The Mazda3 faces some stiff competition in the compact saloon segment.
Our 2.0-litre four-cylinder Skyactiv-X Sport test car has impressed with its diesel-style compression ignition and a welcome amount of torque at low revs.
Emissions of 122g/km, which equate to 27% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, and an achievable claimed combined fuel economy of 52.3mpg have also added to its fleet appeal.
In fact, on paper, the Mazda3 saloon stacks up well against rivals, which include the Honda Civic and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class saloon
The Civic starts from 119g/km for 1.6 i-DTEC manual, putting it in a BIK bracket of 30%, thanks to the 4% diesel premium. Even with a slightly lower P11D price, it equates to some £121 more in 2020/21 compared with a similar spec Mazda3, for a 20% taxpayer.
It fares even better against the A-Class saloon, which has emissions of 119g/km, attracting a BIK rate of 30%. An A180d Sport saloon company car driver would pay £1,615, £370 more than the Mazda.
For the employer, the Mazda3 also stacks up well with a VED rate of £175 and Class 1A NICs of £860.
While the tax position of the Civic measures up well to the Mazda3, it appears both employee and employer will have to assess the badge appeal of the Mercedes against the additional cost they would incur.
However, it is worth considering the impact of Mazda’s 2.0-litre petrol engine on fuel reimbursement rates.
Using the Government advisory fuel rates (AFRs), it would currently equate to 14 pence per mile (ppm), compared with 9ppm for a 1.6 diesel.
If a driver covered 20,000 miles a year in the Mazda, that could equate to the employer having to pay an additional £1,000, or 50% more, reimbursing their mileage.
Sport trim is lacking luxuries
Mazda does not offer a raft of options on the Mazda3, instead preferring to determine what is available via trim level. This would not be too much of a problem if what most would consider as commonplace options nowadays were standard on its cheapest trim, but they are not.
The entry level SE-L trim offers drivers a rear parking sensor and radar cruise control, but do not expect reversing cameras or heated seats.
Keyless entry only comes on the Sport Lux and above. The lack of this feature on our car is exacerbated by the fob design, where the buttons are positioned along the edge. They include a button to open the boot, which can easily be triggered by accident, when putting your keys in your pocket. Recent examples have included returning to our test car in a car park to find the boot ajar and discovering it was open when driving.
Meanwhile, a reversing camera can be secured through the trim level above the entry model, the SE-L Lux, which also offers auto-dimming door and rear-view mirrors, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats. The SE-L Lux model is £1,100 more than the entry level SE-L trim.
Our test car's Sport trim is no longer offered.The line-up is completed with GT Sport or GT Sport Tech trims, which offer the likes of leather upholstery and driver safety tech.
Mazda 3 Skyactiv-X Sport saloon joins our test fleet
The all-new Mazda3 saloon joins the Fleet News test car fleet promising diesel-like economy with petrol performance.
The clever 2.0-litre four-cylinder Skyactiv-X petrol engine uses diesel-style compression ignition to reduce fuel consumption to a claimed 52.3mpg.
Power is delivered smoothly enabling you to get up to speed with ease, with a welcome amount of torque at low revs.
The engine is matched to the 24V mild-hybrid system that recycles recovered kinetic energy. A belt-driven integrated starter generator converts the energy in the 600kJ lithium-ion battery, while the DC-DC converter supplies it to the car’s electrical equipment, further improving efficiency. For more on the engine technology.
The Mazda3 saloon range features Sport, Sport Lux, GT Sport and GT Sport Tech trim levels, with a choice of automatic or manual transmission for every grade. Our car is the Sport, which has the lowest CO2 emissions thanks to its smaller wheels.
Autonomous emergency braking (Mazda calls it Smart Brake Support) and lane-assist comes as standard, as does blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and traffic sign recognition.
Every model also features navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and an advanced eight-speaker audio system.