|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
It actually performs very well, thank you for asking. As long as you’ve recalibrated your mind that it’s down some 43 horsepower and 56 Nm of torque than the 2.0 R, then you’re going to do just fine. For those who’re all into facts and figures, the Mazda3’s new 1.5-liter Skyactiv engine actually produces similar power (112 horsepower at 6,000 rpm) and torque (144 Nm at 3,500 rpm) as the outgoing 1.6-liter MZR. And like its bigger engined brother, you have to wring out more gas to get some decent pace going, perhaps even more so, but based purely on subjective feel, it’s more than enough for the home to work commute.
From idle to about 3,000 rpm, the Mazda3 1.5 V feels rather sedate, but thankfully there’s usable amount of torque that kicks in soon thereafter. It does feel a lot like the previous Mazda3 1.6 in a straight line with one great exception: the all-new Mazda3 1.5 V has a great ally in its 6-speed automatic. Knowing quite well that the engine has a narrow power band, Mazda has engineered the automatic to kick down a gear with the slightest provocation of the gas pedal producing good grunt together with growly intake note. Like the 2.0 R, the 1.5 V comes with paddle shifters which can be flicked up and down at any time. But the excellent tuning of the gearbox makes this almost unnecessary (except perhaps when you’re tackling curving mountain roads or negotiating an overtaking maneuver fully-loaded with passengers). Driven purely in the city, the Mazda3 1.5 V does 10.30 km/L—a big improvement over the non-Skyactiv Mazda3 1.6 V (8.70 km/L). The kicker though is that the 2.0 Skyactiv produces identical figures to the 1.5 Skyactiv: 10.20 km/L. Credit that to the 2.0’s standard i-ELOOP and i-Stop, both of which aren’t present in the 1.5-liter model.
Equipped with taller and slightly narrower tires than the 2.0 (205/60R16 versus 215/45R18), the Mazda3 1.5 V feels much more comfortable and compliant through Manila’s roughly patched roads. Even if you purposely drive it through cracked pavement, the 1.5 V will absorb them even better than the 2.0 R can. In fact, the Mazda3 1.5 V produces a plush ride without sacrificing the sporty handling the Mazda3’s known for. The more conservative tire set-up means the 1.5 V feels much more stable in a straight line (less nervous steering) and less susceptible to crosswinds. Of course, there’s a trade-off to all this comfort and that’s a slower initial steering response. However, once you get used to having to move the steering wheel more, the 1.5 V is still a rewarding compact sedan to drive. The brakes too don’t bite as well, perhaps because the tires are of the low rolling resistance variety, but again, these are fairly minor issues.
Given the Mazda3 1.5 V’s positioning as an entry-level model, this variant does sacrifice quite a bit in terms of both exterior and interior features. However, that’s not to say that it’s a plain-looking car. Outside, the 1.5 V looks like the 2.0 R with the exception of the HID headlamps, lip-type rear spoiler, and the sunroof, all of which (except the sunroof) are easily rectifiable with aftermarket parts. These are minor compared to what the 1.5 V loses inside. Gone are things such as the leather seats, heads-up display, Smart Key keyless entry/exit (though there’s still the push-button engine start/stop), auto dimming rear view mirror, and rain-sensing wipers. Even the overhead sunglass holder’s gone and given how cubby holes are already at a premium inside, that’s a tremendous loss that is felt. Another feature loss worth grieving over is the loss of adjustable lumbar support. As a sufferer of a slipped disc, the Mazda3 1.5 V’s seats are now less than ideal for long stints behind the wheel (though the fabric quality used on the seats is quite good). Nonetheless, given that the Mazda3 1.5 V is priced at P 945,000 (the 2.0 R is at P 1,195,000), it still has a wealth of features, some of which are still class-exclusives. This is headlined by the MazdaConnect infotainment system that includes the built-in GPS, Bluetooth telephony, and even voice-activated menus.
Thanks to its wealth of additional features, the Mazda3 2.0 R Skyactiv is still the one to get. It’s just as fuel-efficient as the 1.5 V and you can’t deny that the P 250,000 goes a long, long way in terms of creature features. However, if you are strapped for cash and want to get into the Skyactiv action, the Mazda3 1.5 V is a great and solid contender. It does lose quite a bit in terms of standard equipment, but it manages to carry the very same basic DNA that makes the Mazda3 a great compact car. It may not feel as if it ripped up the compact car rule book as its 2.0-liter brother, but you can’t deny that it’s a great commuter car, especially perhaps if you’re looking for a number coding car to add to your garage.
2014 Mazda3 1.5 V
|Ownership||2014 Mazda3 1.5 V|
|Body Type||4-door Sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||112 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||144 @ 3,500|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline/91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,254|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather (as tested) / Urethane (standard)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|