The Mazda 3 is one of those cars that seems to slip beneath the radar, quietly finding itself enough customers to keep Mazda hitting sales records globally but without shouting about its presence. Mazda’s making big increases in China, while gently simmering in America and Europe.
I guess the ‘Mazda Premium’ idea is part of a move to keep old markets paying attention to a car like the 3. It’s hard to be a mid-market car manufacturer in Europe selling normal hatchbacks, because everybody wants an SUV and/or a fancy German badge. Credit to Mazda that it’s selling more cars here than ever before then, even without trying to go a bit premium, but its CX SUVs are key to it.
The 3 has traditionally been pretty good to drive in its class. Like most Mazdas it feels light compared to its competitors, returns good economy and fares well in customer satisfaction surveys. To compete with the best in the class we sometimes find that noise levels could be quieter (difficult for makers of light cars) and the interiors could feel plusher (ditto).
But it would need to crack both of those things if it wanted to make a 3 feel like a true premium product. More likely, then, is that it keeps doing what it does; being pretty good to drive, competitive on fuel consumption, and quietly finding its niche of satisfied customers.