MAZDA Motor Corporation has unveiled its fourth-generation Mazda3, a larger small car the brand hopes will broaden its appeal to buyers who aspire to prestige wheels when it arrives in Australia in July 2019.
Bigger than ever and with new engine technology claimed to offer fuel saving benefits of around 20-30 percent, the all-new Mazda3 ushers in a new era for the brand as it targets the ambitious goal of going ‘Mazda Premium’.
While it is still officially Mazda’s small car offering, the latest 3 is significantly longer and wider than before, liberating more interior space and boasting dimensions more akin to a mid-sized car.
At 4662mm long, the Mazda3 sedan is 203mm longer than the hatch, the extra boot space targeted at sedan-loving markets such as China and America.
Each shares a wheelbase of 2725mm, which is larger than any other in the small car class and matches the previous-generation Mazda6 for space between the front and rear wheels.
The so-called Kodo styling has also evolved with a wider, more assertive grille but restrained details and highlights, the emphasis instead on the overall proportions and clean surfacing of the panels.
There’s also greater design differentiation between hatch and sedan, the former playing up its rounded rump with a distinctive yet simple curvature.
As with the original Mazda3 of 2003, the sedan and hatch have little in common from a styling perspective; only the windscreen and bonnet are shared.
The sedan is more formal, its unique front guards, doors and rear window treatment creating a longer look that highlights the bootlid.
Inside, the minimalism continues, with a stylised dashboard splitting the main audio and ventilation controls from a colour touchscreen that pokes above.
High-quality metal finishes complement well-chosen plastics for an upmarket appearance.
With the emphasis on affordable luxury, Mazda is claiming further improvements to noise suppression, something that has touched the design of the tyres, rooflining and floor mats. There is also a layer of air between the body and carpet to absorb unwanted noises.
While final specification and pricing details are yet to be released, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be included as Mazda continues its rollout of the smartphone connectivity systems.
The 3 is also offering more choice than before in colours and trims, adding a new Polymetal Grey colour to the hatch’s palette.
There are also three different leather interior options: burgundy, white and black.
There’s also a big safety push with the new 3, which adopts a driver’s knee airbag for the first time on a Mazda and will fit autonomous emergency braking (AEB) across the range.
There’s also been more work on pedestrian protection in the way the bumper and bonnet reacts to a strike.
Active safety features are also more plentiful, with a Driver Monitoring System that uses an infrared camera and infrared LED to the driver’s eye movements as well as the angle of the face to determine drowsiness.
There’s also Front Cross Traffic Alert, which mimics the behaviour of the now-common rear-cross traffic alert. It uses radars to monitor traffic approaching from each side and can apply the brakes if the car goes to turn in front of the other vehicle.
One of the final driver assist additions is Cruising and Traffic Support, which can provide steering, braking and accelerating assistance, reducing how much physical effort the driver needs to apply.
Under the bonnet, Mazda has confirmed the 3 will be offered with a range of four-cylinder engines.
While a 1.5-litre petrol and 1.8-litre turbo-diesel will be available overseas, they’re not on the cards for Australia. The emphasis is instead on updated versions of the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre engines in today’s 3 – with all-new SkyActiv-X engines set to follow in time.
The all-new SkyActiv-X engines will represent the next generation in Mazda’s efficiency push. As previously announced, it will boast world-first petrol compression ignition technology, using similar principles to diesel engines, whereby the heat created as a result of friction of compressing air is used to ignite the air-fuel mixture. The SkyActiv-X engine will still have spark plugs to help control the combustion, but the way the bang occurs is very different to any engines to date.
“Engine response is quick and smooth with a reassuring feeling of control,” said Kota Beppu, the program manager for the new Mazda3. “SkyActiv-X will realise even greater driving pleasure and superior real-world environmental performance.”
Transmissions with the current carry-over engines include a six-speed manual or six-speed auto, the latter to make up most sales.
While Mazda has focused heavily on driving enjoyment and dynamics for more than a decade, the latest Mazda3 appears to take a backwards step with the design of its rear suspension, which has shifted from a multi-link system to a more basic torsion beam. Mazda claims refinement was a big part of the controversial decision, the torsion beam claimed to better isolate tyre and suspension noise.
More details on the new Mazda3 sedan and hatch will be revealed leading up to its Australian release in mid-2019.