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FUN BOY THREE; Slimmer Mazda a real belter.

Byline: Paul Myles

WE are all having to tighten our belts these days so Mazda is putting its whole range on a diet, starting with the Mazda3.

The car maker says this is part of its programme to lower weight across all models by 100kg for 2015.

And it all begins with the new 1.6-litre MX-CD diesel, which is flying the flag for oil-burners in the face of smaller high-output petrol engines.

This model comes with a new variable-geometry turbocharger and revised fuel injection, bringing it into Euro 5 compliance with a claimed combined fuel economy of 64.2mpg and emissions of 117g/km.

The MX-CD diesel has a slick six-speed manual gearbox to get the most out of the wider spread of pulling power between 1,750 and 2,700rpm.

Mazda has turned the clock back with a simplified engine, dropping the 16-valve double overhead camshaft arrangement in favour of a low-friction two-valve single overhead camshaft head on an aluminium block.

This weight saving goes much of the way to the new 3 shedding 15kg over the outgoing model and helps keep the handling sports-orientated.

The new Mazda3, available only as a hatchback in the UK, adopts the Mazda face with a striking new front grille in a bid to give the car a sporty look to match its performance aspirations on the road.

The six-speed gearbox, though a little sloppy in action, is light to use, keeps revs down and the cabin quiet when cruising at motorway speeds. Cornering can be fun and quite brisk thanks mainly to several improvements that have been made to both the chassis and suspension.

The extra tautness is due to a strengthened cross member between the front suspension, revised linkages and stiffened body joints.

Accommodation is rather generous, with bags of space for up to five adults and a healthy boot area of 340 litres, swelling to a huge 1,360 litres with the rear seats folded.

The Mazda3 is reassuringly robust in the cabin too, with soft-touch plastics widely used throughout while the driver is cosseted with a cockpit layout that groups the front dash controls according to their function.

Standard equipment is also impressive, with the entry-level TS model listing powered mirrors, reach and rake adjustable steering, air conditioning, safety features including stability and traction control and anti-lock brakes with brake assist plus four-speaker hi-fi with an auxiliary jack plug for MP3 players.

Of course, Mazda will offer other power-trains including a 2.2-litre diesel with 150 and 185 power output options, and a MZR 1.6-litre petrol engine churning out 105.

With prices starting at a reasonable pounds 16,505 for the diesel, the Mazda3 is sound value at a time when we all need to keep finances in trim shape.

Model of vehicle

Engine 1.6MX-CD

Power 113bhp

Top Speed 115mph

0-60mph 11secs

Economy 64mpg(claim)

Insurance 5

Price pounds 16,505
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Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 17, 2011
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