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Power and efficiency
27 Jan 2011

Being effective often means having the right equipment for the job. When buying vehicles for specialist and covert use, it could pay forces to look for something just that little bit different.


The publication late last year of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) procurement framework for police vehicles saw a new manufacturer added to the list of cars available for specialist use.

Mazda has been selling its vehicles to police forces for five years without being on the framework; now it is able to offer the opportunity to buy its versatile range, providing high performance combined with best-in-class, whole-life costs, to a wider range of forces.

Forces have sought out the Mazda range as they offer that little bit extra than the usual unmarked police vehicles for covert or specialist use. The Mazda with the child seats parked down the street from the drug-dealing den is much less conspicuous than many of the mass-produced fleet cars. At the same time, they compete with the racier models on performance and handling, without having to pay vast sums for the extra specification.

Mazda’s fleet and remarketing director, Peter Allibon, says the Mazda range is proving very popular because of its driving dynamics and performance, ideal for the covert use to which it has been put.

Having tested the Mazda6 high power output diesel, I can see why. Its power is so immediate and its handling so responsive, yet it is not the first car you would think of as likely to be used in undercover police operations; it is a great car to have in your surveillance toolkit.

I can also see why the company claims its conversion from demonstrations to sales at car dealers around the country is envied by other manufacturers.

But police forces and authorities are not interested only in performance. Finance directors and senior managers with an eye on the coming years’ budgets will also be pleasantly surprised by what the range offers and the costs of owning a Mazda are particularly appealing.

Many forces have turned to the lower end of the executive market when performance in a covert setting has been required. With costs under greater consideration than ever before, there is now a growing interest in what Mazda has to offer. Lower initial cost combined with frugal diesel and petrol engines and impressive reliability make Mazda a more efficient choice.

The people at Mazda are keen to discuss how the range can add that little bit extra to forces’ capability and are seeking to engage fully through the framework this time around. Mr Allibon believes the range has developed to neatly match the police specification.

“We are excited by the opportunities to help the police in the specialist vehicle sector,” he said.
You won’t see the Mazda in police livery up and down the country, the manufacturer is not aiming to sell vast quantities to any fleet, police or otherwise. Therein lays the attraction to the Mazda brand.


Efficiency

Whole-life costs are normally the test of any police vehicle and in the impending age of austerity will take even greater focus. Mazda believes it is in pole position when it comes to overall ownership costs.

The cars’ performance speaks for itself, but what is particularly surprising is the value owners get when they come to sell their cars.

Mazda takes a deliberate stance of not aiming for the volume contracts and levels of discounts offered to the larger fleets – a larger proportion (70 per cent) of sales are in the retail sector. Consequently, the value of the vehicles when they come onto the used market is significantly higher.

When measuring depreciation, all of the Mazda range are in the top three in percentage of value retained but, most importantly, they all come above their main eight rivals in their class for the amount of actual depreciation.

Mr Allibon says one of the benefits of having just 2.5 per cent of the new car market is the used car sales are not awash with second hand rental cars or ex-salesmen’s leased vehicles. When they are sold second hand there is considerable demand as buyers know they are getting a different car to those parked on any of their neighbours’ drives.

When buying a Mazda, you not only get something that is a little bit different, but there is also a lot packed into them. Standard features add to the overall high-performance package and the low emissions coming in well below the landmark 150g/km ensure owning a Mazda adds to forces’ green credentials.

Reliability also means specialist teams know they can count on the vehicles to be available when they need them. The whole range is manufactured in Japan and, as you would expect, reliability is a major selling point. In all the reliability surveys, Mazda is consistently in the top three.

The cars bought by forces are predominantly the Mazda3 and Mazda6. The Mazda3 MPS has been very successful; its performance belied its appearance. Now it comes with bonnet scoop that highlights its ability; forces are increasingly looking at the sport diesel version that has an incredible amount of power but, through its more efficient powertrain, uses much less fuel.

Likewise, the Mazda6 has impressive performance figures; its 2.2 diesel engine outperforms the larger, 2.5 petrol version. Both have low emissions and the petrol version remains popular – six out of ten bought by police forces are still the petrol variant.

The Mazda3 and Mazda5 models also offer extremely good value for money, especially with their reliability, residual values and performance.


Conclusion

The whole-life costs of owning Mazdas will be particularly appealing and their rarity and performance adds that little bit extra to the police fleet. There are also a number of interesting developments around the corner that bring additional benefits in terms of CO2 emissions and running costs.

Mazda says they are not following the trend of reducing engine size and power output to reduce emissions; it intends to maintain performance while achieving leading environmental standards – ideal for police specification.

When someone wants something that little bit different, performance is important or whole-life costs must be considered, the Mazda range is difficult to beat.


Mazda3

The smaller vehicle seeing use in a number of forces is the Mazda3. In performance terms, its extremely precise steering and improved balance gives it incredible road handling and light touch pedals provide instant, responsive acceleration.

The latest version to attract attention though is the 2.2 litre diesel engine that gives it a higher power output than anything else in its class. Producing 185 PS, the MZR-CD engine reaches 0 to 62mph in just 8.2 seconds while maintaining a combined fuel efficiency of over 50mpg.


Mazda6

The range, particularly the Mazda6 is incredibly versatile; it is a real workhorse while boasting impressive performance and strong driving dynamics.

From both a driver and corporate perspective there is a great deal to admire.

The low CO2 emissions and purchase price combined with strong residual values to make it a powerful choice for police authorities while the power and handling leave drivers precious about their vehicles.

Fuel consumption in the 2.2 diesel engines is pretty frugal too – up to 54.3mpg – while also available in a range of power outputs that make it the perfect vehicle for surveillance at speed.

The 180 PS diesel engine outperforms the larger petrol engines in many senses and while they both accelerate to 62mph in around eight-and-a-half-seconds, the fuel efficiency of the diesel engine – CO2 emissions of just 142g/km and official combined figures of 52.3mpg – makes it a leader in its class.


Mazda5

Launched in December, the Mazda5 is another inconspicuous option that combines versatility of use with low fuel consumption. Its seven-seat format when the rear seats are in place, or large storage area when the two rear seats are made flat, mean it can be put to a wide variety of uses, or simply act as another surprise for criminals. One gallon of diesel will get you just under 55 miles (official combined fuel consumption figures) with the 1.6 diesel option making it exceptionally efficient while likely to retain much of its value when sold.



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