Mazda3 1.8D 116ps Sport Lux
The family hatchback is a sector dominated by Ford & VW, with the premium German brands not far behind. The latest manufacturer to try it’s hand at breaking this monopoly is Mazda who recently launched a new Mazda3.
Being honest, I have a soft spot for Mazda & when the newest member of the Mazda family made its way up to Company Car & Van, I was eager to find out what it had to offer.
With the rise of Hybrid & EV’s, Mazda have thus far stuck to their guns with just a Skyactiv petrol & diesel range offered, so no hybrid or EV versions yet.
Despite the growth of petrol sales within the corporate sector, anyone who drives more than 8,000 miles per annum, or spends a lot of miles on the motorway, a diesel is still a sensible choice. To that end, the Mazda3 we tested was the mid-range 1.8D 116ps Sport Lux, with an on the road retail price of £24,595.
The new Mazda3 features five trim levels, ranging from entry-level SE-L through SE-L Lux, Sport Lux, GT Sport and GT Sport Tech. All cars get LED headlights & tail lights, heated door mirrors, rear parking sensors, Lane-Keep Assist & radar-guided Adaptive Cruise Control. There will be an addition to the engine range later in 2019, with the launch of the Skyactiv-X powerplant.
The exterior of the 3 makes it stand out from the crowd & in such a competitive sector it needs as much help as it can get. At the front is the familiar Mazda grille finished in black with a chrome Mazda logo locate dead centre. The front corners feature slim, wraparound adaptive LED headlights. The rear hatch also offers up a pair of slimline rear signature LED lights, with LED rear turn lights, which neatly merge into the rear sides. It’s the distinctive massive C pillars though, that really make the Mazda3 standout.
In the cabin, rather than offering a touchscreen like many competitors, Mazda have stuck with a dash mounted 8.8″ infotainment screen, which dominates the centre top of the dash. Functions are controlled by a centrally located wheel similar to those found in BMW’s. It takes a few journeys a bit of time to master this, but once up & running, it works logically, feels solid & is easy to reach.
The system graphics are excellent, particularly those used in the SatNav & are a real improvement over the set up in the last Mazda3. Thankfully, in the latest 3 you can connect your smart phone to either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto using the USB connection, something you couldn’t do in the previous model. Furthermore, the screen is bright & clear & again, functions can be selected using the centre wheel.
Mazda designers have struck gold with the driving position, which is just perfect. Both seat & steering wheel adjustment is straightforward & as an added bonus, the driver’s seat is extremely comfortable.
Our test model featured a heads up display, which sits above three digital dials, containing the rev counter, speedo & fuel & temperature gauges. The chunky steering wheel contains the buttons to control the infotainment system, info & Bluetooth phone on the left, with the Adaptive Cruise Control & safety switches to the right.
The climate controls & heated seat buttons are located under the infotainment screen with a CD input beneath this. In the central binnacle you’ll find a rectangular storage space under the dash, with two small drinks holders behind this. The gear stick sits behind these. The entertainment control wheel is also located here, alongside a volume control knob & the electronic handbrake.
You get extra cabin storage underneath the sliding armrest, where the USB & 12v socket are located. The front door pockets are slim but still both are large enough for a bottle each, as too are the rear door pockets.
For those obsessed with build quality, the fixtures, fittings & finish in the Mazda3 are exemplary. All surfaces feature leather, faux leather, soft touch plastics or chrome with not a hint of cheapness to be found. The door lining, roof lining & seats are all finished in charcoal grey, which looks fantastic. However, the narrow rear windows, courtesy of those wide C pillars, may make those sat in the back feel a little claustrophobic. Talking of space, both front seat passengers get decent room, but in the rear, there is only really room for two. The sloping roofline also eats into rear headroom.
There’s a rectangular shaped 351-litre boot on offer. It’s slightly smaller than those found in both the Golf & Focus & access is hampered slightly by a high load lip.
On the road, the 1.8-litre 116ps diesel powering our test car was noticeably quiet. The peak torque comes in from just 1,500rpm, so driving around town & zipping in & out of traffic is highly enjoyable. Coupled with the short, notchy gear stick & it’s almost perfect.
With an overall length of 4460mm & width of 1795mm excluding mirrors, the Mazda 3 is compact enough to park easily. This is further aided by a really clear rear parking camera, which with the blindspots created by those massive C pillars, is a welcome addition.
The manual gear change is one of the best we’ve tried & when joining fast moving traffic you can zip up through the gears in double quick time. At motorway speeds, the Skyactiv engine purrs along quite happily & there’s very little road or wind noise entering the cabin. On the motorway, we were able to take advantage of the Mazda Safety System, which features Adaptive Cruise Control & Lane Departure Warning. Select this from the steering wheel control’s & you can sit, happily at 70mph, as the diesel engine eats up the miles.
With a 0-62mph time of 10.2 seconds, this diesel engine cannot be described as quick. But, in reality, it’s been designed to offer customers low emissions, just 109g/km of C02’s , coupled with an attractive combined fuel economy of 55.4 mpg. In our week on board, we travelled over 250 miles on a mixture of roads & averaged a respectable 48.8 mpg
As we mentioned at the beginning of our review, it would take something special to put a dent in both Golf & Focus sales. To their credit, Mazda have built an incredibly attractive contender which does offer a viable alternative to both. It’s smart, well made, beautifully proportioned & stand’s out in a crowd.
The diesel engine we tried was competitive against the opposition & overall the latest Mazda3, looked & felt to us, most similar to the soon to depart Volvo V40, with rock solid engineering & design favoured over outright practicality.
We loved it ! 4.25/5