How things change. Touting a turbo-diesel as a halo hot-hatch a decade ago would have been unthinkable but Mazda has done just this with the new Mazda 3 XD Astina, planting the flag on the latest Everest for oil burners.
This Mazda3 sets out to combine performance with fuel efficiency, with the 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D diesel engine, mated with either a six-speed SkyActiv manual or a six-speed SkyActiv automatic transmission, the auto diesel being a first-time offering on a Mazda3.
Offered in hatchback form only, the new XD Astina carries the same extensive list of equipment as the petrol-powered SP25 Astina, with the newbie set apart by shadow chrome finished 18-inch alloy wheels, LED fog-lamps, black painted lower rear bumper, red accent around the front grille and black leather seats with suede trim.
In addition to a full complement of safety features including airbags, reversing camera, Dynamic Stability Control, Anti-lock Braking and Electronic Brake force Distribution, the XD Astina is also fitted with the full suite of technologies including Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning, Radar Cruise Control, Smart Brake Support, Forward Obstruction Warning and Smart City Brake Support.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSIONS
The new turbodiesel shows an improvement of up to 12 per cent in fuel efficiency over the previous engine. Engine stop-start technology and Mazda’s brake energy regeneration are partly responsible for this advance.
The engine, which puts out 129kW of power and 420Nm of torque makes use of two staged turbochargers – one small, one large. The 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. Optimum oxygen is thus applied at combustion. This, coupled with a low compression ration minimises exhaust emissions, while maintaining performance and fuel economy.
A further boost to fuel economy is supplied by the stop/start system fitted to all Mazda3s, which automatically cuts out the engine after the vehicle comes to a stop. When the brake is released, fuel is injected into the cylinder to quickly restart the engine.
Gear ratios have been fashioned to manage the heft of torque on tap at a low 2000rpm, plus peak power at 4500revs, resulting in snappy going off the mark, effortless overtaking and unfettered cruising at highway speeds.
This was borne out by a responsive yet relaxed performance on typical Tasmanian terrain. Mazda claims the XD is capable of getting down to diesel consumption of 5.0L/100km on the combined urban/highway cycle, that’s around what many petrol-electric hybrid vehicles manage.
Manual and automatic versions of vehicles came within a cat’s lick of one another, showing 7.8L/100km (manual) and 7.7 (auto). These numbers are more than 50 per cent over the official numbers, a hefty increase although the test drive program during the media launch did include some hard driving on damp and dry country roads.
The car sat low and steady on the road despite being put through some rapid and harsh manoeuvres, reacting to steering input with aplomb. Indeed, throughout the run, the XD Astina exhibited exemplary ride and handling characteristics, with tyre noise one of the few intrusions into a calm cabin ambience.