Finally! After weeks of leaks and teasing, Mazda has now confirmed that it is putting a turbocharged version of its small hatch into production.
But here's the rub. It's not confirmed that the 186kW all-wheel drive Mazda 3 is even coming to Australia.
The local importer is being uncharacteristically coy about the car, perhaps unwilling to divert the limelight away from the launch of the Mazda 3 Skyactiv-X model, which is the current hot news item.
There are all sorts of reasons why the turbocharged car needs to come to Australia, and the most obvious is that in the push further upmarket, Mazda can't be seen to be coming into the sector half-cocked.
At present, the 3 hatch runs out of puff at the top end with the 139kW G25, whereas you can buy a 213kW Volkswagen Golf R hatch, with powerful models from Mini, Audi and BMW also on offer. In other words, at the moment, the 3 doesn't look equipped to play in the near-premium sector.
That could change with a 186kW/434Nm Mazda 3 hatch. That figure comes from the US on their 93-octane fuel, roughly equivalent to 98-octane locally.
That's considerably more torque than any of the hot hatch triumvirate of Civic Type R, Hyundai i30 N and Ford Focus ST, but the Mazda would be a very different, dare we say, more mature kind of car.
There's a space for a quick, discreet hatch that doesn't always need to be driven at ten-tenths to get the best from it. You might have grown out of huge wings and fake vents all over your car and just want something quick and rewarding, akin to how Volkswagen pitched the original Golf VR6, despite Wolfsburg botching the execution.
That sector of the market has been overlooked of late, and a $45K asking price for the Mazda would see it slot in more affordably than the feeble 103kW BMW 118i ($45,990) and would also give adequate clearance to the 165kW/350Nm Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic, priced at $56,900. Neither Alfa, Audi, Lexus, Peugeot nor Volvo offer anything comparable. A cerebral alternative to a Golf GTI, it sounds as if a combination of all wheel drive, massive torque and a six-speed automatic transmission would make it effortlessly brisk across country.
Mazda has long been about offering considered, pragmatic cars. It has no intention to bring back the Mazdaspeed hot rods that often never quite made the grade as true performance cars. Delivering something smarter and more subtle is actually a very Mazda move. Now we just need Mazda Australia to agree.
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