Practically perfect? One of these Mazdas is tough to find fault with
HERE’S A story about two Mazdas. The first is the mildly revamped Mazda3 hatchback from last autumn. After a week I had to concede defeat. There was nothing I didn’t like, or to put it another way, nothing which was annoying. Almost.
The 2 litre petrol engine was smooth and economical. It gave lively performance in car which was as refined as anything in the class, in a body which shouted style.
This “kodo” design signature distinguishes all Mazdas. Kodo translates to “soul of motion” but you can find all that oriental blah blah in promotional material, plus the model range.
There is torque vectoring on the driven front wheels to improve handling. Diesel models got noise suppression on start-up and in first gear acceleration. All versions have better sound proofing in doors and seals and fascia, and added vibration damping at the back.
The front and rear suspension were re-tuned to improve comfort and reduce harshness. There were cosmetic and minor tweaks in the cabin, an electric parking brake and the option of a heated steering wheel.
In this way, the very good 2014 Mazda3 Hatch and Fastback were enhanced. Both have five doors. My demo car from Mazda GB was the mid range Mazda3 2.0 118bhp SE-L Nav Hatch, at £19,895. The sparkling blue paint added £550, taking the bill to £20,445 before you start the haggling – there are plenty of rivals after all (the sub 4.5 metre class of Golf, Focus, Astra). At the time of writing, Mazda was offering zero per cent finance and £1,500 deduction.
The engine produces 118bhp at 6000rpm and 155 lb ft ft at 4000rpm so compared with the diesel versions you lack oomph at lower engine speed but it is no sluggard, claiming a 0-62mph sprint in 8.9 seconds, which used to be called hot hatch pace.
The 16 inch alloys are tyred for comfort, with a 205/60 ratio soaking up surface itches.
Inside, the cabin width gives more elbow room than most rivals, with a similar width in the boot area – which flat-floors when the back seats are folded away.
There is an always-useful specs holder in the roof and the central cupholder area has a roller blind cover. The SE-L Nav is one rung up from the entry SE grade and adds “city” safety intervention, automatic lights and wipers, rear parking bleepers, heated front seats (thank you), cruise control, a speed limiter left/right climate control and Mazda’s own navigation system which worked flawlessly.
Mazda favours larger unblown petrol engines over smaller turbo engines for economy and quotes a 55.4mpg average (and 119g CO2). True, diesel gives you more but the 104bhp engine costs an extra £1,500.
On test, I drove quickly and returned 47mpg on a familiar mixed 50-miler and 42mpg in hilly driving. The Mazda3 five door hatch range starts at £17,795 for the 118bhp SE. Automatic gears are available from £19,595. The other petrol engine is a 163bhp (163bhp) Sport Nav model at £22,570. Diesel models are the 103.5bhp (from £19,295 for the SE) and the 148bhp (148bhp) from £22,245 for the SE-L Nav (£23,445 automatic).
The five-door Fastback range is smaller, offering the 118bhp engine from, £19,895 in SE-L trim, plus the 103.5bhp and 148bhp diesels, all with manual gearboxes.
Enhancements on premium models include black leather seats (£1,000) and a brighter light stone leather at £1,200. An £800 safety pack which includes adaptive LED headlamps, monitoring of mirrors blind spots and crossing rear traffic and city braking is also restricted to certain models. Verdict: May be perfect.
In contrast, the CX-3 118bhp Sport Nav which followed the Mazda3 was a disappointment.
On its own, this compact “cross-over” five door hatchback does have things to commend it – the sharp styling grabbed attention and gives presence – maybe the best in its sector.
So did the 18 inch wheels with 215/50 tyres but these contributed to the road noise which was too high on normal surfaces and almost intolerable at speed on concrete.
The engine, the same one fitted to the Mazda3, sounded rougher and felt less eager
– but actually gives similar acceleration figures.
On paper it’s 120kg lighter but at the pumps it falls away, rated at 47.7mpg and 137g.
However, in use it matched the economy, pint per mile, of the Mazda3 over similar routes. From the outside it looks bulkier than the Mazda3 but is shorter, narrower and slightly taller and lacks the seating and luggage room of the 3.
This shrinks the width of the central tunnel – so the pad will not take a larger phone. It retains a handbrake. If its name is misleading you to think it is based on the 3 it’s actually based on the smaller Mazda2 and dates from the summer of 2015. As such, why not call it the CX-2?
Kit included a rear camera, LED headlamps, Bose audio, head-up colour display, for £20,695. £400 safety pack added blind spot and rear crossing monitors and high beam auto switching.
Pricing matches the larger, better Mazda3 so that’s from £17,795 for the 118bhp CX-3 SE and 103.5bhp diesels from £19,295 with automatic options.
There is one distinction,
4x4 traction with the
148bhp Sport petrol engine at £22,695 and the diesel Sport at £23,695 and, automatic gears, £24,995.
Verdict: Lovely styling if misnamed and noisy, but who am I to talk? The 4x4 automatic diesel is a rarity in this sector. Model for model,
I’d take the Mazda3 without hesitation. And that “almost” in the introduction? Both have a rear parcel shelf which is awkward to remove.
SHARP LOOKS: Mazda 3 SE-L Nav Hatch in sparkling blue, main image. The CX-3 five-door hatchback cross-over, above.