As a result of oil prices falling on stock markets across the globe, the cost of buying a new car in the UK has dropped. In addition, the price of diesel has fallen at a greater rate than petrol, so drivers pay a similar amount for both fuels at the pumps. That’s great news – but does the parity between the two cancel out their respective advantages?
To find out, this diesel versus petrol test pitches a pair of efficient new models head-to-head. First up is the Mazda 3, now with 1.5-litre diesel power. The new engine has 104bhp and emits 99g/km of CO2, while the top-spec Sport Nav model is generously equipped.
Our second car is the latest Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion, which uses a 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder petrol engine. It also emits 99g/km of CO2, plus it’s free from the stigma of the VW Group’s Dieselgate scandal. Can the Mazda come out on top in this test, or does the petrol BlueMotion make more sense?
Both cars have gone on a diet to help boost economy. The Mazda uses SkyActiv technology to save weight and features a low-drag body for better efficiency.
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The Golf features lowered suspension and smoother bodywork to achieve a similar result, while adding a DSG gearbox doesn’t penalise the car’s 99g/km CO2 emissions.
Mazda’s design philosophy means its cars have a racy look, so the 3 is far more dramatic than the Golf. What’s more, you can have the 1.5 diesel in Fastback saloon guise for the same price as the hatch, although you can’t go for this bodystyle with an auto gearbox.
Sport Nav trim is loaded with kit, and even going for a lesser-spec SE-L Nav gives you equipment similar to the Golf’s. The Match BlueMotion is the only trim on offer, while VW has boosted kit across the range by adding the Edition pack to all of its models.
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Volkswagen’s Golf Match BlueMotion Edition proves that you don’t have to go diesel if you want an efficient and tax-friendly family car. The way the UK’s tax structure currently works means the Golf is a cheaper company car choice than the 3, while the three-cylinder engine has enough power that you’ll forget it’s is a low-emissions model. Plus, it offers plenty of kit and is great to drive.
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The 1.5-litre diesel is a reasonable performer, but it does feel a little underpowered in the 3, and you have to work it hard to keep pace. Yet that’s no hardship, and the Mazda is a great-handling hatch. Sport Nav trim brings lots of kit, although it seems pricey, especially as the 2.2 diesel is only £850 more. The 1.5 makes more sense in a lesser spec, where the price difference is greater.
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 104bhp
At this price point, the Golf is the only sub-100g/km petrol hatch on sale, but the Astra emits only 102g/km of CO2, plus the Elite Nav version is well equipped for less. Add a refined drive and top-quality cabin, and it’s well worth considering.
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 109bhp
The Leon rivals the 3 for engaging handling and sharp looks, while SE Technology trim brings essentials like sat-nav, DAB radio and LED lights. Emissions of 94g/km and a lower list price mean company car costs are cheaper, too.
|VW Golf 1.0 TSI (115) DSG Match BlueMotion Edition||Mazda 3 1.5D Sport Nav|
|On the road price/total as tested||£21,910/£22,550||£21,945/£22,485|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)||£9,816/44.8%||£8,449/38.5%|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£612/£1,224||£744/£1,489|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£1,321/£2,202||£1,181/£1,968|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||14/£506/A/£0||16/£413/A/£0|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£288 (2yrs)||£207/£286/£287|
|Engine||3cyl in-line/999cc||4cyl in-line/1,499cc|
|Peak power/revs||113/5,000 bhp/rpm||104/4,000 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque/revs||200/2,000 Nm/rpm||270/1,600 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||7-spd auto/fwd||6-spd man/fwd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||50 litres/repair kit||51 litres/repair kit|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||380/1,270 litres||364/1,263 litres|
|Turning circle||10.9 metres||11.3 metres|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (60,000)/1yr||3yrs (60,000)/3yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||Variable/223||12,500 miles (1yr)/170|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||22nd/30th||9th/15th|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||94/89/65/5 (2012)||93/86/65/5 (2013)|
|0-60/30-70mph||9.4/8.9 secs||11.3/12.1 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||3.4/4.3 secs||4.6/6.2 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th||6.5/8.6/10.3 secs||9.4/13.5 secs/N/A|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||127mph/2,400rpm||115mph/2,100rpm|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||42.2/9.3/464 miles||47.4/10.4/532 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||155/99g/km/14%||160/99g/km/17%|
|Auto gearbox/stability/cruise control||Yes/yes/yes||£1,200/yes/yes|
|Climate control/leather/heated seats||£415/£2,115/yes||Yes/no/yes|
|Met paint/xenon lights/keyless go||£540/£820/no||£540/yes/yes|