Phil Hedderman reviews the Mazda 3 1.6 ltr Diesel

By Phil Hedderman

With total sales nearing 2 million mark and and a trophy cabinet bulging with 90 car awards, I

knew this was gonna be a pretty good bus.

What I wasn’t prepared for was exactly how good the Mazda3 really is.

Now good can mean a multitude of things, but in the fickle world of motoring good is simple.

Good is practical.

Good is economical.

Good is comfort and, above all, Good is easy on the pocket.

Lets start with simple.

The key to simplicity is, erm, a key.

Hallelujah!

Can you believe it?

In this modern day of keyless entry push button start nonsense something a s simple as a key could make my day and restore my faith in humanity.

Earlier this year I was testing a luxury saloon in a secret location in Europe when the car stalled on the slipway to a busy motorway.

Frantically pressing the start button, nothing happened and a quick glance in the mirror told me I was dicing with death as a fully laden juggernaut hurtled toward me.

Put in neutral, check.

Handbrake on, check.

Three Hail Marys, check

Suddenly a mini miracle as it spluttered into life.

All of that for the sake of a fancy bloody button on the dash – no thank you.

Simple also came in the guise of a trip reset button.

For the first time in an age I climbed into a test car and didn’t need the assistance of a mini IT department to get the reading back to zero.

Safely ensconced inside the cockpit, the roomy dash cocoons the driver and the elevation of the gearshift gives this family saloon a real sporty feel.

Everything is literally at your fingertips and a routine familiarisation of all the gadgets and gizmos including CD and MP3 dock, is child’s play especially with the fool-proof digital display.

It tells you everything you need to know from what radio station to fuel consumption and even how many clicks are left before a visit to the pumps.

It even greets you in the morning with a ‘Hello’ and says a ‘Goodbye’ as you get out – unlike the missus!

There is oceans of legroom up front but this comes at a cost to the rear seat passengers who will find it a little cramped.

The rear door clearence is a bit tight to so if you’re hoping to slip something big and bulky like a boxed flat screen TV across the back seat it may prove difficult or in my case, impossible

That said, the passengers who’ll mainly occupy these seats are small ones so it shouldn’t be that much of an issue unless you’re a regulat at Powercity.

But it won’t be the leg room which will convince you – it’s the drive.

Nearly 99pc of buyers will make their mind up in the first couple of minutes behind the wheel.

That’s when the Mazda3 gets you hooked and reels you in.

Driveability, handling and the sturdy sense of safety makes time you spend in here thoroughly enjoyable.

This carriage is also jam-packed with passive safety technology including ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Emergency Stop Signaling system (ESS) as standard equipments, and bi-xenon headlights with a pivoting adaptive front lighting system (option).

New features include the Rear Vehicle Monitoring system (RVM), Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and Heated Wind Screen (option).

The whole experience is up there with the very best including Ireland’s favorite the Ford Focus.

That begs the question of how much Ford DNA pulses through the veins of the Mazda?

Well, not quiet enough as it falls just a little short of the master.

That said, it doesn’t falter with its green credentials and the MZ-CD 1.6-litre turbo diesel produces a more than capable 109 bhp while returning a very impressive 4.5 l/100 km  (50 plus MPG).

This sees her falling into Tax Band A with CO2 reading of 119 g/km- or to you and me €104 a year for road tax.

I personally clocked up 720 kms both around the city and on lons motorway spins before the reserve light came on.

That’s double that of your average driver which should translate into a fill a fortnight.

Welcome news in these dark, dark days.

Prices for the Mazda3 begin at €21,115.