struggling. Technology is one area buyers are turning on to. The other is undoubtedly quality. There are so many cars out there currently where cheap plastics seem to rule the roost.

Like the rest of the Mazda range, 3 wreaks quality. High quality leather and tactile trim makes the interior a very pleasant place to be and much more premium in feel than you would expect in this sector.

That’s because Mazda employs the Japanese master craftsmanship culture of Kodo, a philosophy that insists on the highest quality right down to the tiniest screw.

Inside, the cabin is surprisingly minimalist with every aspect of the cockpit laid out in perfect horizontal symmetry. The 3 features a seven-inch colour TFT driver instrument display, while the latest version of Mazda’s MZD-Connect infotainment system features a larger 8.8-inch central display, improved navigation and a revised multimedia commander control dial.

Mazda3 also features high-end technology, such as a windscreen projecting colour head-up display with Traffic Sign Recognition, Mazda Radar Cruise Control and LED headlights across the range. Every model in the line-up also features navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and an advanced eight speaker audio system, all helping you forget you are actually in an affordable hatchback. The SE-L Lux also comes with a reversing camera, smart keyless entry, heated front seats and a Bose audio.

This leads seamlessly into what Mazda calls ‘Jinba Ittai’, a sense of oneness between car and driver. Comfortable and controlled ride and low levels of noise from the wind, road and motor add further to the experience.

New Mazda3’s looks are stunning with a low nose, slender LED headlights and bold grille. It’s only a modestly sized vehicle yet the bonnet seems to stretch from here to eternity and back again and with sultry eyes the Mazda can’t fail to charm with its alluring guile.

The rump is curvaceous and appealing too and if it had come with bigger alloys the overall aesthetic would have been pretty much perfect. It has the look of the new CX-5 but is even prettier.

New Mazda3 is the first of the Japanese firm’s next-generation vehicles and reflects the very latest in engineering, design and manufacturing. New Mazda2 is due any time now and in December there’s be the niche-filling CX-30 SUV, which looks very smart too.

Mazda is moving forward with confidence in a dithering world of fence-sitting uncertainty. It has nailed its colours to a mast which continues to be powered by petrol while the rest of the world flirts with EVs but only for the sake of political correctness. Mazda is even prepared for the cataclysmic fall of the pound in a post-Brexit era. Now that’s what I call future-proofing.

Fact File
Mazda3 2.0 Skyactiv-X
Engine: 2.0 petrol
Power: 180PS
Top speed: 122mph
0-62mph: 8.2 secs
Combined MPG: 52.3
Transmission: Six-speed manual
CO2 g/km: 95
Price: from £23,555.00