There always seemed to be a model missing from the Mazda 3 range. After all, the 2.2-litre that was the sole diesel offering was (and still is) great for performance, but it didn’t satisfy those company car buyers looking for cheap tax in the sub-100g/km market.
Well, Mazda has now filled the gap in the range with this new 1.5-litre diesel. Complete with CO2 emissions of 99g/km, the option of a six-speed automatic gearbox (which does push emissions up to 114g/km), and a list price saving of £850 over the 2.2D, it could be the new pick of the range for both business and private users.
What’s the 2016 Mazda 3 1.5D like to drive?
With only 104bhp, it’s no surprise that this engine is no firecracker. Accelerate when you’re already doing a higher cruising speed, and it takes a bit of time to build momentum, feeling a little strained as it does. Having said that, the 1.5-litre motor has plenty of torque from low down to make it feel zippy and responsive around town and at lower speeds, and you don’t feel like you have to change down too often through the six-speed manual gearbox.
It’s a shame that the engine isn’t a bit quieter and smoother-revving; it does settle to a respectable hush on a steady throttle, but ask for even moderately sprightly acceleration and it gets a little vocal and harsh-sounding.
Wind and road noise are also quite noticeable at motorway speeds, but there aren’t any overly bothersome vibrations coming through the steering wheel or pedals, so refinement is roughly average for the class.
As with other Mazda 3 models, the ride and handling are pretty decent, if a way off the level of involvement you get with the Ford Focus. The 3 turns in to corners with a satisfying eagerness, and what body lean there is quite progressive and doesn’t corrupt the stable, grippy way that Mazda’s family hatch dispatches corners. The steering is a little inconsistently weighted to feel really enjoyable on a fast B-road, but it’s light enough when parking, and also feels well sorted for relaxing motorway use.
Ride comfort is good; stick to smaller wheels and the 3 will soak up all but the most intrusive of potholes and ripples and stay settled most of the time.
What’s the 2016 Mazda 3 1.5D like inside?
Nothing has changed inside the Mazda 3 – it’s just the engine that’s new here. That means you get a decent driving position with enough adjustment to accommodate all shapes and sizes of driver. The dash is logically laid out, and now that digital radio is standard across the range (it wasn’t available at launch), the 3’s rotary or touchscreen-controlled infotainment is about as good as it gets without going for a much more expensive hatch from BMW or Audi. It’s easy to use, and if you go for the SE Nav trim we favour, it has all the functions you could want.
There’s room for two six-footers in the back, and the boot is roughly on a par with most rivals, offering plenty of space for a chunky buggy. Having said that, a VW Golf, or in particular, the very spacious Skoda Octavia, offers better rear passenger and boot space.
Should I buy one?
There are plenty of reasons why you would, including the appealing styling and the often very competitive PCP finance deals.
However, the more powerful Mazda 3 2.2D does deliver much better performance for a fairly small premium, so private buyers would do well to think carefully which one suits them best. Also, while we haven’t yet done a real-world fuel economy test on this 1.5D, the 2.2D returned a seriously good 59.4mpg, so it’s unlikely the 1.5D is going to be much more economical in reality.
Company car buyers also need to do their sums and decide how much they value the gutsier performance. The 2.2 manages a healthy 107g/km and will cost £129 per month company car tax compared with £110 for the 1.5; for many, that’ll sway it. However, if you do high motorway mileage, the 2.2 is likely to be the more enjoyable car on a daily basis.
On top of all this, there is the classier-feeling VW Golf Bluemotion, and the Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI Greenline, which is our favourite low-emissions family hatch because it’s hugely spacious and great value. Either of these is more recommendable than the Mazda, but if you still like the 3, this new 1.5D model is a decent, all-round capable hatch that will suit plenty of drivers.
What Car? says...
Mazda 3 1.5D Engine size 1.5-litre diesel Price from £18,895 Power 104bhp Torque 199lb ft 0-62mph 11.0 seconds Top speed 115mph Fuel economy 74.3mpg CO2 99g/km