The all-new Mazda 3 has been revealed, featuring a Mazda 6 inspired design and a new internet-connected infotainment system.
Pictures of the new car were leaked onto a Czech website ahead of simultaneous Mazda 3 events being held in London, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, New York and Melbourne.
The swept-back headlights and large shield grille are all part of what Mazda calls its Kodo design language, and while it definitely helps create a stylish and well-proportioned car, it could be too easily mistaken for the larger Mazda 6. In the metal though the new car looks good.
Initially launched as a five-door hatch back a saloon version will join the range shortly afterwards and is likely to be the biggest global seller due to its popularity in markets like China, Russia and the U.S.
The cabin has been updated to improve the material quality and design, and now features technology such as a heads-up display. A longer wheelbase and improved packaging means there’s more space in all dimensions for passengers and a 350-litre boot – 10 litres more than the old car.
Buyers can also specify an upgraded infotainment system, which gets internet connectivity for the first time on a Mazda. It allows drivers to use services such as Aha, which plays podcasts and audio books as well as linking to Facebook and Twitter feeds. It works via a redesigned rotary control on the centre console and a stylish seven-inch colour touch screen that sits on top of the dash.
The big news under the bonnet is the introduction of a completely new 1.5-litre Skyactiv-G petrol engine. It boasts 99bhp and can accelerate the new 3 from 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds. There’s also the same 2.0-litre petrol – with 118bhp or 163bhp – and 2.2-litre diesel from the 6 range. The range-topping diesel versions complete the sprint from 0-60mph in just 8.1 seconds in manual guise but the six-speed automatic is significantly slower - taking 9.7 seconds with the same engine.
Mazda hasn’t announced any efficiency or emissions figures yet but is promising it should be among the best in class for all engines. Considering the larger, heavier 6 manages 67.3mpg and 109g/km, in the 3 it should be sub-100g/km and over 70mpg. Meanwhile, we’re expecting the 1.5-litre petrol unit to offer figures of around 115g/km and 60mpg.
When asked about a smaller SKYACTIV diesel Mazda Europe CEO Jeff Guyton told Auto Express:
"Certainly that is the biggest part of the market. I would say there was room for it. The C-segment is kind of half and half when it comes to petrol versus diesel, but given our market footprint I think we will probably sell more petrol than diesel, but we may expand our diesel range at some point.
He also revealed that there would be a hybrid Mazda model by the end of the year - which is likely to be a version of the new Mazda 3 - saying:
"I imagine our hybrids will be more along the efficiency route because our biggest markets in the US and Japan, the hybrid route in those countries tends to be more about efficiency. There are clearly examples of hybrid high-performance but I think that's not the volume end of the business."
In keeping with the dynamics of the 6 and CX-5 SUV, Mazda is promising it has worked hard on making the 3 great to drive. It’s lighter and has new suspension to boost everything from comfort to agility. The power steering and pedals have all been retuned to feel more natural, too, and refinement is reportedly improved with new sound insulation.
Unlike base models of rivals like the new Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon the Mazda comes with a sophisticated multi-link rear suspension setup on every model in the range, and all cars also get disc brakes all round - which should help give it a dynamic advantage out on the road.
Guyton also hinted at the possibility of a return of the MPS high-performance model saying: " I would say that there is some open space around that - but I wouldn't really talk about it too much at this stage. It's much easier to take a vehicle that has been packaged for it and then to say - ok what can we do with this now? The 2.2-litre diesel won't be exactly like the MPS was, but it's going to be very strong, it's going to be quick"
It also comes with a range of optional active safety technology including radar guided cruise control, autonomous emergency braking at low speeds, along with lane departure assist and front and rear sensors that alert the driver if you stray too close to other traffic.
The new Mazda 3 goes on sale in the autumn and while prices haven’t been confirmed, it’ll probably cost from around £16,000.