From £14,805
Mid-life revisions improve the Mazda 3’s dynamics and reduce NVH still further, but the 2.2 diesel lacks sparkle

Our Verdict

Mazda 3 2009-2012
Mazda's family hatch aims to close the gap to the Focus and Golf

The Mazda 3 hatchback is superbly refined and a more competitive package now previous faults are fixed

  • First Drive

    Mazda 3 2.2D 185 Sport

    Mid-life revisions improve the Mazda 3’s dynamics and reduce NVH still further, but the 2.2 diesel lacks sparkle
  • First Drive

    Mazda 3 MPS BBR 320

    Brackley-based tuning specialist BBR has a long history of working with Mazda’s MX-5, and the firm has now launched a three-stage tuning programme for the 3 MPS
4 February 2012

What is it?

The current Mazda 3 only launched in 2009, but with the number of able rivals in the C-segment, it was easily overlooked. The latest revisions seek to play the Focus and Golf at their own game by improving the 3’s already-impressive dynamics.

Key to these improvements is what Mazda calls ‘Toitsukan’, which describes a consistent and linear feel. That might sounds like marketing doublespeak, but there’s truth in it. The 3 is easy to drive smoothly, with nicely weighted and keen steering, well damped suspension and the best gearshift in its class.

Mazda has tweaked the electric-hydraulic power steering and MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension systems. Combined with improved torsional stiffness and new damping settings, the dynamics are nearer the class best than ever. Although the second-generation Mazda 3 was always a refined car, particularly with a diesel powertrain, the facelift has brought further NVH improvements.

What’s it like?

The slightly revised high-power 2.2-litre diesel develops 188bhp, but needs to be pushed to get the best from it. With a 0-62mph of 8.2secs – a second less than the 148bhp version of the same engine – the difference is noticeable.

Mazda quotes an average of 52.3mpg, but it’s worth noting our test average on the motorway and in rush hour London traffic struggled to climb above 41mpg. Co2 emissions of 149g/km fall just inside the £130 a year band, not helped by a lack of start-stop. By comparison, the latest Honda Civic – also fitted with a 2.2-litre engine, albeit developing 148bhp – records an official average of 67.3mpg and 110g/km.

Interior changes amount to minor tweaks but the car’s solidity remains, even if some plastics feel cheap. The silver lower centre console is now black, and the dials and controls now have rings making them easier to locate. The LCD graphics of the secondary information displays are now white and clearer.

Should I buy one?

The revisions to the Mazda 3 amount to little more than a mid-life refresh, but improve the car’s dynamics to heights not yet scaled. The question is, do buyers need the big power 2.2, even if it is well priced compared to the rivals.

Stuart Milne

Mazda 3 2.2d 185 Sport

Price: £20,895; Top speed: 132mph; 0-62mph: 8.2secs; Economy: 52.3mpg; Co2: 149g/km; Kerbweight: 1390kg; Engine type, cc: 4cyl in-line turbocharged diesel, 2184cc; Power: 188bhp; Torque: 295lb ft; Gearbox: 6spd manual.

Join the debate

Comments
17

9 February 2012

Is this the new high compression SkyActiv diesel engine? Expected better of it if so.

9 February 2012

[quote March1]Is this the new high compression SkyActiv diesel engine? Expected better of it if so.[/quote]

No, I don't think so. It appears to be the "old" 2.2 lump as used in the Mazda6.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

9 February 2012

[quote March1]Is this the new high compression SkyActiv diesel engine?[/quote]Surely the SkyActive diesel has a low compression ratio engine, 14:1, It is the SkyActive petrol that has a very high ratio that is the same as the diesel.

The Co2 rating for this car is poor compared to competitors nowadays.

9 February 2012

[quote Maxycat]Surely the SkyActive diesel has a low compression ratio engine, 14:1, It is the SkyActive petrol that has a very high ratio that is the same as the diesel.[/quote]

Oops, yes! Thanks for the correction!

9 February 2012

This isn't their new sky-activ - this is their 2.2 diesel that's been around probably 3 or 4 years now - as Teg said the first time it was seen was in the Mazda 6 replacing the old 2.0.

If they fit the 175bhp twin turbo 2.2 diesel (skyactiv) in to the Mazda 3 it'll be incredible - I'm a real fan of the 3 and with the right engine it's the best car in the segment I feel.

9 February 2012

Oih, shouldn't the 3 now be having a 3 cylinder engine?

9 February 2012

I've always thought this generation 3 a rather fussy, over-blinged design. I prefer the simpler, classier look of the previous model.

9 February 2012

I can't understand why the performance numbers are so weak for a 188 hp 2.2. My BMW 320D Touring is bigger and heavier than this Mazda, has a smaller 2.0L engine with significantly lower horsepower and torque numbers, and yet has 10 mph more top speed and quicker acceleration.

9 February 2012

[quote catnip]

I've always thought this generation 3 a rather fussy, over-blinged design. I prefer the simpler, classier look of the previous model.

[/quote]

To me, the current 3 looks like this:

Remember the old 323s used to look like coupes?

9 February 2012

I imagine there is a lot of torque steer, but then again, this must be an unexpected little motorway weapon.

I've always thought the Mazda3 with this engine a very underrated car.

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