There is good news on one of those fronts: as the car was launched, only S and TS models were introduced, partly due to tight restrictions on supply. However, the latest information from Mazda is that a TS2 – with features such as climate control instead of plain air conditioning, a six-CD autochanger instead of a single CD player, larger alloys and so on – is on its way in the next few months.
However, there are no plans to introduce a larger capacity diesel engine than the 107bhp 1.6-litre engine in our test car.
I have no criticism of this engine. The more time I spend in the car, the more I appreciate its class-leading refinement and engine noise is well suppressed. It is noticeably more hushed than a Vauxhall Astra 1.7 CDTi or a Volkswagen Golf 1.9 TDI.
Performance is more than adequate, with 177lb-ft of torque proving useful at low revs.
But with Mazda drilling us with a relentless bombardment of ‘zoom-zoom’ in its advertising campaign, and the trend among user-choosers towards higher-performance diesel engines, a 136bhp 2.0-litre common rail diesel in a TS2 or Sport variant would sit quite nicely in the range.
Vauxhall has a mighty 150bhp version of the Astra 1.9 CDTi, Volkswagen offers a 140bhp diesel version of the Golf, Peugeot’s 307 HDi 136 is an appealing high-performance lower-medium diesel car, Nissan has a 136bhp diesel Almera SXE and there are a few other clean-living-but-dirty-torqueing diesels on the market.
Back to our test car, which is performing well and doing everything that could be asked of it, with fuel consumption in the low 50s mpg.
It might feel a bit sportier on the inside than the outside with its cowled instruments and LED light-show audio system.
Indications are it would be a quite satisfactory as an economical lower-medium car for three years – we’ll report if this changes over the next few months.
Model: Mazda3 diesel TS
Price (OTR): £14,800
CO2 emissions (g/km): 138
Company car tax bill 2004/05: (22% tax-payer) £48 per month
Insurance group: 5
Combined mpg: 56.5
Test mpg: 51.0
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,050/34%
HSBC contract hire rate: £309 per month
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles