Fleet News

Mazda3 diesel

Mazda

Review

WITH an increasing reliance on shared technology between manufacturers it must be a challenge to ensure a new car has its own personality.

This could be said of the new Mazda3 diesel. Now on sale, it uses the engine which is found in the Ford Focus C-MAX, is already available in other Peugeot and Citroen vehicles and will also see service in a Volvo next year.

The Mazda3 was the product of a joint project with teams of engineers from Mazda, Ford and Volvo. So if the end result has its own character rather than feeling like something engineered by committee, then Mazda will have succeeded.

The attraction of the Mazda3 diesel is rather appropriately three-fold. Petrol versions of the Mazda3, when they were introduced in January, were priced lower than most mainstream rivals when compared spec-for-spec. The diesel performs the same trick.

Secondly, the diesel is one of the most frugal in its class resulting in low fuel consumption and low carbon dioxide emissions.

The third attraction for fleet operators is strong residual values – early predictions from market analysts show that although the percentage figure might not be as high as class benchmarks, its low list price helps keep the amount of cash lost to a minimum.

According to Eurotax Glass's, the entry level S model will retain 37% of its list price over three years/60,000 miles.

It means over a typical fleet replacement cycle it will 'lose' £8,339 – almost £140 less than the Volkswagen Golf 1.9 TDI S, reckons Eurotax Glass's, and nearly £200 less than a Honda Civic 1.7 CTDi SE.

For fleets operating a four-year/80,000-mile cycle the Mazda3 has a similar advantage.

David McGonigle, Mazda fleet and remarketing director, said: 'Mazda3 diesel models are being launched at a crucial time with fleet diesel sales rocketing and Mazda sales continuing to increase.

'Mazda has been hugely successful in establishing itself in the fleet sector through a reputation for innovative styling, high levels of build quality, excellent reliability and low operating costs.

'The Mazda3 diesels continue that trend and the residual value projections show that they are excellent value for money models with savings to be made against more established opposition.'

From launch the range will be offered in S and TS grades for the five-door hatchback and TS for the saloon. However, later this year, TS2 and Sport models will also be launched.

The diesel engines will only be compliant with Euro III emissions rules for the first few months, with a Euro IV compliant version arriving later in the year.

It means the first company car drivers to receive the Mazda3 diesel will have to pay the 3% supplement on BIK tax – something new Golf and Astra drivers will not.

However, it is unclear at this stage what effect making the engine Euro IV compliant will have on fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and more importantly, the list price.

It could be that drivers taking delivery of a Euro III compliant diesel will not be much worse off when the Euro IV version is launched.

The diesel is expected to account for about 20% of this year's Mazda3 volume of 10,000 units, and a greater percentage of the company's fleet sales of Mazda3.

While the Mazda3 has been on the road in the UK for five months already, it is still an unfamiliar sight, and some aspects of its styling appear a little more exotic than its high-volume rivals.

Despite the common components with a range of other vehicles from various manufacturers, the Mazda3 diesel could turn out to be a capable lower medium car that stands out from the typical fleet offerings in the sector.

Behind the wheel

FLEET News is running a Mazda3 1.6-litre on long term test, and, while the car is a competent all rounder and good to drive, there have been a few complaints that its 102bhp petrol engine is a little underwhelming.

I initially put it down to people driving it after becoming too familiar with the low-down torque of a modern diesel engine. But after several hours of driving the new diesel version I've decided that they may have a point. However, I haven't decided whether the petrol engine is lacklustre or the new diesel is extremely good indeed.

Although diesel technology continues to improve rapidly, it is unusual to have petrol and diesel engines of the same capacity where the diesel has a higher power output.

The diesel here is 5bhp or so up on the petrol. The Mazda3's predecessor, the 323, had a 2.0-litre turbodiesel offering 100bhp while the 2.0-litre petrol could muster more than 130bhp.

The 5bhp advantage of the new diesel unit over the petrol engine is nothing compared to the torque – 107lb-ft for the petrol compared with 177lb-ft for the diesel engine. Given the choice I would have the diesel over the 1.6-litre petrol every single time.

All my Mazda3 diesel miles were driven in the four-door saloon – it will be less common than the hatchback and is one of the more handsome entrants in the lower-medium saloon sector. It also loses some of the hatchback's awkwardness around the C-pillar.

It's a shame then that CAP Monitor puts it at a three percentage point disadvantage over the hatchback over three years/60,000 miles.

The interior is just about as good as anything this side of a Volkswagen Golf and the cowled instruments are a sporty touch and make the driver feel more involved – your speed is a little secret between you and the car.

Straight-line performance is more than adequate and the engine remains relatively hushed until the rev counter needle climbs above 3,000rpm.

The Mazda3 reacts quickly and precisely to steering inputs, no matter how small and there is plenty of grip up at the front with only an over indulgent throttle in tight bends really causing the tyres to break away.

The car copes well with twistier roads and sudden direction changes, shrugging off body roll and behaving predictably.

However, many lower medium cars now are good to drive, so the Mazda3 faces much more capable opposition for the driver appeal honours in its class.

Verdict

THE Mazda3 diesel is the obvious choice in the range as an alternative to the 1.4 and 1.6 litre petrol cars, and also proves a capable alternative to entry-level diesels in the Golf and Astra line-ups.

Model: Mazda3 diesel Engine (cc): 1,560
Max power (bhp/rpm): 107/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 177/1,750
Max speed (mph): 113/115 (4dr)
0-62mph (sec): 11.5/11.3 (4dr)
Fuel consumption (mpg): 56.5
CO2 emissions (g/km): 138
Fuel tank (l/gal): 55/12.1
Transmission: 5-sp man
Service interval (miles): 12,500
On sale: now
Prices: £13,350-£14,800

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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