It is a car that can be relied upon to do everything asked of it with a good degree of comfort, as well as being quite agile and fun when taking the long way home.
Our silver test car probably isn't the most flattering colour for the Mazda3, and to most eyes the saloon version is more handsome than the sawn-off hatchback.
However, elements of the styling package help give it a more dynamic appearance than most lower medium cars, and a few people have commented about some aspects resembling the Alfa Romeo 147.
The Alfa influence extends to the interior with its cowled instruments, which can only be viewed by the driver.
Despite its 1.6-litre engine producing 103bhp, the Mazda becomes lively above about 3,000rpm and seems to enjoy the cut and thrust of backroad work.
Direct steering, ample grip, composed handling and effective brakes all contribute to the driving pleasure when away from main roads, but the engine does have a strange buzzing quality at higher revs and seems a bit fraught at a steady 70mph. Previous testers might have commented that the engine lacks guts, but this is most likely because they have become accustomed to the low-down torque associated with diesel engines and have forgotten how it feels to drive a modest capacity petrol engine.
It's fine really and just a matter of knowing how to get the best out of it. Fuel consumption is still short of the official combined figure, but is beginning to distance itself from the low readings it was achieving early on.
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer): £49 per month