Mazda describes the 3 as an all-new car, which it isn’t. The inner structure, roof and rear quarters are carried over broadly unchanged, but the other skin panels have taken on an air of swoopy sculpture designed to make the car fit with more recent Mazdas.

The makeover was masterminded by Peter Birtwhistle at Mazda’s German styling studio and features a much larger front grille, whose myriad and complex louvres hint at Mazda concept cars from the latter stages of the past decade.

Vicky Parrott

Deputy reviews editor
There’s no glossy lacquer around the tailgate aperture - a sign of cost-cutting. But you won’t find it on a BMW, either.

The front wings now follow the shape of the wheels and, aft of them, a wedgier waistline starts from lower down. A new ridge begins above the front of the sill and curves upwards in a hockey stick shape, helping to disguise the deep rear flanks, and the rear lights look more pointed. Like the headlights, they are somewhat over-designed. The contour of the front wings follows the wheels to evoke old-fashioned mudguards, a design feature first seen on the Mazda RX-7.At the rear, the bumper protrudes well beyond the tailgate, making the Mazda 3 unusually long for its class. This rear spoiler helps towards an impressive Cd of 0.30.

The previous Mazda 3 had a gently rising waistline, but this one sports a very wedgy look. Nearly every skin panel has changed and there are some almost BMW-like concave/convex surface junctions.

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Recent revisions to the car's exterior include a softer-looking front grille for added ‘sophistication’ and, at the rear, moving the bumper's light reflectors to its corners to accentuate the car’s proportions.

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