The already-impressive Mazda3 has evolved into an even better family hatchback thanks to subtle yet significant tweaks to its powertrain.

Under the bonnet of the 2021 model, you’ll now find Mazda’s upgraded e-Skyactiv X engine – bringing improved performance and efficiency.

The new 2.0-litre four-cylinder mild hybrid unit has an extra 6ps, bringing it up to a punchy 186ps, while torque has increased by 16Nm to 240Nm.

Mazda has continued to resist the temptation of the turbocharger, instead ploughing its own path by updating its unique SPCCI (spark controlled compression ignition) petrol engine.

Bridgwater Mercury: The Mazda 3 in West Yorkshire surroundings

This improvement in performance, which goes hand in hand with lower emissions and fuel consumption, has been achieved through a combination of revised intake valve timing, the optimisation of combustion control, modified pistons and updating of the mild-hybrid system’s software.

Lab-test CO2 has been reduced by between 5g/km and 11g/km depending on spec.

While some drivers may favour the easy pick-up in power offered by a turbo, this high-capacity and well-balanced engine feels linear, responsive and engaging.

It really comes into its own when you get above 3,000rpm and is probably at its most potent when you spin the revs even higher.

Maximum torque is achieved around the 4,000rpm mark, while full potential horsepower comes at 6,000rpm.

Bridgwater Mercury: Left, the Mazda 3 pictured beside Victoria Park, Oaken-shaw, Bradford, and (above) in a rural Kirklees setting

It's a car you have to work hard and – to assist you in accessing the peak power band – there's a slick six-speed manual gearbox.

The handling is superb, with the steering being nicely-weighted and offering decent levels of feedback, while the set-up strikes a balance between comfort and poise.

There's virtually nothing by way of body lean or roll to look out for, and you're left with a feeling of confidence when negotiating twisty B-roads.

The Mazda3 was launched in 2019 and, in terms of looks, benefits from a sharp design.

No matter what angle you view it from, its smooth lines make for an attractive and handsome profile.

The 18-inch black alloys fitted to my test car were a nice finishing touch.

Whichever trim level you opt for, the Mazda3 comes well equipped, with a stylish and premium interior.

Bridgwater Mercury: The Mazda 3 in West Yorkshire surroundings

The 8.8-inch infotainment is easy to use and is controlled by a circular dial down to the driver's left. There's integrated Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus SatNav and DAB radio.

All controls are easily to hand, while the fit and finish is up to the high standard you come to associate with Mazda.

The head-up display puts all the key information right in front of you.

As you go up the trim trail, you'll get creature comforts such as heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, and a 12-speaker Bose stereo.

Meanwhile, for the current model year, a sunroof has been added to Sport Lux, GT Sport and GT Sport Tech e-Skyactiv X models.

There's no shortage of space up front, but things get a little more cramped in the back, partly due to the large C-pillar and sloping roofline that help to create that distinctive look.

Boot space of 334 litres feels sufficient, but isn't among the best in class.

When we tested the Mazda3 during its UK launch in Scotland two years ago, it was hard to find fault.

And the latest revisions build on the strengths of this appealing hatchback.

It may be a family-focussed car, but it has also been designed for those who care about what goes on behind the wheel.

With this GT Sport Tech version coming in at over £29,000, there may be an argument to say it's a little on the pricey side, but the long list of plus points make it well worthy of serious consideration.

Mazda3 2.0 GT Sport Tech

ENGINE: 2-litre 186ps, four-cylinder petrol

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive

PRICE: £29,055

MAX SPEED: 134mph

ACCELERATION: 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds