Saturday 23 September 2017

Performance takes the mystery out of new Mazda 3

Declan O'Byrne Frankfurt

AS 'sneak previews' go, this one was surprisingly revealing . . . but at the same time unusually restrictive.

The fact that pictures and information on the new Mazda 3 had already been released in some European markets a few days beforehand created confusion especially as Mazda, somewhat cryptically, was keen to delay full, on-the-road evaluation of the car in other markets, including Ireland, until a certain deadline – this Friday, July 12 – had passed.

This may have had something to do with the fact that the cars provided in Germany last week were pre-production models. But whatever the intent, Mazda appeared determined that despite having summoned the motoring media, they should restrict it to conveying only a 'flavour' of the latest generation of its biggest ever seller.

Until July 12, that is . . .

Quite why the Japanese car-maker chose that date, or how it intended to retain an element of mystery surrounding the new '3', while allowing journalists full rein in its new small family compact over a 130-kilometre test route, comprising rural roads and autobahn, is puzzling, to say the least.

Mazda is hoping for a 50-50 body style sales mix between hatchback and saloon.

The new version will arrive in showrooms here in November, just ahead of the new 'split-year' sales drive in January.

The range will start from "just over €23,500" for the entry-level 1.5-litre petrol, but Mazda expects the bulk of sales in the mid- to high-spec sector. And most of these, it predicts, will be diesel in, possibly 1.6-litre but, definitely, in 2.2-litre turbo guise, manual and auto.

It is clearly being targeted, in terms of price and trim, at the Golf, to match VW's Comfortline to Trendline fit-out.

EQUIPMENT

It's clear, too, that the '3' will come with a high level of equipment including, depending on models, bluetooth and cruise control but more significantly state-of-the-art connectivity systems, including Wi-Fi and a raft of online and social media content and capability.

If we could, we would tell you that the '3' has a wraparound cabin 'cockpit' that is driver-friendly, if a little overwhelming at first, given the plethora of buttons and switches, while there's a little more largesse for the front seat passenger.

The grey interior is rather dull, while three adults in the rear might find their comfort zone somewhat restricted.

The car offers good economy of between 40 and 50mpg, the petrol version is a little noisier and a jot less punchy than we would have liked – and that we were impressed by the handling credentials and the performance of the 2.2-litre diesel.

But we can't...

Irish Independent

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