They must be serious!
Mazda tells us that, developing their all-new MAZDA3, they identified forty-nine areas in which to improve NVH…noise, vibration, harshness.
Avoiding the question why couldn’t they have done this before on the outgoing model, that actually seemed OK, we move on to the company’s aim to raise themselves into the so-called premium sector. This would challenge (in alphabetical order) Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
At the press launch, after a great drive through the Scottish Borders into Northumberland, it had already become apparent that there was certainly little to choose between those already thrusting in that direction — Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, VW Golf — and the new Mazda3.
The immediate impression on getting into the car was very positive. The cabin was comfortable, smart, and with an innovative design that featured a two-layer dashboard. It was cosy without being restrictive on space. The soft-touch surfaces hinted at the up-market quality and, after driving well over three hundred miles, the whole driving experience demonstrated that Mazda might even, yes, with a lot of hard advertising back-up, actually eat into the premium market.
The new car starts upwards from £20,370 (is this; therefore, psychologically-speaking, too cheap?) and, through its five specification grades, tops out at around £4000 more. It is well-equipped and includes a new BOSE sound system.
But what is interesting is that the Mazda3 is a ‘mild hybrid’ with cylinder de-activation.
Mazda has long been associated with being quite adventurous delving into new and of course, better ways to provide efficient power-trains. Their rotary engines impressed some people but not all.
Now they have been embarking on a plan over the next decade and more, in conjunction with other manufacturers, that aims to bring the good old petrol combustion engine to its ultimate state of efficiency, out-doing electrics along the way, given the overall cost of producing an electric power train. Mazda’s development of very high compression ratios in petrol engines does demonstrate what could be claimed as their leadership in this area.
So, back to 2019…our first drive was in the diesel-powered car. Very smooth. Quiet. Up with the best. A testing route in that part of the U.K., the ups, downs, twists and turns, the need for sudden braking to stop roadside lambs going to the slaughter, all proved that the new Mazda3 was as capable as it needs to be.
After a hundred miles, I stepped into a similarly-powered petrol version. This seemed somehow even more acceptable. Again, the car felt refined and at home on yet more challenging roads. Outward visibility was a touch hampered by the thick b-pillars, but, otherwise, there was nothing immediately of concern.
Having covered a further eighty or so miles in this GT Sport version, the next day it was the same engine in a lower-spec car for another hundred and forty miles.
images of the All-New Mazda3 by renowned photographer RANKIN
The final impression was that a) people who do long-distance rallies must be nuts, but that b) the Mazda3 is without a doubt a very good car.
Yes, over such roads, with long summits to attack, the relative lack of power means continual resort to the six-speed manual gearbox. However, this turns out to be quite a pleasure: it’s light and slick.
The car brakes and handles well and the suspension passed its thorough test.
The diesel and petrol engines performed fairly similarly. Both cars get to 62 mph in just below 10.5 seconds and can overtake safely enough if pushed hard in the appropriate gear.
Fuel consumption, as indicated, was almost identical on the first stretches, at 40.3 mpg and 40.2 mpg respectively. The petrol engine achieved an indicated 42.5 on the return leg of the overall route (official combined cycle 45.6 mpg in the SE-L Lux and 44.8 in the GT Sport), aided by significantly more dual-carriageway.
The new Mazda3 is on sale in hatchback form, with a decent boot, averagely good rear access and space. In October, a four-door saloon will be available. Also launched then will be Mazda’s extremely-impressive sounding SKYACTIV-X petrol engine claiming 20% better fuel consumption and up to 30% more torque along with reduced CO2 and NOx emissions. The current emission figures of the 122 PS, 2.0-litre petrol engine are a commendable 117/118 g/km.
You wonder why Mazda3 is available with a diesel engine…unless you drive regular long distances mainly on motorways. The diesel revs at only 2100 rpm at 70 mph, whereas the petrol car is at 2500 rpm; it may just make economic sense, if nothing else.
Mazda always talks to the press of its ‘Kodo’ design, simplicity being the key. They do have stunning concepts. Concepts don’t always make it into production, which with Mazda would be a pity, so: fingers crossed!
Car reviewed: Mazda3 2.0 122ps GT Sport Tech, on the road price £25,495 0-62mph 10.4secs Top speed 122mph Engine 1998cc 4 cylinder unleaded Euro 6.2 Fuel Economy Combined 55.4mpg CO2 emissions 119g/km Max Power [email protected] Torque [email protected] Transmission 6-speed manual
Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.
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