That’s not to say it doesn’t sell well, though. It represents a third of all Mazdas sold in Europe and last year Mazda UK sold 15,099 models – second only to Germany.
Of these, around 40% were to fleets, with Mazda particularly targeting businesses who run fleets of 25 vehicles or fewer.
It’s a car which appeals on a financial level, but doesn’t exactly engender much feeling among drivers. But as a ‘job need’ car it does the business, and the revised version which has just gone on sale will continue to fill that role better than ever before.
Believe it or not, the Mazda3 has received a facelift. On the outside there are new bumpers, revised grille and new designs of alloy wheels.
There are detail changes such as the adoption of LED rear light clusters and revised front fog lights. All well and good, but the changes to the naked eye are negligible.
Thankfully there are plenty of changes underneath, with a concerted attempt to lower noise and vibration levels in the cabin thanks to increased soundproofing around the engine bay and the adoption of new Yokohama tyres to lower road noise.
But the main changes are to the five engines – three petrol and two turbodiesels. All have benefitted from revisions to the torque curve, so while they offer the same power as before they have better fuel economy, with improvements of up to 6% on the combined cycle.
But better news for company car drivers is the resulting fall in CO2 emissions. While the diesel models remain in the lowest 18% benefit-in-kind tax banding, the petrol versions each drop two bandings, putting the 1.4-litre model in the 18% band, the 1.6 at 19% and the range-topping 2.0 Sport in the 24% band.
Inside, the changes to the eye are also fairly minimal, with detail revisions such as new seat fabrics and trim and extra standard equipment levels.
As before, the five-door hatchback bodystyle is joined by a four-door saloon which, unusually, actually looks better than the model on which it is based.
Together they will sell around 13,000 units in the UK this year, with a similar level expected in 2007. Next year will also see the introduction of a sportier Mazda3 – the MPS. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 250bhp, the MPS can accelerate from 0-62mph in a fraction over six seconds and will bring some much-needed character to the range.
But for the time being the Mazda3 remains a sensible choice for sensible people. It’s a car that knows its level, and with prices starting at just over £13,000 it represents a lot of car for the money.
Behind the wheel
WHILE the Mazda3 looks quite sensible, under the skin it has a cracking chassis thanks to sharing the set-up and components with its sister car, Ford’s Focus.
The handling is very good with little roll during cornering and the ride set-up is on the firmer side.
The steering is also excellent, with a quick rack and plenty of feel through the wheel as to what the front wheels are doing. This means that it has the potential to offer fun driving on twisty roads.
Unfortunately, the engines just haven’t got the power to let you have that fun. We tried two versions on the launch – the 150bhp 2.0 Sport and the 109bhp diesel.
Even with 150bhp the 2.0 felt slow, while the 109bhp diesel was lethargic. We can only imagine what the smaller petrol models are like.
But then again, this is not a car which excites drivers – it does a certain job and that is to transport its occupants with little fuss and in comfort while not costing the earth in fuel. In this respect, there’s little to fault with the Mazda3.
|Model:||1.4||1.6||2.0||1.6d 90||1.6d 109|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||84/6,000||105/6,000||150/6,500||90/4,000||109/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||90/4,000||107/4,000||138/4,000||159/1,750||177/1,750|
|Max speed (mph):||105||113||125||108||113|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||42.2||40.9||35.8||60.1||58.8|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||157||162||189||125||128|
|On sale: Now||Prices (OTR):||£13,300-£16,330|