AN ALL-NEW generation of Mazda’s evergreen small car is preparing to launch locally in mid-2019, handing one of Australia’s most popular vehicles a new lease on life.
Heavily restyled sheetmetal for both body shapes introduces an evolved version of the brand’s now ubiquitous Kodo design language. The two models are distinctly different in appearance, sharing only their windscreen and bonnet. The hatchback is now slightly longer, narrower and taller than before, whereas the sedan is significantly longer, having grown by more than 80mm.
Stand-out design elements include extremely low bonnets that lead to oversized grilles and headlight assemblies pared back to the bare essentials. Their side profiles are almost completely devoid of character lines, the 3 instead relying on curves in its panels to add depth. A new colour called Polymetal Grey was developed to accentuate the effect of light and shade on its flanks.
Mazda’s premium design sensibilities extend to the 3’s overhauled cabin in visual appeal and NVH refinement. The driver is the focus, with every element angled to face the driver’s seat. A long horizontal plane across the dashboard incorporates climate controls for a clean, minimalist appearance. New materials and colours have been added for this generation to widen its appeal.
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Five Skyactiv engines are engineered to fit within the fourth-gen Mazda 3 so far, including three conventional Skyactiv-G petrol engines (1.5-, 2.0- and 2.5-litre four-cylinders), a 1.8-litre Skyactiv-D diesel, and a single Skyactiv-X unit, which introduces compression ignition to a petrol-powered engine for the first time in a production car. Exact outputs and performance data for each powertrain are yet to be released, as is information about what Australia will receive, though it is understood the Skyactiv-X engine will be coming for the range-topping variants.
Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system is also available in the new 3 for certain markets, working in conjunction with G-Vectoring Plus (GVC Plus) to control torque distribution for more efficient and responsive progress.
Mazda has upped the use of ultra-high-tensile steel in body shell construction from 3 percent to 30 for greater rigidity. This improves passive safety qualities and works towards greater driving comfort and enjoyment, and a natural connection that the brand says makes the new 3 feel ‘like a tool you have been using for many years’.
In a potential backwards step, a torsion beam rear suspension layout has been adopted for all front-wheel-drive variants, rather than the more desirable independent set-up of the outgoing third-gen. Refinement is the cited reason, though future-proofing the platform with space for a hybrid battery pack is is likely to have had an impact. Whether Mazda has managed to maintain the 3’s dynamic capability with a torsion beam remains to be seen, though Peugeot has proved that it’s possible.
Another major focus of fourth-gen’s development was cabin calmness for all occupants; something the last car struggled to deliver. New methods of sound absorption and dampening promise ‘high-quality quietness’ without increased vehicle weight.
Technology upgrades include revisions to Mazda’s infotainment system and improved interaction between its commander controller and an 8.8-inch screen fitted as standard. Safety systems have been reworked to include a driver monitoring function that can detect fatigue and loss of concentration, on top of Mazda’s range of active safety technologies that will include cross-traffic alerts for this model.
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Packaging improvements have broadened the range of adjustment in the driving position, while the centre console has been raised to place the gear selector and infotainment controls closer to the driver’s hand in both manual and automatic versions.
“The all-new Mazda3 we unveil today begins a new era for Mazda,” said Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto. “The next generation of Mazda cars will enhance the value of the car-ownership experience.”
Our market will receive both the hatch and sedan body styles, though specifics of the local model range are yet to be revealed by Mazda Australia. Further details will begin to roll out closer to its arrival, which is slated for the middle of 2019.