Mazda 3 saloon unveiled at LA Auto Show

Published: 19 November 2008

Mazda has officially unveiled its new 3 four-door saloon at the LA Auto Show today, revealing the car in full and releasing more technical details. A five-door hatchback (favoured in Europe) will be shown at the Bologna motor show in December 2008, and form the basis of a hot MPS model.

The current 3 is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle, accounting for one third of the Japanese manufacturer’s sales (and a total of 1.8 million units over the past five years). The hope is that the latest 3 will do even better.

So what’s new about the Mazda 3?

Mazda clams its new Mk2 3 is fully re-engineered and completely redesigned, with input from Japan, Europe and the US. This is a proper ‘world car’.

The design is an evolutionary step rather than anything all-new, with the front tweaked to copy the five-point grille found on the facelifted MX-5 (click here for CAR’s exclusive first drive of the new MX-5). The nose also features two vertical air intakes placed out on the edges of the car, designed to enhance the 3’s width, while a crease runs down the bonnet and reappears on the boot. Overall the design is smart, but it’s hardly the ‘Nagare flow’ concept car-inspired looks we were hoping for.

And inside?

Mazda claims the 3’s interior is ‘sporty yet highly refined’. So that means a sweeping dash, a large instrument cluster and key controls placed at the same level as the steering wheel and gear stick. It’s part of a design apparently based on Mazda’s Human Machine Interface concept.

New tech for the Mazda 3 includes an Adaptive Front Lighting System with self-levelling bi-xenon headlamps and three-position electric memory seats. These seats automatically move into place depending on which key opens the car.

Audio and air-con controls brighten to acknowledge that you’ve pushed or prodded them, while a BOSE sound system, Bluetooth, MP3 connectivity, keyless entry and go, plus rain-sensing wipers and heated seats are on the options list.


    

When do I get my first mention of Zoom-Zoom?

Right now. Mazda 3 programme manager Yoshiyuki Maeda says: ‘We were determined to advance the Zoom-Zoom driving experience to new heights because that unique feeling lies at the very heart of Mazda. This meant providing drivers with a sense of exhilaration – whether they were in motion, seated in the Mazda 3, or enjoying its appearance from outside.’

We’ll find out ourselves when CAR drives the new 3 early in 2009, but we’re happy Mazda has stuck with an electro-hydraulic set-up for the steering. The chassis features MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear.

What about the engines?

In America the 3 will be launched with two four-cylinder petrol engines. The 2.0-litre produces 144bhp and the 2.5 has 165bhp. Expect smaller four-pots to be offered in Europe, though Mazda has also confirmed that it will offer its new 2.2-litre diesel in the 3.

Anything else?

The Mazda 2 is another lightweight, having shed kilos in its latest generation guise – but there’s no word yet from Mazda on how much the Mk2 3 weighs.

But we do know the new 3 is very aerodynamic. A Mazda engineering approach called Aero Flow Management was used to optimise the aero, so the new front grille, while appearing bigger than before, is actually 20% smaller because of optimised air flow that directs only the air that is needed into the 3.

The front bumper helps direct air to the radiator and at high speeds a bypass flap opens to minimise cooling fan drag. Overall the drag coefficient is a low 0.29Cd, helping to improve fuel consumption of the 2.0-litre by 10%. Neat stuff.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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