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by Tim Beissmann
Ford Focus TDCi vs Hyundai i30 SLX CRDi vs Mazda3 MZR-CD vs Peugeot 308 1.6 XS HDi

Model overview

 

  • Ford Focus TDCi hatch six-speed sequential – $29,790
  • Hyundai i30 SLX CRDi hatch four-speed automatic – $28,390
  • Mazda3 MZR-CD hatch six-speed manual – $29,230
  • Peugeot 308 1.6 XS HDi EGC hatch six-speed sequential – $29,990

 

As Australian motorists have searched for more fuel-efficient vehicles over the past couple of years, two markets have increased considerably in popularity: small cars, and diesels. Unsurprisingly, combining the two gives you some of the most practical, affordable and environmentally friendly motoring available. Small cars made up 40 percent of the passenger car market in 2010 (excluding SUVs), up more than two percent compared with 2008. Similarly, diesels now account for one in every 13 passenger cars sold, up from around one in every 17 sold in 2008.

This comparison puts the four small diesel hatches available under $30,000 in Australia up against each other. (Keen observers of the market will note the Volkswagen Golf 77TDI is not included. This is because Volkswagen Australia no longer offers the five-speed manual variant as of the 2011 Model Year, meaning the most inexpensive diesel-powered Golf now comes with the seven-speed DSG transmission and a $31,190 pricetag, blowing this comparison’s $30k cap.) Each variant under the spotlight here is the model closest to the price limit, meaning there is just a $1600 difference between the cheapest car (Hyundai i30 SLX CRDi) and the most expensive (Peugeot 308 1.6 XS HDi).

Sales-wise, the Mazda3 is the popular choice, with 39,003 sold in total in 2010 (all models, not just diesel). The i30 is the bolter in the group – with 29,772 units in 2010, its sales and market share have almost tripled since 2008. The 308 sells in much lower numbers than the others, and suffered a further hit last year. Sales dropped more than 500 units to 2827 for the past 12 months. The story is even bleaker for the Focus, which has fallen from the heights of more than 15,000 sales in 2008 to less than 10,000 in 2010.

But sales figures only tell you what other people are buying. To find out which small sub-$30,000 diesel hatch is the one for you, the following comparison will help.

 

Engine and performance

Ford Focus TDCi Hyundai i30 SLX CRDi Mazda3 MZR-CD Peugeot 308 1.6 XS HDi
Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Maximum power 100kW@4000rpm 85kW@4000rpm 110kW@3500rpm 82kW@3600rpm
Maximum torque 320Nm@2000rpm 255Nm@1900rpm 360Nm@1800rpm 270Nm@1750rpm
Transmission Six-speed sequential Four-speed automatic Six-speed manual Six-speed sequential
Acceleration 0-100km/h 9.4 seconds (unofficial) Circa 11 seconds (unofficial) 9.2 seconds (unofficial) 11.4 seconds

If you’re looking for a diesel that doesn’t make sacrifices in performance, the Mazda3 is your best option. It is equipped with the largest engine of the lot, and even has more power than the 2.0-litre petrol unit also offered in the Mazda3 range. At 110kW of power and 360Nm of torque, it is 10kW/40Nm clear of its closest rival, the Focus, and a noticeable 28kW/90Nm beyond the 308. Those looking for a sporting drive will be content with the six-speed manual transmission, although those hoping for a self-shifter continue to be disappointed, with no automatic option available for the Mazda3 MZR-CD. Opting for a manual in the Focus TDCi (six-speed) and the Hyundai SLX CRDi (five-speed) shaves $2000 off the price, while for the manual Peugeot 1.6 XS HDi (six-speed) the saving is $1000.

 

Fuel consumption and emissions

 

Ford Focus TDCi Hyundai i30 SLX CRDi Mazda3 MZR-CD Peugeot 308 1.6 XS HDi
Fuel tank capacity 55 litres 53 litres 55 litres 60 litres
Theoretical range (based on combined cycle fuel consumption) 898km 883km 965km 1333km
Combined cycle fuel consumption 5.9 litres/100km 6.0 litres/100km 5.7 litres/100km 4.5 litres/100km
Urban fuel consumption 7.9 litres/100km 7.9 litres/100km 7.0 litres/100km 5.4 litres/100km
Extra urban fuel consumption 4.8 litres/100km 4.9 litres/100km 5.0 litres/100km 4.0 litres/100km
Carbon dioxide emissions 157g/km 159g/km 150g/km 119g/km

In terms of fuel economy and emissions, it’s impossible to go past the Peugeot. Its combined cycle fuel consumption is 21 precent better than the next best competitor, the Mazda. To put that in perspective: if you drive 15,000km per year at the combined economy levels, the 308 will use 180 litres less fuel than the Mazda3 (675L vs 855L). If we say diesel costs an average of 135 cents/litre, the savings for the Peugeot owner will equal $243 per year. At that rate – given the Peugeot’s $760 price premium – it will take just over three years to make the extra spend worthwhile. (This is a somewhat moot point if the car is financed.) And with its segment-leading 60-litre fuel tank, you could theoretically visit the service station just 13 times per year in the Peugeot and still cover an average 15,000-ish kilometres.

Very little separates the other three, with CO2 emissions all in the 150s and fuel economy between 5.7 and 6.0 litres/100km. However, if your top priority is saving fuel and you don’t mind the idea of manually shifting gears, you should have a serious look at the five-speed version of the i30 SLX CRDi. It is priced at a much sharper $26,390 and has 21 percent improved environmental figures, almost on par with the Peugeot: combined cycle fuel consumption 4.7 litres/100km, CO2 emissions 125g/km. The six-speed manual Focus TDCi is only marginally more frugal than the sequential shifter, with fuel consumption of 5.6 litres/100km and CO2 emissions of 147g/km.

