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All-new Mazda3 breaks cover

Covers are off: Mazda hopes its slinky third-generation small-car staple will wrench back the title of Australia's top-selling car from the Toyota Corolla.

Vital third-gen Mazda3 small car poised to regain sales leadership from 2014

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Mazda logo28 Jun 2013

THE third-generation Mazda3 small car has broken cover at last, brandishing a lower and wider body, roomier interior, improved connectivity and a completely new undercarriage.

Due to be launched in Australia in the first quarter of next year, the ‘BM-series’ small car is charged with regaining market leadership from Toyota’s now top-selling Corolla – a feat Mazda believes is well within its grasp next year.

“Mazda3 has been the top selling car in Australia for the past two years, its sales are holding up strongly in 2013 and we are confident that (it) could again be a favourite,” says Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders.

“It is the most important model in Mazda’s history.” Sharing almost nothing with its Ford Focus-based five-year old ‘BL-series’ predecessor, the latest Mazda3 adopts the same SkyActiv chassis and drivetrain technology first seen last year in the CX-5 SUV and continued with the latest Mazda6.

These include versions of the above models’ engines, transmissions, suspension, and steering systems, as part of Mazda’s modular platform approach, designed to vastly improve efficiencies and profitability.

Shrouded in the company’s latest ‘Kodo’ design theme, the new Mazda3 will follow its direct predecessors in being offered in just two body shapes – five-door hatch and four-door sedan.

The latter was absent from the simultaneous worldwide unveiling held in five locations worldwide (Melbourne, Istanbul, London, New York and St Petersburg), but is to follow “very soon” according to Mazda.

Likewise, other major engineering, technical, and marketing details will have to wait until later on this year, with the Japanese brand electing to focus on the new design instead for the time being.

Using Kodo as a base, the Hiroshima-based designers elected to give the latest generation a more aggressive “in motion” look compared to the CX-5 and Mazda6, to help lure younger buyers.

A 60mm longer wheelbase, 40mm wider stance, 15mm lower roofline, and shorter overhangs help give the Mazda3 a sportier appearance, aided by a more ‘cab backward’ silhouette, faster rear screen angle, and broader shoulder blades over the wheel arches.

In turn, special attention was paid to improving aerodynamics – the slipperiest Mazda3 is rated at just 0.275 Cd – and losing weight, though by how much remains a secret for now.

Inside Mazda is making big noises about how much quieter and more premium the cabin is, but the real changes surround the very Volvo V40-esque central instrument dial and digital readout combination, as well as a pop-up heads-up display unit.

An Audi A3-like ‘floating’ centrally sited media connectivity screen makes its debut in a Mazda vehicle, while more slush-moulded plastics and other fancier materials point to higher-quality finishes.

Final measurements will be revealed later on, but Mazda says rear-seat space for shoulders and legs increases as an upshot of the wheelbase stretch, though it remains to be seen as to whether cargo volume also jumps.

Beneath what is said to be a far-more pedestrian impact-friendly snout are engines cribbed from the CX-5 and Mazda6.

On the SkyActiv-G (for gasoline) petrol front, the volume-selling 2.0-litre models in the equivalent to today’s Neo and Maxx models will generate 114kW of power and 200Nm of torque to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

Mazda says a “slight drop” in kerb weight and the more aerodynamic body improve fuel efficiency, with the 2.0-litre bettering the current BL SP20’s 6.1 litres per 100km by some margin.

Moving up to what we know today as the SP25 ushers in the 2.5-litre unit as first seen in the Mazda6, bringing 138kW and 250Nm to the table.

No diesel timeframe has been divulged, but Mr Benders told GoAuto that he has put his hand up for one. We’re expecting it to be the same 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D engine as in the others.

More exciting for hot hatch buyers is the prospect of another MPS model to rival the Volkswagen Golf R speculation is rising that the CX-5’s all-wheel drive system is compatible with the new Mazda3, since they share the same architecture.

Being a SkyActiv chassis, expect to see electric rack and pinion steering, a MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension system, and Mazda’s efficiency enhancing ‘4-2-1’ exhaust system all feature underneath.

More information will be released in the following weeks, with the Mazda3 expected to pop up at Frankfurt in September for its first international motor show debut.

By the time the final outgoing Mazda3 leaves the showroom early next year, some 363,000 of the first and second-generation vehicles will have found homes in Australia, while over 3.5 million have been sold globally.

According to Mr Benders, the next version has what it takes to maintain its BL predecessor’s winning sales streak.

“This is the most important Mazda in history,” he said.

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