OIL-FIRED POWER IN UPMARKET MAZDA3

Mazda3_front

It’s a measure of the worth of diesel power in passenger vehicles over the past decade that Mazda has anointed its popular Mazda3 with an oil burner, the XD Astina.

Powered by a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine mated with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, the hatchback offers an attractive combination of performance and fuel efficiency – all at a cost of $940 below last year’s launch price.

With class-leading power output of 129 kW, and 420 Nm of torque, the diesel engine also takes i-Stop and i-Eloop, Mazda’s regenerative braking system, to help the manual version achieve fuel efficiency as low as 5.0 litres per 100km, an improvement of 12 per cent over the previous, less powerful, diesel engine.

Among price cuts this month across much of the Mazda3 range, the XD Astina manual, now at $39,290 and Astina automatic, $41,290, have both come down by $940.

STYLING
Up there in stylish street presence with the petrol-powered Mazda3 SP25 Astina, the new XD Astina holds its own with 18-inch bright alloy wheels, LED foglamps, a black painted lower rear bumper, a red accent around the front grille and black leather seats with suede trim.

Mazda3_rear

INFOTAINMENT
The present Mazda3 introduces head-up windscreen display, projecting driving information onto the windscreen directly in front of the driver without he or she having to look away from the road ahead.

The focal point is 1.5 metres in front of the driver’s eye point and requires minimal eye movement to focus. Info displayed includes vehicle speed, automatic cruise control speed settings, navigation turn-by-turn, plus various safety alerts among other things.

Aboard a Mazda3 for the first time is Commander control, which accesses vehicle systems via a knob and cluster of switches on the centre console linked to the 7-inch display screen on the central dashboard.

The system also allows, via a smartphone, access to Internet radio such as Aha, Pandora and Stitcher, and can read email and short messages aloud while the vehicle is in motion using text-to-voice technology.

It can also read aloud the latest Twitter tweets and Facebook news feed entries, and post audio messages using the Shout function and, being a high-end vehicle, a Bose premium audio system with Bose Centerpoint 2 virtual surround sound playback technology is fitted.

Mazda3_interior

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The engine, which puts out 129 kW of power at 4500 rpm and 420 Nm of torque at a reasonably low 2000 revs, makes use of a two-stage turbocharger. A small blower operates at low engine speeds, and alternates with the large turbo at mid-range speeds to maintain optimum boost. At higher speeds the large unit takes over to supply boost to the greater mass of air the system must handle.

This, coupled with a low compression ratio minimises exhaust emissions, while maintaining decent performance and fuel economy.

SAFETY
Standard safety equipment includes Dynamic Stability Control, Anti-lock Braking and Electronic Brake force Distribution, the Mazda XD Astina is also fitted with Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning, Radar Cruise Control, Smart Brake Support, Forward Obstruction Warning and Smart City Brake Support.

DRIVING
Gear ratios have been fashioned to manage the generous torque on tap resulting in snappy going off the mark, effortless overtaking and relaxed cruising at highway speeds.

Mazda claims the XD automatic is capable of getting diesel consumption down to 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle. That’s around what many petrol / electric hybrid vehicles manage.

The automatic test vehicle, chopped that to 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres cruising the motorway, but rose to seven litres-plus when tackling city traffic.

The car sat low and steady on the road despite being put through some rapid and harsh manoeuvres, reacting to steering input positively. Indeed, the XD Astina exhibited exemplary ride and handling characteristics, creating a calm cabin ambience.

SUMMING UP
First introduced in 2003, the Mazda3 has become a core element of the Japanese company’s sales with more than 3.9 million units let loose on roads around the world.

AT A GLANCE
Mazda3 XD Astina 6-speed manual: $39,290
Mazda3 XD Astina 6-speed automatic: $41,290
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Mazda dealer for drive-away prices.

FEATURES
2.0-litre diesel
Six-speed automatic
i-Stop engine start / stop
i-Eloop brake regeneration
Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert
High Beam Control
Lane Departure Warning
Radar Cruise Control
Smart Brake Support
Forward Obstruction Warning
Smart City Brake Support
Head-up windscreen display
Commander Control of vehicle systems via a centre console knob and switches
Reverse camera
Dynamic Stability Control
Anti-lock Braking and Electronic Brake force Distribution
18in alloy wheels
LED fog-lamps
Black leather seats with suede trim.

SPECIFICATIONS:
(2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel engine)
Capacity: 2191 cc
Configuration: 2.2 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16-valve intercooled common-rail electronic direct injection turbo-diesel (Skyactiv-D) with i-stop and i-Eloop
Bore / stroke: 86.0 / 94.3
Compression ratio: 14.0:1
Maximum Power: 129 kW @ 4500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 420 Nm @ 2000 rpm
Emissions: Euro 5

DRIVELINE:
Drivetrain: 6-speed manual / 6-speed automatic

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4460 mm
Width: 1795 mm
Height: 1470 mm
Wheelbase: 2700 mm
Track: 1555 mm (front); 1560 mm (rear)
Ground clearance: 155 mm
Kerb weight: 1448 kg (manual); 1465 kg (auto)
Seating capacity: 5
Cargo capacity: N/A
Fuel Tank Capacity: 51 litres
Turning circle: 10.6 m

SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Suspension: MacPherson strut (front); multilink (rear)
Brakes: Ventilated discs (front); solid discs (rear). ABS anti-skid brake system with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control. Traction Control
Steering: Electric power assisted rack and pinion
Wheels / tyres: Alloy 18 x 7J / 215/45 R18; temporary spare T125/70 D16

PERFORMANCE
Acceleration 0 to 100 km/h: N/A
Top speed: N/A

FUEL CONSUMPTION:
Fuel type: Diesel
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 5.0 / 5.2 litres per 100 km. CO2 emissions 129 / 137 g / km

GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 8.0 / 10
Air Pollution Rating: 6.0 / 10

WARRANTY:
Three years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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