Mazda: 2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited hatch review

Mazda: 2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited hatch review

There have been previous diesel versions of the Mazda3 available in global markets but sensibly the New Zealand distributor held back from local sale until there was an automatic transmission available, as previously only a manual transmission had been available with the oiler engines.

2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited engineIt is well known that New Zealand passenger car buyers prefer an automatic transmission with their diesel engine, and most also want a high level of specification, which again Mazda New Zealand has delivered.

We had the pleasure of spending some time with the Mazda3 SP22 Limited hatch which is equipped with the Skyactiv-D turbo diesel engine over the Christmas New Year period, and although we didn’t venture particularly far from home, it was more than 2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited interior 3enough time to enjoy the many features and benefits of this car.

Spec

The SP22 Limited Skyactiv-D hatch mirrors the specification of the SP25 Limited petrol version with a few minor trim differences, the most obvious being the suede and black leather seat trim, rather than full leather.

That said the seats are very comfortable to sit on but the velour does attract dust however a quick hoover with the vacuum cleaner renders them as good as new. Both front seats are heated and the driver’s seat has six-way power adjustment with adjustable lumbar support as well.

Being a Limited this model benefitted from all of Mazdas iActivsense technology which included the active cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert (worth its weight in gold in supermarket car parks), smart city brake support, distance recognition support system, head up display (or active driving display in Mazda-speak), forward obstruction warning, and smart brake support.

2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited front onThe SP22 Limited is also equipped with the adaptive front lighting system for the bi-xenon headlamps, as well as LED daytime running lights, LED rear tail lamps, LED fog lamps, heated power mirrors, and a power tilt/slide glass sunroof.

You’ve also got dual climate air-conditioning as well as Mazda’s MZD connect infotainment system with the multifunction commander control, through which you can control the bluetooth audio and telephony and run internet apps such as Pandora, Stitcher, and Aha.

The satellite navigation system has live traffic capability and it startled me a little once day on the motorway by randomly announcing “town entry point, town entry point” as we passed a city exit.

Other features include paddle shift gear control for the automatic transmission, keyless entry and start system, a Bose Centrepoint 2 audio system with 9 speakers, 18-inch alloy wheels with 215/45 tyres, and the hatch gets a shark fin antenna.

One further differentiation, the SP22 Limited has a strip of red chrome around the five-point grille to indicate its the diesel version rather than a petrol.

Inside

2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited interior 1Many manufacturers have made the fatuous claim that their cockpits have the feel of a fighter aircraft, and that the driver is embraced by ergonomic design to put him or her at one with the car.

Mazda makes no such claim, but actually does deliver a driver-centric cockpit which is further enhanced by the active driving display which not only displays the speed being travelled but also the distance between you and the car in front.

2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited rear seatsThere is plenty of room in the cabin for four passengers on a long journey and five for a shorter journey and plenty of room in the hatch for all their luggage.

We managed to get four large Kiwi-sized blokes in the car, plus a 96-litre chilly bin, six bags of ice, a platter of potato salad, enough alcoholic beverages to stock a hotel, and a humungous bag of pre-cooked sausages in the boot with room to spare.

Folding the rear seats down also easily allowed me to fit a full size mountain bike in the back without having to remove one of 2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited rear 3:4the wheels, so the SP22 will easily do double duty as a load carrier when required.

Power

Theres a school of thought that asks why you would purchase a small diesel passenger vehicle given the inequity of our Road User Charges system, that sees them charged the same amount as a 3.5 tonne light commercial vehicle.

The answer is quite simply, economy and drivability. Once 2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited speedoyou’ve gotten used to the torquey nature of a turbo diesel engine, a small capacity petrol engine feels anaemic by comparison.

The Skyactive-D 2.2-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine in the SP22 Limited produces 129 kilowatts of power at 4500 rpm, and 420 Newton metres of torque at 2000 rpm, which thanks to the gearing of the six-speed Skyactiv automatic transmission means that maximum power is never far away.

And an average fuel consumption figure of 5.2L/100km is not to be dismissed lightly. Mazda’s i-Eloop regenerative braking 2014 Mazda3 SP22 Limited front 3:4technology and the i-stop stop/start system also assist the car’s fuel efficiency.

It may take a millisecond or two to spool up, but once the turbo diesel comes on song, theres plenty of power for overtaking manoeuvres or for scorching away from the traffic lights, leaving other motorists in your wake.

For the record, we averaged around 6 to 7L/100km in many urban running, so perhaps we were enjoying the engine’s ability just a bit too much.

Experience

Petrol prices will most likely never be lower than than the sub $2 a litre mark we have seen at the end of 2014, and certainly diesel prices have fallen as well. Filling up the Mazda3 Limited Skyactive diesel when the tank was 3/4 empty set us back the princely sum of $47.00.

It is highly likely that we won’t enjoy the benefit of cheaper fuel for long, and this is where fuel efficient diesel cars such as the Mazda3 will become more popular as motorists seek to get as much distance from a tank of fuel as they possibly can.

Just like its petrol siblings which we reviewed in September last year (review here )the SP22 Limited hatch is a very pleasant drive, regardless of whether you are crawling through city traffic or having a bit of fun on a winding rural road.

It has the sharp handling and fun-to-drive dynamics that you expect from the brand that brought you “Jinba ittai” which literally translates to ‘person and horse as one body’ or in Mazdas case, car and human becoming as one, a philosophy that started with the Mazda MX-5 and has morphed through the other car lines.

Verdict

The Mazda SP22 Limited joins an ever growing market of well equipped diesel-powered hatches, its closest competitors include the Peugeot 308 HDi Allure ($38,990) the Ford Focus Trend TDci ($36,400), the Skoda Octavia Elegance TDI ($41,500), and the ubiquitous VW Golf TDi Highine ($43,990). You could also add the Mercedes-Benz A 200 CDI at $54,900 into the mix as well.

Yes the Mazda is considerably more expensive than all but the Benz, but it is also considerably better equipped, particularly the iActivesense safety technologies, and it also comes with the three year Mazdacare package which means all servicing costs are taken care of.

It may not be everyones cup of tea, but the SP22 Limited stacks up as a well equipped car that will appeal to drivers wanting a sporty car with a frugal diesel engine.

 

Price $49,195 plus on road charges.

Pros:

  • Beautifully appointed and finished vehicle
  • Great fun to drive
  • Diesel engine has tonnes of character

Cons:

  • Having to pay RUC

 

Words and pictures:

 

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