Mazda3 diesel saloon proves prudent and lively

THE Mazda 3 has been a real hit here since its launch and now improvements to the very good and tax friendly 1.6 litre diesel turbo will further enhance its appeal. The Mazda range has really been going from strength to strength over the past few years. The new Mazda6 heralded a new and more dynamic approach from Mazda resulting in the Mazda 6 winning numerous accolades across Europe.

THE Mazda 3 has been a real hit here since its launch and now improvements to the very good and tax friendly 1.6 litre diesel turbo will further enhance its appeal. The Mazda range has really been going from strength to strength over the past few years. The new Mazda6 heralded a new and more dynamic approach from Mazda resulting in the Mazda 6 winning numerous accolades across Europe.

By Hugh Maguire

Mazda’s market share has grown over the years with a broad range of models to choose from.

This revised diesel engine comes to Mazda courtesy of Ford. Ford own 25% of Mazda and this turbo diesel can also be found under the bonnet of the Focus C-Max and Volvo S40. The Mazda3 comes in two bodystyles, saloon and 5-door hatch.

First impressions

Well the style is certainly a winner. The long wheelbase, short overhangs, and solid proportions give the car a dynamic profile. With stylish alloy wheels and metallic paint this Mazda3 stands out from the crowd.

Remember the Mazda3 competes in the extremely competitive C segment with the likes of the new VW Golf, Toyota Auris, Ford Focus, Renault Megane and Opel Astra, formidable competitors all in their own right so the 3 needs to be good. My test car was the saloon version and finished in a lovely metallic silver it looked particularly good indeed.

Behind The wheel

Slip inside and you will immediately notice the quality of trim and cabin fittings. The dashboard is a model of clarity and good design. The driver is confronted with a sporty looking instrument panel and a centre console that is both functional and elegant. Everything feels so solid and well put together, it feels more like a German car than a Japanese model.

All cars come pretty well equipped, with 6 airbags, ABS with EBD 15 inch wheels a CD player, remote locking with alarm, power windows and heated electric mirrors. This latest model also now has bluetooth and cruise control and voice activation as standard. The Comfort is the entry-level spec, move up to the Executive and they add some other nice goodies such as, leather steering wheel with multi-function audio controls and a different velour seat trim. You can of course order the Sport model as tested here which adds larger alloy wheels, front fog lights, and a very nice sports kit with front and rear spoilers.

Performance

The 4-cylinder 1.6 litre turbo charged diesel engine now produces even more power and boasts a very healthy 115PS. Mated to a very slick new 6-speed gearbox it really performs extremely well, giving this new diesel 3 the sort of performance you would expect from a much bigger capacity engine. The car has excellent mid-range acceleration and will pull quickly and smoothly from lower speeds in higher gears. On the motorway it further impresses by accelerating so well in 6th that you rarely need to down change to 5th to overtake.

On the economy side it is equally impressive burning on average only around 6.2 litres per 100km. Co2 emissions are just 147g/km.

Road Behaviour

The Mazda3 is more than a match with the class leaders when it comes to the handling. The car feels taut and well balanced even on poorer road surfaces. Road imperfections are soaked up with ease and the well weighted steering gives the driver plenty of feed back as to just what the front wheels are doing. In short I found this a fun car to drive, something lacking in many of its class competitors.

Overall levels of refinement are good but the car is let down by quite a lot of road noise particularly on coarse tarmac. It’s a pity as otherwise it is generally quiet with wind and engine noise both well suppressed though the diesel engine can sound a bit harsh when revved.

Verdict

Put simply the 2012 Mazda3 is more than a match for any of its current class rivals. It is an excellent and worthy competitor to the new Astra and new Focus, cars that do indeed offer stiff competition and probably a broader range than is available in the 3. The Mazda 3 provides space, versatility, style, performance, and legendary reliability. Now with this revised diesel buyers can have real performance without any sacrifice in terms of economy, furthermore being a 1.6 litre it does not fall into the higher road tax brackets. It is a most desirable car. The 1.6 diesel saloon is priced from €22,395 for the Comfort model rising to €23,895 for the Sport.