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A new 105hp 1.5-litre diesel engine in Mazda's VW Golf-rivalling five-door hatchback creates the most economical version of the 3 yet, returning 74.3mpg and sub-100g/km emissions.
Range-topping Sport Nav trim includes all-round parking sensors, a reversing camera, adaptive headlights and a Bose sound system, along with 18-inch alloy wheels and a head-up display, all of which bumps costs up to 47.3p per mile.
This is more than the Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI 110 Sport Nav (46.0ppm), BMW 116d Sport (46.5ppm), Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi 120 Titanium Nav (44.8ppm) and Vauxhall Astra (42.8ppm). The still well-equipped 3 1.5d 105 SE L Nav (45.5p) model makes much more fleet sense, however, and offers all the kit fleet drivers could want. Explaining the slightly inflated costs are 32.1% residuals, which lag behind upmarket German rivals.
The 3's engine is very refined and smooth, hiding its appetite for diesel well. It doesn't feel as responsive as some similarly powerful models when behind the wheel, but it should prove more pleasant to live with than the louder, less smooth motors in several alternatives.
The unusually slick gearchange and responsive steering also make the 3 much more fun to drive than you'd expect from its economy billing. Despite this, we found 60mpg-plus economy achievable with more relaxed driving.
While not as high quality as rival lower-medium models, the interior features an easy-to-use, simple dash with a touchscreen media system that can also be controlled by a rotary knob located down near the gearstick. Interior space is mid-table, as is the amount of room on offer in the boot.
The 3 can't compete with premium rivals for feel-good factor or costs, but the refinement of the new engine, long list of standard kit and enjoyable drive make it well worth considering for those after a less-common model.
Mazda 3 1.5d 105 Sport Nav
Model price range £17,095-£23,995
Residual value 32.1%
Service, maintenance and repair £2206
Vehicle Excise Duty £0
National Insurance £1722
Cost per mile 47.3p
Fuel consumption 74.3mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 99g/km (17%)
BIK 20/40% per month £62/£124
Boot space 364/1263 litres
Engine size/power 1498cc/105hp
Sport Nav is costly to run, but the 3 is a strong alternative to fleet best sellers
Diesel engine is frugal and very refined
3 includes plenty of standard kit
Top-spec Sport Nav trim makes 3 pricier than several appealing rivals