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Launch Story

Mazda logo14 Jul 2006

By MARTON PETTENDY

MAZDA’S force-fed MPS hot-hatch gave us our first glimpse of it last week, but now the resurgent Japanese car-maker has launched a facelifted version of its entire Mazda3 sedan and hatch range in Australia.

The revised Mazda3 goes on sale this week, headlined by new exterior styling, extra equipment, upgraded engines and transmissions and the availability of a stability control system across the entire two-body style, four-grade line-up.

As such, Mazda is expected to claim it is the first volume-selling brand to offer stability control with every variant of its small car. Hyundai claimed a similar first in the light-car segment when it made stability control optional across its Getz range in February.

However, while the switchable dynamic stability control (DSC) and traction control system is available for an extra $1000 on the mid-spec Maxx and Maxx Sport variants, and the bigger-engined SP23, buyers of the entry-level Neo must pay $1830 for it as part of an optional safety pack that also includes twin front and rear side airbags.

Besides the significant new optional accident-avoidance feature, the base-level Mazda3 Neo also picks up an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA) as standard - for an increase of just $200.

While the Mazda3 Neo hatch and sedan are now priced from $20,990 ($22,990 auto), Maxx sedan and hatch pricing rise by $500 to $25,500 ($27,500 auto) and Maxx Sport sedan and hatch prices increase by $155 to $26,500 ($28,500).

Meantime, the SP23 (non-MPS) flagship is now priced from $29,600 in both sedan and hatch guise, representing a price hike of $280. However, the popular automatic version now commands a $540-higher pricetag ($31,860), which represents a $2260 premium over the manual - rather than the $2000 premium for other automatic variants.

Cosmetically, the revised exterior comes courtesy of redesigned front and rear bumpers, new alloy wheel designs and an updated paint colour palette.

Mechanically, the addition of an electronic throttle and the same sequential valve timing (S-VT) system as already offered by the SP23 increases the Neo, Maxx and Maxx Sport’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine’s response and power output - from 104kW to 108kW at the same 6500rpm, and from 181Nm of torque to 182Nm at the same 4500rpm.

The SP23’s 2.3-litre four also benefits from drive-by-wire throttle control, and now comes with two new transmissions: a six-speed manual to replace the current five-speeder and a five-speed Activematic auto with optional paddle-shift semi-manual control to replace the current variant’s four-speed self-shifter, which continues in lesser Mazda3 variants.

Hence, while SP23’s outputs remain 115kW and 203Nm, both the 2.0 and 2.3-litre engines are claimed to offer improved fuel economy. Official ADR 81/01 combined average fuel consumption falls from 8.6L to 8.2L/100km for 2.0-litre manual variants, and from 8.9L to 8.4L/100km for 2.0-litre autos.

Similarly, the 2.3’s claimed consumption figure drops from 9.0L to 8.6L/100km for the manual, and from 9.3L to 8.7L/100km for the auto.

Mazda3’s equipment levels have also come in for a tweak. Cruise control becomes standard from the Maxx variant upwards, while sound systems will feature an auxiliary input and an additional 12-volt power outlet in the centre armrest console for MP3 compatibility. Both latter features come as part of an optional Power pack for the Neo, priced at $610, which includes power windows and body-coloured power mirrors.

Among a host of interior refinements are a new manual gearshifter that is claimed to offer improved grip and feel, improved seat trim textures, "more harmonious materials" and white-faced, amber-backlit sports instruments with indirect blue illumination.

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