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Car group tests

Mazda 3 vs Volkswagen Golf

As diesel and petrol prices level out, which fuel is the best? We pitch the new 1.5-litre diesel Mazda 3 against VW’s petrol Golf

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?

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Best hatchbacks to buy right now

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?

Head-to-head

Efficiency

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.

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.

Design

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.

Equipment

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.

Verdict

First place: Volkswagen Golf

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.

Second place: Mazda 3

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.

Other options for similar money...

Petrol: Vauxhall Astra 1.0T Elite Nav

Price: £20,015Engine: 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.

Diesel: SEAT Leon 1.6 TDI SE Tech

Price: £21,475Engine: 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.

Figures

 VW Golf 1.0 TSI (115) DSG Match BlueMotion EditionMazda 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%
Depreciation£12,094£13,496
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/cost14/£506/A/£016/£413/A/£0
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£288 (2yrs)£207/£286/£287
   
Length/wheelbase4,255/2,637mm4,465/2,700mm
Height/width1,452/1,799mm1,465/1,795mm
Engine3cyl in-line/999cc4cyl in-line/1,499cc
Peak power/revs113/5,000 bhp/rpm104/4,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs200/2,000 Nm/rpm270/1,600 Nm/rpm
Transmission7-spd auto/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/repair kit51 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down)380/1,270 litres364/1,263 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,233/572/1,000kg1,345/450/1,300kg
Turning circle10.9 metres11.3 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/22312,500 miles (1yr)/170
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.22nd/30th9th/15th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars94/89/65/5 (2012)93/86/65/5 (2013)
   
0-60/30-70mph9.4/8.9 secs11.3/12.1 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.4/4.3 secs4.6/6.2 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th6.5/8.6/10.3 secs9.4/13.5 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph127mph/2,400rpm115mph/2,100rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph49.2/32.9/10.8m52.1/32.8/9.4m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph60/41/61/63dB62/46/60/68dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range42.2/9.3/464 miles47.4/10.4/532 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined53.3/74.3/65.7mpg65.7/80.7/74.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined11.7/16.3/14.5mpl14.5/17.8/16.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket155/99g/km/14%160/99g/km/17%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSeven/yes/yes/£165Six/yes/yes/yes
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise controlYes/yes/yes£1,200/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seats£415/£2,115/yesYes/no/yes
Met paint/xenon lights/keyless go£540/£820/no£540/yes/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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