Engine size as much as reduced CO2 could open doors for the new 1.5-litre 99g/km Mazda 3, according to the company’s head of fleet Steve Tomlinson.

The only diesel previously offered in the 3 line-up was a 2.2-litre, and with Mazda accounting for almost all of the lower medium market at over 2.0 litres, plus the fact that most rivals offer 1.6 or 2.0 engines, Tomlinson told BusinessCar that “sub-2.0-litre is as important as sub-100g/km”.

“Fleet people don’t want cars over 2.0 litres, even though ours is more economical than most 2.0 litres. It’s not all fleets, but it’s a barrier for some,” he said.

Tomlinson added that the new model gives Mazda “an opportunity with fleets that we didn’t have before”, with benefit-in-kind two bands lower, alongside a lower P11D than is currently available.

The 3 will remain Mazda’s second biggest-selling model after the 6 upper medium model despite the new engine, according to Tomlinson. “The C [lower medium] segment is very competitive, even more so than the D [upper medium] segment, and there is more awareness of the 6 than the 3,” he declared. “We kind of hope every 1.5 we sell will be an additional unit, but we also know for every one we sell it might have been a 2.2. We’ll get opportunity to sell to people we did before but there will be a bit of substitution.”

Overall, Tomlinson isn’t looking for growth in business car sales in 2016: “We’re expecting the same volume as last year, but the 1.5 may change that and we may have to analyse as we go through the year. We are a customer-demand brand: we don’t build cars to put in a field and then try to find homes for them – we build to a plan and only alter that plan based on demand.”

The company is also working on a new aftersales charter. “We won’t necessarily increase labour or parts discounts, but we will formalise and commit, and if you’re a company car driver what level of service can you expect?” said Tomlinson. “It’s stuff dealers do anyway but we don’t communicate it.” The charter is currently being worked on, and should appear in the coming months.

Mazda’s goal, said Tomlinson, is to build a sustainable and reputable business. “I don’t want a company to choose us this year but then not next year because I’ve had to change the terms,” he concluded.