I developed an immediate liking for Mazda cars when my first ever road test car many moons ago was a rotary engined model shortly after they had entered the UK market and it left a lasting impression that I can still clearly remember.
Sadly the Japanese company eventually stopped producing rotary powered cars but they continued to manufacture quality and exciting cars with real style and flair producing some very interesting niche models and they once had close links with Ford which ended some time ago.
But they have continued to produce extremely stylish cars and I have just been testing the 2017 Mazda3 which is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying cars in every way that I have driven for a long time.
For this five door hatchback which competes against the likes of the Astra and Golf had everything that made it such a star - stylish body, powerful engine, precise steering, excellent handling which combined to make it such a joy to drive.
The 2017 model benefits from styling enhancements, new technology including G-Vectoring control and a revised cabin which combine to produce significant improvements for the new model year.
My test car was the Mazda3 2.0 120ps Sport Nav Auto costing £21,845 which was powered by a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine with six speed automatic gearbox that had a top speed of 121mph a zero to 62mph of 10.4 seconds a combined fuel consumption of 50.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 129g/km.
Standard equipment on this model included very smart 18 inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with automatic levelling, reversing camera, colour head up display showing the speed of the vehicle and speed limits, heated steering wheel and satellite navigation.
There was a comfortable roomy and luxurious interior with a very user friendly fascia including switchgear and instruments with a very easy to use and see information screen.
The rear hatchback lifts to reveal a roomy load area although Mazda do not provide a spare wheel but include a puncture repair kit that I dislike intensely for it was while driving a Mazda abroad many years ago that I had a puncture and the repair kit was utterly useless and I had to wait until a spare wheel arrived.
But that is a minor issue for if I was buying a Mazda3 and I am sure many owners will do the same I would buy a spare wheel because it is well worth the extra outlay for peace of mind especially when travelling abroad.
There were two features that I found rather irritating - rear visibility was impeded by the central rear head restraint and the stop start button was hidden behind a thick steering wheel stalk.
Otherwise as I mentioned earlier this was a most enjoyable and fun car to drive and despite this market sector having some formidable competitors the latest Mazda3 is a model that is in the best traditions of this innovative manufacturer and potential owners will certainly not be disappointed if they go ahead and buy one.
Model: Revised Mazda3 2.0 120ps Sport Nav Auto.
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol.
Output: 120ps @ 6000rpm.
Transmission: Six speed automatic.
Top speed: 121mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 10.4 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 50.4mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 129 g/km.