Ian Lamming raises the curtain on the latest Mazda3.
THE music dies, the house lights come on and the performance is over for another year.
This year there was little chance of the boy forgetting his words – he didn’t have any. Instead, as Tiddles, the villainess’ pet tiger, he has simply to open his mouth and when the sound effect is actually working, out comes a roar.
As the 10-year-old climbs inside the test car, spent and weary, still stained with feline face paint, but at least cosy in his striped onesie, it occurs to me what this latest Mazda3 actually is.
The mid-size hatchback will never been a leading man or lady, it will never receive best actor or best movie accolade. But it is in with a shout when it comes to its supportive nature.
Mid-sized, a hatchback rather than an on-trend SUV, and in plain silver, Mazda3 could almost lurk among the ranks of the backstage crew, hidden among myriad production names that few people read on the final credits of any blockbuster.
But without such folk and in this instance cars, the world would be a poorer place. Heading home at a velocity only the law will allow Mazda3 cares for all those on board.
Tiddles slumps into a post-performance stupor, mum reaches for her iPad, while I plough on with only a Bose stereo for company – and that’s fine.
Before we know it, and before Tiddles has time to dribble and drool down his synthetic skin, we are home, heading for the shower and bed.
The fact that the journey has been so unremarkable, so safe, so enjoyable, is worthy of praise and down to this unassuming Mazda. The 1.5 litre motor purrs in the background while lapping at its diesel oil only marginally.
Like everything else about the Mazda, the 3 feels like a quality product. It performs, handles and covers ground like the cat’s whiskers and the squeak-free interior exudes class. Its ergonomics are perfect, its specification high and the steering wheel and trim is tactile and well made.
Not all cars are meant to shine. Some crawl under the radar, unsung heroes of a fickle world. Hatchbacks may have peaked in the popularity stakes and the new celebrities on the bloc are definitely SUVs. But when vehicles are as capable as this particular family car it can’t be long before they sneak back into the spotlight.
Mazda3 Sport Nav
Engine: 1.5 diesel
Top speed: 113mph
Combined MPG: 74.3
Transmission: Six-speed manual
CO2 g/km: 99