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LA show: Mazda ups ante with new Mazda3

All-wheel drive, mild hybrid, new architecture for all-new 2019 Mazda3


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28 Nov 2018


MAZDA has lifted the lid on its all-new fourth-generation Mazda3 small car that ushers in a bold new design, advanced Skyactiv-X powertrain technology that includes a mild hybrid system, a quieter cabin and the availability for the first time of all-wheel drive. 
The latest version of the Mazda3 hatchback and sedan will hit Australian showrooms in mid-2019 to replace the third-gen BM-series that went on sale in January 2014.
Mazda Australia says the 3 – its best-selling model and the second best-selling passenger car in Australia behind the Toyota Corolla – will have a staggered release, with some variants likely to land after the initial launch.
The design was previewed by the striking Kai concept revealed at last year’s Tokyo motor show, and while it has lost some of the concept’s styling flourishes – including the massive wheels and wheelarches, and lowered stance – the production model has remained faithful to the concept.
Under the skin is the new-generation version of Mazda’s Skyactiv vehicle architecture that is more rigid than before, with Mazda improving damping settings, and noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) measures.
The suspension system is MacPherson up front and, as previously reported, a new torsion rear setup replacing the multi-link system from the outgoing version.
To keep cabin noise down Mazda has introduced a “two-wall” structure that leaves space between the carpet and the body, while new sound-absorbing materials can be found in the headliner and floor mats. 
The Mazda3 will be offered with a choice of three Skyactiv-G petrol engines – 1.5-, 2.0- and 2.5-litre four-cylinder units – but it has yet to confirm power, torque, fuel economy or performance figures.
It is unclear if the outputs have increased from the existing 114kW/200Nm for the 2.0L and 138kW/250Nm for the 2.5L. The 1.5L unit is likely the same unit found in the Mazda2 and MX-5.
A new 1.8-litre diesel unit will be offered, but it  is unlikely to make it Down Under after the 2.2-litre Mazda3 diesel was dropped in 2016 due to low sales.
The 3 will be the first Mazda model to be offered with the new Skyactiv-X compression ignition petrol engine that features new M Hybrid technology for greater efficiency.
The car-maker says Skyactiv-X makes for “superior initial response, powerful torque, faithful linear response and free-revving performance”.
Mazda is yet to confirm details for the new powerplant, but it is likely to be a 2.0-litre unit and could pump out about 140kW/230Nm.
Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel-drive system will be offered and it works in conjunction with G-Vectoring Control Plus to control torque distribution between the front and rear wheels.
It is unclear what engines the AWD system will be pared with and whether it will be offered in Australia.
As before, the Mazda3 is offered with six-speed manual and six-speed automatic Skyactiv transmissions.
In terms of dimensions, the hatch is 11mm shorter (4459mm), 2mm wider (1797mm) and 10mm lower (1440mm), with a 25mm-longer wheelbase than the current version.
Meanwhile the sedan is 82mm longer (4662mm), 2mm wider (1797mm) and 5mm lower (1445mm), with a 25mm-longer wheelbase.
New safety features include a driver monitoring system that uses an infrared camera and LEDs to observe the driver, producing an alert if it determines that the driver is inattentive or drowsy.
It also gains a front cross-traffic alert and a semi-autonomous Cruising and Traffic Support system that assists with accelerator, brake and steering operations in traffic jams.
Mazda says its aim for the new Mazda3 was to “amaze and delight customers all over the world” and it had a development theme of “an object of universal desire”.
According to Mazda, the hatchback design embodies the character of a “free spirit”, while the sedan embodies the character of a “lady or gentleman” with an individualistic streak.
It maintains the elongated bonnet and gaping grille of the current model, but introduces new themes as dictated by the evolution of Mazda’s Kodo design philosophy.
Like the concept, there are no character lines on the hatchback and it retains the show car’s swept up C-pillar and rounded hatch rear end.
Mazda adopted a less-is-more theme for its light design, simplifying the headlights, while introducing a new circular tail-light signature to further distinguish the brand.
Inside, designers have kept the dash layout as simple as possible, minimising the number of buttons and ensuring most elements face the driver, while incorporating a horizon theme.
Changes inside include an extra 10mm of movement for the telescopic steering, and the inclusion of front seat cushion tilt adjustment, while the gear shifter has been moved forward and higher for ease of reach. 
The commander control and cupholders have been repositioned and the centre front armrest lengthened all to aid ease of use and comfort, according to Mazda.
It features a newly designed centre console and gear-shift surround with gloss-black finish, while the interior panels and parts employ “Mazda’s own grain” that is designed to mimic leather.
The centre display has increased in size from 7.0 inches to 8.8 inches and is operated by the commander controller. The head-up display and other displays have all been redesigned.
Forward visibility has improved thanks to a change in the A-pillar design that has resulted in fewer blind spots, while Mazda has even improved the windscreen wiper speed – they are now housed under the bonnet.
Mazda has optimised the standard eight-speaker sound system and there is also a 12-speaker Bose system available.
A new interior colour of Greige – a mix of grey and beige – has been introduced, while burgundy will be offered exclusively for the hatchback.
A new Polymetal Grey exterior colour makes its debut on the hatch only, which Mazda says changes its expression depending on the light and accentuates the hatch’s body.

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