Exterior and dimensions

Ford Focus TDCi Hyundai i30 SLX CRDi Mazda3 MZR-CD Peugeot 308 1.6 XS HDi
Length 4337mm 4245mm 4460mm 4276mm
Width 1839mm 1775mm 1755mm 1821mm
Height 1497mm 1480mm 1470mm 1519mm
Weight 1458kg 1413kg 1457kg 1362kg
Luggage capacity 385 litres 340 litres 340 litres 430 litres

The standout again in terms of dimensions is the 308. Not only is it 50kg lighter than the i30 and almost 100kg lighter than the Focus and Mazda3, is luggage capacity is in a completely different class. Behind the rear seats, it offers 45 litres more space than the Ford and a whopping 90 litres more than both the Hyundai and the Mazda. The only slight trade-off is that the Peugeot is also the tallest of the bunch, being the only one measuring over 1.5m, although aesthetically it does not look out of place. For those looking for a little extra shoulder room, the Focus is the widest of the group, spreading 8.4cm further across than the Mazda3.

All four hatches have front fog lights and body-coloured door handles and side mirrors. The Peugeot is the only one to miss out on 16-inch alloy wheels, and is forced to make do with smaller 15-inch steels instead. It does include a full-size spare wheel, however, a feature matched only by the Hyundai (an important consideration for long-distance drivers and regional owners.) The Ford and the Mazda both have temporary space savers.

The Mazda3 diesel distinguishes itself from the cheaper models in the range and the other vehicles compared here with the addition of sporty side skirts and LED taillights.

 

Interior and equipment

Each vehicle has its own individual comfort and convenience features, but in terms of the best overall package, the Mazda takes the honours, closely followed by the Hyundai.

All four vehicles come standard with cruise control, CD player, 12-volt power supply, tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel and a 60/40 split-fold rear seat.

The Peugeot gets one-touch electric windows, cruise control with speed limiter, air-conditioned glove box, aluminium-finished door handles, charcoal odour filter, pollen filter, and a removable security cover in the boot. Its audio/communications system is the poorest of the lot, coming with only a radio and CD player, and the remote audio controls are mounted on the steering column rather than the steering wheel.

On top of the 308, the other three all feature an AUX audio jack, Bluetooth hands-free and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with mounted audio controls.

The Ford gets one-touch up and down electric windows with anti-trap feature, a USB audio port and eight speakers. It is the only one to offer iPod integration via USB. The Hyundai requires an $11 cable to make this happen, while the Mazda only offers Bluetooth integration.

The Hyundai and the Mazda make do with six speakers, but both add Bluetooth audio streaming, air-conditioned glove box, pollen filter and a leather-wrapped gear knob. The Hyundai gets a USB audio port, one-touch triple turn signal, leather seat inserts, chrome door handles, alloy sports pedals and automatic climate control. In place of those extra features, the Mazda includes satellite navigation, six-disc in-dash CD player and dual-zone automatic climate control, which alone almost justify the $840 price premium over the i30.

 

Safety

 

Long gone are the days of worrying about the safety of small cars. All four vehicles have earned the coveted five-star safety rating under either ANCAP (Australian) or Euro NCAP safety tests.

All four are fitted standard with six airbags (front, side and curtain), as well as electronic stability program, ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, brake assist, traction control and seatbelt pretensioners for the front seats.

Warranty and servicing

Ford Focus TDCi Hyundai i30 SLX CRDi Mazda3 MZR-CD Peugeot 308 1.6 XS HDi
Vehicle warranty Three-year/100,000km Five-year/Unlimited km Three-year/Unlimited km Three-year/100,000km
Service intervals 12 months/15,000km 12 months/15,000km Six months/10,000km 12 months/20,000km
Estimated resale value (after three years) 57 percent 62 percent 65 percent 59 percent

Conclusion

The 2011 Ford Focus TDCi is the car for you if:

  • You want a convincing all-rounder with European build quality
  • You want a little more interior space than a Mazda3
  • You don’t mind missing out on best-in-class fuel economy
  • You need a maximum power output with three figures rather than two
  • You can never have too many speakers (best audio of the four)
  • You don’t mind swimming against the tide when many other Australians are deserting the Focus

The 2011 Hyundai i30 SLX CRDi is the car for you if:

  • You want the most affordable small diesel hatch you can get your hands on
  • You prefer the security of a five-year/unlimited km warranty
  • You need plenty of audio and interior features, plus the security of a full-size spare alloy wheel
  • You can live with the marginally higher fuel consumption and emissions (at least when equipped with the automatic transmission)
  • You’re not put off by the four-speed automatic transmission or the comparatively small torque figure

The 2011 Mazda3 MZR-CD is the car for you if:

  • You want a cheap small diesel hatch and petrol-rivaling performance
  • You can’t live without satellite navigation or other interior and audio gadgets
  • You want a sportier looking car than the rest
  • You don’t mind the compact packaging and the smaller boot
  • You’re not allergic to changing gears manually

The 2011 Peugeot 308 1.6 XS HDi is the car for you if:

  • You want the most economical and lowest emitting small sub-$30,000 diesel hatch in Australia
  • You are prepared to sacrifice some engine performance
  • You have a lot of luggage to cart around
  • You can live without alloy wheels and 21st century interior and audio technology
  • You have a few extra dollars to spend initially
  • You want to stand out from the crowd

Note: Overseas model Peugeot 308 HDi pictured. 2008 model Hyundai i30 pictured.




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