Mazda3 2.2 Sport Diesel 185PS review
by David Finlay (12 July 2012)
With the exception of the high-performance MPS, which is a whole nother story, this is the hottest Mazda3 there is. Its 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine is available in two forms, one of them producing 148bhp and the one under consideration here pushing out a maximum of 183bhp (or, as the car's name suggests, 185PS in metric).
No other non-MPS 3 comes close to this, and what with that and the fact that the word Sport appears in the title you might be led to believe that this car is something of a hot hatch. I mean, after all, Sport, eh? Stands to reason.
Well, no. Sport is simply the name Mazda gives to the highest of the three trim levels in this range (and the only one available with this engine), and it ought not to be taken too seriously. It would also be wise to avoid jumping to certain conclusions from the starting point of that 183bhp power figure. Strong straightline performance can undoubtedly be had, but you need to press the accelerator pedal down quite far to find it, and there's not much else about the car which would encourage you to do this.
In other words, this is one of quite a number of powerful diesels on the market whose full potential is unlikely to be realised except in a few very specific situations, such as when you need to zip past a slower-moving vehicle.
And I don't have a problem with any of this. The 185PS Sport is not a sporty car at all, but it is an easy one to drive, which is just fine by me.
The weight of the diesel engine is always apparent, and it means that the car is happier travelling in a straight line or round a very mild curve than tackling anything tighter. But it rides well, and the damping is good enough to prevent any serious choppiness on badly-surfaced roads.
For a car that can do the 0-62mph sprint in just over eight seconds, this one is also pretty economical. The official combined figure is 52.3mpg, and over the course of a well-travelled week I came very close to that without really trying. The trip computer said I'd gone through the first tankful of diesel (driving in town, on A-roads and along motorways) at an average of 49.8mpg, but that might be pessimistic since my own measurements suggested 50.6mpg.
The new 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel introduced at the start of January 2011 and reviewed here is of course much more economical, though also quite a bit slower, and any 3 fitted with it is cheaper to buy than the 185PS Sport. It makes much more financial sense to go for the 1.6, but if the budget allows for it there is an obvious appeal to this model. Although it's not exciting enough for me to have missed it when it was taken away from me, I would have been perfectly happy to hold on to it for a great deal longer.