ENERGISED with a slicker skin and classier cabin details, an all-new Mazda3 will be unleashed on an adoring Australian public early next year.
Opting for evolution rather than revolution, this new '3 has a fitter appearance.
We were the first in the world to see the Japanese carmaker's all-important hatch, unveiled in Melbourne ahead of New York, London, St Petersburg and Istanbul.
It is a vital car for Mazda globally and Down Under. For the past two years the '3 was Australia's best-selling car and it's once again fighting for the title, although things are tight with the two-pronged Toyota attack from Corolla and HiLux. But Mazda is confident it has the product that will maintain sales momentum.
In profile, the new Mazda3's waistline has waves of building momentum. The beltline lifts with the bonnet, dips at the windscreen and lifts again toward the rear.
Inspiration includes a cheetah in full flight, the design indicative of pent-up explosive energy, to give an appearance of speed even while standing still.
Up front is a new signature corporate grille, similar to what we've seen on the CX-5 and Mazda6, which were the first to wear the company's "Kodo" design. It's pronounced and proud - reminiscent of Superman unveiling his moniker from Clark Kent attire.
The new Mazda3 is on a wheelbase that is 60mm longer and 40mm wider, while sitting 15mm lower than its predecessor. Yet the length is exactly the same as the outgoing model, while the sedan is 10mm shorter.
Hefty ground has been made in cabin ambience.
A new carbon-fibre look material, along with high sheen satin chrome finishes are the highlights of a more contemporary interior.
On show this week was a range-topping derivative, with beautifully soft two-tone leather seats and a slick pop-up 17cm colour screen, which reminds us of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
Refined leather-stitched coverings also adorned the steering wheel, hand brake and console.
There is extra interior space, with an improved outlook for the front passenger, while the A-pillars have been moved 100mm rearward for better peripheral vision.
Two adults can find comfort in the back, even those above 180cm (aided by hollowed front seatbacks, for better knee space) but children might find the swooping lines of the rear window impedes the view.
Rear pews also have higher seatbacks for improved comfort.
Two four-cylinder petrol engines will be available at launch.
The 2.0-litre produces maximum power of 114kW and 200Nm of torque, while the larger 2.5-litre unit has an output of 138kW and 250Nm.
Mazda was tight-lipped on when a diesel variant would become available but that can be expected some time in the Mazda3's lifecycle.
Not that fuel consumption will be an issue. The company's Skyactive technology includes stripping weight (it will be at least 50kg lighter) and various fuel efficiency features, so expect the 2.0-litre to achieve less than six litres for every 100km.
There was also no confirmation of whether a power-packed MPS version would return.
What do you get?
Mazda showed off some new gadgets, including a head-up display, which projects your speed and sat nav information onto the windscreen. It's a functionality seen on many European models and also debuted on the new VF Commodore.
Cool stuff like lane departure warnings, radar cruise control and frontal collision warning are also featured.
Accessing your phone, email and SMS will be easier, while Mazda also promises improved controls and better Bluetooth connectivity.
In a nod to modern requirements, there is even a spot in the front console to house a smartphone.
Mazda has another sharp-looking offering with the all-new '3. Shorter overhangs front and back combine with a beltline that seems to generate momentum of its own.
The changes are immediately noticeable but the design isn't light years ahead of the current styling. Given the strong sales volumes, that's a good thing.
Most notable is the progress made with interior finishes while addressing the A-pillar blind spot and improving rear seat space. Mazda has raised the bar yet again in an ultra-competitive segment.
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