As a spare set was not to hand (I didn't lose those, honestly) the manufacturer reluctantly explained that the car's central computer would have to be reprogrammed for a new key.
As I expected, just two days after the car was towed away, the keys turned up. A quick call to the logistics firm Mazda uses for its press car deliveries halted any need for such a complicated-sounding process as work, thankfully, had not been started.
The keys have been posted back and Mazda is now defleeting the car, albeit a couple of weeks early. As previously arranged, the manufacturer has replaced it with the diesel variant.
The cost of collecting the car and getting it back into shape ready for sale was £464 plus VAT.
Until my calamity, our time with the Mazda3 TS2 had been good. It had been with us since January and most Fleet News comments had been favourable – although views about its looks were mixed.
Some disliked its squared-off back end, describing it as old-fashioned, but more liked its appearance than didn't. One tester even felt design was its strong point. Its well-built and solid interior scored well with previous drivers, with one comparing the quality to that usually associated with German cars.
The car's comfort levels were also good and cabin space was generous. One complaint raised, though, was that despite altering the seating and the steering wheel, one tester could never see the fuel warning light.
This isn't a problem for 99% of the time – but potentially disastrous if he failed to notice it and then ran out of fuel.
He also didn't like the dials positioned in deep recesses that he reckoned would quickly become magnets for dust and other in-car detritus.
However, praise was heaped by the same tester on the car's composure while cornering. He described it as 'stunning' but said that came as no surprise, as the car is built on the platform for the next Focus generation.
I haven't yet had the opportunity to drive the diesel model (I just hope they let me after the kerfuffle I've caused) but my experiences with the petrol model mean I am looking forward to it.
Perhaps I'm best suited to a diesel anyway because my achieved test mpg of 32.5 was way off the manufacturer's combined figure of 39.2. Other testers managed figures of 34.3 and 37.2. One suggested that the mpg suffered because you had to push your foot right down to the metal to gain any decent acceleration.
General opinion is that the Mazda3 is a fine performer in its segment, looks good, has impressive predicted residual values and is well worthy of fleet consideration.
Price (OTR): £13,600
Total mileage: 5,100
CO2 emissions (g/km): 172
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer): £49 per month
Insurance group: 5
Power (bhp/rpm): 103/6,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 107/4,000
Combined mpg: 39.2
Test mpg: 32.5
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,850/36%
HSBC contract hire rate: £227 per month
Final expenditure: £464 plus VAT – bringing car to resale condition following forced entry
What the team thinks
A muscular appearance prompting comparisons to the old Audi A3 demonstrated Mazda's determination to make the Mazda3 a stand-out car, leaving the legacy of the bland 323 in a cloud of dust.
The interior construction also seemed to match that of the mainstream German brands like Audi and Volkswagen, but the quality of the materials didn't seem as good and it looked a little tired and worn even after the few weeks I was driving the car – not a good sign for residual values at the end of its fleet lifecycle.
A NICE car made exciting to drive by the upright, sporty driving position and very precise steering. But for those who have ever driven a Mazda6, will it always be something of a letdown?
I was won over by the Mazda3's appearance, which seems to share elements of cars like the Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Alfa Romeo 147, depending on which angle you look at it. While the dashboard and instrument layout is neat, it is let down by the sober black cloth and plastic interior.
While the Mazda3 is a competent lower-medium car, I think its minor failing is that it isn't the great leap forward that the Mazda6 was. The Mazda6 came into the upper-medium sector as a leader on price, driving enjoyment and style. The Mazda3 is a good all-rounder but doesn't really shine in any one area. It's a nice car and should be a thoroughly cost-effective fleet choice, but the sparkle abundant in the Mazda6 is sadly lacking.