Road Test: Mazda3 1.8D 116hp GT Sport
Jonathan Musk drives the Mazda3 diesel, which aims to take on Focus and Golf and beat them at their own game.
SECTOR C-segment PRICE £26,395 FUEL 56.5mg (WLTP) CO2 109g/km (NEDC Correlated)
It’s not without surprise that Mazda wishes to tackle the lucrative hatchback market, which remains one of the most popular in the UK (despite the best efforts of SUVs), with Golf and Focus regularly in the top ten.
Fortunately, despite Mazda’s David vs Goliath sized-challenge, the company’s engineering was already up to scratch, as reflected in the firm’s ambition to bring its pioneering Skyactiv-X engine to the Mazda3. This purportedly offers diesel economy with the smooth operation of a petrol engine. Until then, the choice is a mild-hybrid 2.0-litre 122hp petrol or 1.8-litre 116hp diesel.
The diesel offers fine economy in the real world, easily matching its official figures. However, power isn’t forthcoming until the mid-range, so you find yourself lethargically pulling away from junctions. The six-speed manual is good, but the ergonomics and long throw don’t quite add up to Mazda’s usually spirited drive.
Compared to the diesel, the petrol is expectedly refined although it drives more like a 1.6 than a 2.0-litre. The flip side is it’s surprisingly frugal.
Mazda has deviated from its previously more expensive set-up, and the new suspension is firm without proving uncomfortable.
There’s much else to applaud: the functionally minimal and classy cabin is generously proportioned in the front, rear and boot (despite the exterior’s racy looks) and it’s well appointed with lots of standard kit – GT Sport adds power-adjustable black leather seats, a heated steering wheel and Bose audio.
To find fault with the Mazda3, one must split hairs: the sat nav is so so, voice command system hit and miss and the wipers are anything other than the right sensitivity.
Bringing the competition back into the fray – while the Golf sits pretty with its quality, vast array of engines and trims – the Mazda3 succeeds where the Focus doesn’t, particularly in terms of quality.