First report: cabin, kit and gearbox make big impression as the Mazda 3 hatch joins our fleetVerdict4We can’t wait to dive into Mazda 3 ownership, and are looking forward to finding out more about its innovative engine. We’ve already been impressed by the new Japanese hatchback’s interior and kit.
This week I said hello to my new fleet car, a Mazda 3 hatchback. It’s quite a big change from what I was running previously – a Volkswagen Touareg – so my motoring life is about to change significantly.
In some ways, the 3 couldn’t be further from my old car: it’s a family hatch rather than an SUV, it’s petrol rather than diesel, and it’s manual rather than automatic. But that’s the beauty of running a fleet car for Auto Express: I get to try all sorts of models.
• Mazda 6 long-term test review
My new Mazda 3, which I collected from Mazda’s head office in Dartford, Kent, is one of the most interesting new cars on sale, too. That’s because it has the new Skyactiv-X petrol engine, which is a really clever evolution of the internal combustion engine. Most of the time it runs using compression like a diesel engine, but it can seamlessly switch to normal spark ignition if needed. The idea is that it should bring the efficiency of a diesel motor with the driveability and refinement of a petrol.
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It’s also a mild hybrid – it has a system that recovers energy and converts it into electric charge to give a small boost to efficiency. We’ll delve deeper into the engine in a future report, once we’ve got to grips with it. After all, thanks to a small delay in delivery of the car, I’ve spent very little time behind the wheel so far.
In the time I have shared with the Mazda, I’ve mostly been in awe of its interior, which is instantly impressive – it took me no time at all to work out that I really like it.
The materials inside look really upmarket and the build quality is superb, too. I’ve come out of a car with a huge infotainment screen, so the 8.8-inch unit in the Mazda is smaller than I’m used to, but it looks really classy with its black-and-white interface. As a photographer, I’m certainly partial to a monochrome look. I also really like the rim of the steering wheel – it’s just the right thickness and feels great in my hands – and the seat bolsters are spot on, too.
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I’m also a big fan of the way the latest Mazda 3 looks on the outside. Its sleek headlights, bright paintwork and imposing front grille mean I’m looking forward to photographing it in 2020.
My new car is in GT Sport trim, which means it gets lots of equipment as standard. The one option fitted to it is Soul Red Crystal metallic paint, which costs £790, and I think it looks brilliant, as you’ll no doubt agree.
My car comes with 18-inch alloys, LED headlights, heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone air-conditioning, keyless go, adaptive cruise control, blind- spot monitoring and AEB as standard. This means that even though I’ve come into the Mazda from a much more expensive Touareg, I’m not left wanting for any equipment – everything I need is here.
But that’s not to say I don’t have some questions and concerns about my new car. I carry lots of photography gear, car-washing kit and family members around every day, so I need plenty of interior space.
The Mazda 3 is one of the smaller cars I’ve run recently, so will its 358-litre boot be enough? Even if you fold the seats down, there’s only 1,019 litres, which looks on the small side on paper. Part of a long-term test is going beyond the figures and finding out what it’s really like, though; some cars feel smaller than their figures suggest, while others seem larger. I’m hoping the Mazda is in the latter camp.
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I’m also wondering if the Mazda will be able to provide the kind of fuel economy I’m used to, because I mostly run diesel cars. I do a lot of motorway miles, so I’m interested to see if the clever Skyactiv-X engine really can bring diesel-like running costs. It’ll also need to be quiet at speed to keep me relaxed.
Finally, it doesn’t have a turbo, so I’m keen to find out if it has enough torque. With 178bhp, it’s plenty powerful enough, but to me the torque figure of 224Nm looks quite low. Having spent a little time behind the wheel, it seems to need working quite hard to keep speed up – I have to change down to fourth to overtake on the motorway, for example. I must say I do already love the Mazda’s manual gearbox, though.
I can’t wait to find out more about the 3; I’m already loving just sitting in the cabin and settling into my new car.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.
- Model: Mazda 3 180PS Skyactiv-X GT Sport
- On fleet since: December 2019
- Price new: £26,675
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol, 178bhp
- CO2/tax: 103g/km/£145
- Options: Metallic paint (£790)
- Insurance*: Group: 23/Quote: £391
- Mileage: 3,269
- Economy: 48.7mpg (official)
- Any problems?: None so far
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