Is news of a new Mazda3 really something for the PH homepage? After all,
overlooked MPS versions
aside it's probably a car you forgot even existed given the lockdown on this deeply conservative sector by default favourites like the Golf and Focus. But according to Mazda the C-segment is still a quarter of the European car market, or three million sales, so even a small corner of the sector is worth playing for.
One to slip under the fleet manager's radar
But to the new 3. The last one was a bit beaky, the one before that so unadventurous as to be utterly forgettable (thought that does make the MPS version
an excellent Q-car
) but this new one looks great. It's certainly swoopy enough to make a Golf look a bit frumpy and a more cohesive look than the Focus. People still won't know what it is but if you're not hung up on following the herd there's much to appreciate.
It's under the bonnet where Mazda does things a bit differently with its Skyactiv technology, introduced on the CX-5 crossover and inspiring enough even in that to offer hope that the 3 might be a bit of a quiet hero.
As the rest of the industry rushes to embrace downsizing and turbos across petrol and diesel engines Skyactiv, relatively, keeps the no replacement for displacement mantra alive in the mainstream. Meaning where everyone else goes 1.6 turbo Skyactiv engines are available in normally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2 diesel while offering competitive - in some cases class leading - CO2 and mpg figures to keep the number crunching fleet managers happy. Final numbers for the 3 are TBC but in the 6 the 2.2 diesel beats the 320 Efficient Dynamics, 1.6 TDCI Econetic Mondeo and others that wear their downsized and/or tree hugging attributes on their sleeves.
Zingy Skyactiv engines reject downsizing trend
The Skyactiv engines are interesting in that the petrol uses a higher than normal compression ratio of 14:1, the diesel's matching figure the lowest of any comparable unit. In the latter it means the engine can be built a lot lighter and is more refined and zingier than your typical black pump slugger while the petrol offers a cake and eat it combination of free-spinning revs without the usual bottom line penalties at the pumps or tax burden. The new 3 gets a basic 100hp 1.5 petrol, the 2.0 available in 120hp and 175hp 'high power' versions both with 156lb ft of torque. That the latter comes at 4,000rpm says a lot about how Mazda expects it to be driven, pairing it with an MX-5 influenced short-shifting manual a promising combination even in a 'civilian' non-MPS version.
The 2.2 diesel, meanwhile, has 150hp (there is a 175hp version on the CX-5) and all 3s get a stiffer body with additional bracing and Skyactiv's renewed emphasis on lightweight construction. The steering is faster than before too, hopefully suggesting Mazda's typically lively dynamics should be present and correct.
Go on, let's have a proper banzai MPS one too...
Any news of an MPS version? Not yet but we'll keep our fingers crossed, the previous versions offering a most appealing combination dull looks and class-blitzing performance figures delivered through 'proper' locking diffs. OK, the dynamics never quite matched the on-paper promise but these sleepers have a deserved following among those in the know and the new one looks like a great basis for a successor. So we'll hope for some proper Zoom-Zoom in due course.