Although the Australian arm of the Japanese brand admits the diesel in the outgoing car accounted for only two per cent of sales partly because it was only available with a manual transmission, it claims even with the new car’s auto availability the diesel business case doesn’t immediately stack up.
"No diesel," begins Mazda Australia public relations senior manager Steve Maciver. "We'll continue to look at diesel in this market, if we think diesel makes sense one or two years from now we'll have one.
"It [the addition of an automatic transmission] probably does make it a bit more attractive, but that [diesel] price premium is something that can be borne a little easier when the car is more expensive."
Maciver acknowledges that bringing in the Mazda 6 diesel in immediately, but postponing indefinitely the Mazda 3 diesel, is an example of how medium cars can better absorb the cost of more expensive-to-produce diesel engines compared with small cars. He also cites the increased fuel efficiency of the 2.0-litre petrol engine in the Mazda 3 (which claims 5.7L/100km) as a reason why the diesel was overlooked.
Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders hasn’t, however, ruled out introducing the diesel at a later date. The local boss also suggested that the combination of the Mazda 6/CX-5 2.2-litre diesel in the lighter Mazda 3 body could potentially create a sub-MPS hot-hatch.
“We’re looking at options there,” Benders starts, citing that Mazda is doing well above the national average of 90 per cent petrol versus 10 per cent diesel passenger car sales in the Mazda 6 (20 per cent diesel) and CX-5 (30 per cent diesel) lines.
“[But] we have to look at how we package the diesel … whether we bring it in as a value offering or bring it in as a performance offering.
“The diesel, if you’ve driven it in the Mazda 6, it’s a really nice engine, so you can imagine what it’s like in this car [Mazda 3] that’s a bit lighter…”
The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine the local Mazda boss refers to produces 129kW of power and 420Nm of torque.
Although Mazda Australia has confirmed it has thrown its hand in the air for a future Mazda 3 MPS model, the Mazda 3 hybrid (drivetrain above) isn’t on the agenda.
“If you look at the numbers within passenger cars, there’s 90 per cent petrol, nine per cent diesel and one per cent other which includes hybrid, so at the moment, looking at what I’ve got, I think I’ll just start with these [petrol Mazda 3s].
“The hybrid is not top of my list at the moment, the reason they’ve done a hybrid is mainly for the Japanese market, 50 per cent of that small car market in Japan is hybrid, so if you don’t have a hybrid, you’re not in half the market. So it’s a totally different situation.”
Benders lists supply of the petrol Mazda 3 models as the biggest challenge for the brand in the coming 12 months. By not complicating the range with a diesel engine, he believes Mazda can concentrate on fulfilling supply.
A new plant opened in Mexico will singularly deal with left-hand-drive Mazda 3 supply, he tells, leaving the Japanese facility where our cars will come from to better “balance” its production of left- and right-hand-drive models.