I had the chance to drive the 1.5-litre version of the Mazda 3 this week, to see how it compares with the 2.0-litre car we have on test.
It’s very hard to set about any car test without a few preconceptions; with regard to the 100bhp Mazda 3, I was mentally prepared for it to be very disappointing indeed. After all, our 2.0-litre can feel a bit listless unless you work the engine quite hard.
In that respect, the smaller engine is actually quite surprising. Around town at least, it gives relatively little away to its big brother, although it is easier to stall on initial pull away.
The big difference is felt when you get out of the town on to A-roads and motorways. Here, the 2.0-litre’s extra power and torque is far more apparent. Hit a long motorway incline in the 1.5-litre car, and you can expect to drop two gears to maintain progress. The bigger-engined car is far happier to sit it out. Overtaking on single-carriageway roads is far less relaxed in the 1.5, too.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the 1.5-litre is no more economical and no cleaner than the bigger-engined car. Both emit 119g/km of CO2 and have identical claimed economy figures. A bigger surprise than that, however, is that the price difference between the two models is just £300. With all that in mind, the 2.0-litre car looks the bigger bargain.
In the car park**
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