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Mazda 3: Test Drive

Date: 27 March 2009   |   Author: Tom Webster

Mazda 3 side
Category: Lower medium
P11D: £17,500 (est.)
Key rival: Honda Civic

What with the original car setting sales records for Mazda, the new 3 has a lot to live up to.

Arriving in saloon and more popular five-door hatchback body styles, the key change to the new 3 is the inclusion of the brand's new 2.2-litre diesel, which made its debut in the upper medium 6. While Mazda's managing director Jeremy Thompson admits the original 3's success in fleet was eclipsed by retail sales, he cites the arrival of the new diesel engine as the reason why this incarnation will be more successful.

The 150PS unit is a massive leap on from Mazda's previous 2.0-litre diesels. It is responsive at every stage, offering the driver the ability to accelerate smoothly from almost any point in the rev range. A 9.2 seconds sprint to 62mph is not the quickest, but it will give a burst of pace when required.

But despite the boost in power, there is no increase in fuel consumption, CO2 output or noise. Consumption improves to 52.3mpg from 47.1mpg, while CO2 comes down to 144g/km from 162g/km, and both road and engine noise are impressively low. Where the old Mazda diesels were loud and clattery, this one is as quiet as any of its rivals in both the mainstream and premium sectors.

The rest of the six-engine line-up includes another model of serious interest to the corporate marketplace, with the introduction of the first lower medium sector Mazda to get below 121g/km. The 109PS 1.6 diesel emits 119g/km of CO2, and is joined in the range by another 2.2 diesel of 185PS, as well as three petrol engines all below 161g/km, the most powerful of which, the 150PS 2.0-litre, is fitted with stop-start technology, a first for Mazda.

Perhaps the most obvious aspect that's been refreshed is the...