Forgetting my road tester’s hat, I loved to put my foot down on the open roads, pretending I was the female equivalent of a boy racer – even going ‘zoom-zoom’ to myself round a couple of corners.
These Walter Mitty-like urges were fuelled by the sporty looks both inside and out: cowled dials, dark interior with Knight Rider effect volume control on the radio and outside, crouching stance with the distinctive gleaming chromed Mazda grille.
However, I now have a toddler to consider, with all the resultant baggage that goes with parenthood. And here is where the Mazda3 dream turns sour.
I found that because there was no airbag de-activation switch for the front passenger seat, my two-year-old had to sit in the back, which then meant that with a child seat in place the passenger front seat had to be moved so far forward to give her sufficient leg room that it was impossible to have a passenger in the front.
The pushchair only just fitted in the boot too. Although these may seem small niggles they are important factors in real world living and affect how I would rate the Mazda3 for practicality.
For example, because the pushchair was wedged firmly into the open end of the boot, loading shopping became a bit of trial, either packing in the shopping first and ramming it all back to insert the pushchair or humping heavy bags up and over to stash behind it.
Although the seats are really comfortable with decent rear legroom it’s a shame that you cannot carry a fully contingent of passengers if you have a young child. On a couple of occasions this meant that my family had to travel in two cars.
Price (OTR): £14,800
CO2 emissions (g/km): 138
Company car tax bill (2004/5) 22% tax-payer: £48 per month
Insurance group: 5
Combined mpg: 56.5
Test mpg: 49.5
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,050/34%
HSBC contract hire rate: £309 per month
Final expenditure: Nil Figures based on three years/60,000 miles