MAZDA SEEKS DIESEL POWER

BUT PER­FOR­MANCE COMES AT A COST

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Driveway - Chris Ri­ley

WITH no MPS high-per­for­mance model any­where in sight, Mazda is spruik­ing its new Mazda3 diesel as a gap filler un­til some­thing bet­ter comes along.

They've even sug­gested the diesel might be a com­peti­tor for Subaru's fan­boy WRX, but as good as it might be . . . per­haps not?

Talk­ing it up, Mazda Aus­tralia boss Martin Ben­ders says it’s more about on-road per­for­mance rather than raw ac­cel­er­a­tion.

The diesel is avail­able only as a hatch.

Priced from $40,230 or $42,230 for the au­to­matic, it's $4040 more than the 2.5-litre petrol model.

The equiv­a­lent Mazda3 SP25 Astina is $36,190 or $38,190 for the auto.

Given the price, it is not sur­pris­ing that Mazda ex­pects the car to ac­count for only one per cent of sales over the life of the ve­hi­cle.

The diesel is tar­geted mainly at pri­vate buy­ers and peo­ple who get to choose their company car.

Apart from the en­gine, the main dif­fer­ence lies in the re­vised rear sus­pen­sion and the fact the diesel adds Mazda's i-Eloop sys­tem, a Skyactiv gad­get de­signed to store en­ergy and re­duce fuel con­sump­tion even fur­ther.

There's also a cou­ple of cos­metic changes, along with dif­fer­ent al­loys, LED fog lights and seats that are trimmed in a com­bi­na­tion of leather and suede trim in­stead of plain leather (heated in front).

Park­ing sen­sors of any flavour re­main a dealer-fit ac­ces­sory.

A red ac­cent has been added to the front grille, a black painted lower rear bumper has been fit­ted and the wheels are of a new de­sign.

To ac­com­mo­date the diesel's higher torque out­put, the rear sus­pen­sion has been beefed up with a larger di­am­e­ter rear hub bear­ing and vi­bra­tion damper.

The stiffer rear set-up com­pen­sates for the ex­tra weight of the diesel en­gine and al­lows the ve­hi­cle to en­ter and exit cor­ners more smoothly us­ing the max­i­mum amount of avail­able torque.

The 2.2-litre tur­bod­iesel is the same en­gine that’S in the CX-5 and Mazda6.

The big news is the ad­di­tion of an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, be­cause un­til now it has been man­ual only in the 3.

The diesel pro­duces a classlead­ing 129kW of power and 420Nm of torque, but in the con­text of a smaller, lighter body struc­ture.

The gear­ing and fi­nal drive ra­tio are dif­fer­ent and auto stop-start is fit­ted to con­serve fuel. It's also the first and only model

in the range to fea­ture Mazda's iELOOP re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing sys­tem.

Fuel con­sump­tion is an im­pres­sive 5.0 litres/100km for the man­ual or slightly higher 5.2 litres/100km for the auto.

The en­gine note by the way is boosted ar­ti­fi­cially through the car's speak­ers.

Safety in­cludes the full suite of i-ACTIVSENSE safety tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing Blind Spot Mon­i­tor­ing with Rear Cross Traf­fic Alert, High Beam Con­trol, Lane De­par­ture Warn­ing, Mazda Radar Cruise Con­trol, Smart Brake Support, For­ward Ob­struc­tion Warn­ing and Smart City Brake Support.

We had a good long drive of this car on some beau­ti­ful wind­ing roads in the north-east cor­ner of Tassie. Whether be­hind the wheel of the man­ual or au­to­matic, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence matches the car's po­si­tion as one of the top sell­ing cars in Aus­tralia.

Mazda's worst en­emy is it­self be­cause the petrol ver­sion of the car is also very good and it is dif­fi­cult to jus­tify the ex­tra $6000 for the diesel. On the mainly coun­try roads that we

en­coun­tered it was dif­fi­cult to choose be­tween the two trans­mis­sions.

That's be­cause with an im­pres­sive 420Nm of torque, there's not much gear chang­ing in­volved.

There's no need be­cause most of the time the torque keeps driv­ing the car for­ward.

But in the city it is the auto that you are go­ing to want.

The diesel is no slouch out of the gates ei­ther, with the dash from 0-100km/h tak­ing 7.7 seconds; but it's in the mid-range that it is most im­pres­sive with plenty of get up and go for over­tak­ing.

This model comes stan­dard with head-up dis­play. With this sys­tem, the car's speed and other in­for­ma­tion is dis­played on a small trans­par­ent screen that sits low in front of the wind­screen.

It's one of the few sys­tems that works with po­larised sunglasses, but oddly it does not project the cur­rent speed limit or speed cam­era warn­ings; for th­ese you need to con­sult the tablet-style com­puter screen.

We were get­ting 7.8 and 7.7 litres/100km for the man­ual and au­to­matic.

Ver­dict: The car is ter­rific, it's just too much money. Very few peo­ple are go­ing to stump up the ex­tra four grand, no mat­ter how

good it may be.

Mazda's 3 diesel will ac­count for only one per cent of sales.

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