Mazda increases appeal of the 3 with a smaller oil burner

IT IS something of a mystery to me why Mazda is what might be termed a serial underperformer in sales terms here in Ireland.

Mazda increases appeal of the 3 with a smaller oil burner

The company has a fantastic range of products, but its market performance appears mystifying in the face of having a model line-up which is the equal of, if not superior to, anything anyone else has to offer.

But the marque — to the end of May this year — recorded just 1,978 units registered in Ireland to be only the 15th best-selling brand operating here. VW registered 10,741.

That it is being out-sold by premium segment car makers like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes seems to be something of an indictment of Mazda’s overall performance and while the company has long acknowledged that there are large holes in its countrywide dealer network — there is no dealer in Cork city, for example — it still seems strange that sales numbers no where near match the quality of the product it offers.

Look through the range Mazda offer and you will see a line-up in which there is something for everyone from superminis, through a raft of family hatchbacks, saloons and estates, a couple of crossovers and the legendary MX-5. And those cars are, by and large, so good you’d have to think Mazda should be selling truckloads of them. But they are not.

I know Mazda here is frustrated by this and does madly want to sell many more cars and I would love to see them do so — simply because the quality of the product. Mazda appears to be something of a hidden secret.

It is to be hoped, then, that the car we test here, the Mazda 3 — which is the company’s best-seller anyway, albeit at 51st in the sales charts with 579 sold to the end of May — with a new 1.5 litre turbodiesel engine, could go a long way towards addressing some of the market penetration issues which seem to have bedevilled the brand.

Previously the 3 was only available with a 1.5 petrol and a 2.2 diesel and, you’d have to admit that that was not an ideal engine mix if you’re trying to rack up big sales figures. The diesel was too big and the petrol not popular enough with the buying public. The growing antipathy towards diesels will mean a few more petrol sales, but the arrival of the smaller diesel engine will certainly broaden appeal.

Diesel still accounts for about 70% of total sales in this country and even if that trend is reversed slightly in the coming months as the public taste for oil-burners declines, there will still be a hell of a lot of diesel sales and with this new engine Mazda is in a good place to capitalise.

The 3 is an excellent car to drive, it is spacious, practical and economic and well kitted out too. The 1.5 engine is the same as we’ve already seen in the CX-3 and while it is not the most powerful unit on the block (output is just 105 bhp and torque is a modest 270 Nm between 1,750 and 2,500) it is very smooth, quiet and economic.

The top speed will not shock at 188 kph, but the 11.8 second 0-100 kph time is not bad for the class and while you might find the claimed 3.8 l/100 km (73 mpg) consumption rate a bit optimistic, you should reasonably clock 5.0 l/100 km (56 mpg) in mixed driving. The emission level of 99 g/km for an annual tax bill of €180 will also suit many punters.

We tested the GT spec. which adds a host of goodies to the mix including leather seats, 7” touchscreen, cruise control, 18” alloys, dual zone air con. and a raft of other stuff, but also brings the price up by over seven grand from the entry level cost of €22,995, so it might not be the most popular choice in the range. This then is a lovely looking, lovely to live with and easy on the pocket motor car and one which should be a whole lot more popular than it has been. Undoubtedly the addition of the new, smaller diesel, will bring more buyers in and that, frankly, is no less than this excellent car deserves.

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