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LA show: More tech could push up Mazda3 price

Mazda expects new Mazda3 to be a success as sedan and hatch take different paths

Mazda logo28 Nov 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON in LOS ANGELES

MAZDA Australia says its freshly revealed Mazda3 should be as popular as the model it replaces, despite a decline in small-car sales and an expected uptick in pricing when its hits showrooms in mid-2019.

While Mazda is yet to discuss pricing for the fourth-generation model, it is expected to creep up in price due to the addition of new safety technologies, including a traffic jam assist pilot, as well as more in-car tech such as the 8.8-inch display screen that is expected to be standard across the range.

The outgoing model kicks off from $20,490 excluding on-road costs for the base Neo Sport manual and tops out at $35,490 for the SP25 Astina.

Speaking with GoAuto at the global reveal of the Mazda3 ahead of the Los Angeles motor show, Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak said while the small-car segment was slowing down, he expected the new model to be successful.

“It’s still a big segment and there’s still a lot of demand for small cars in Australia and that is not going to stop anytime soon, but the segment is softening,” he said.

“We have not made a call yet on where the volume will sit. Part of that is driven by what the final price will be and we are months away from figuring that out so let’s wait and see.

“But you saw the car this evening. We have driven it, we know it will be right up the pointy end of the class, certainly for looks and driving dynamics. So why can’t it still be a very successful model?”

The current-generation Mazda3 is the top selling model in the Japanese car-maker’s line-up globally and in Australia, and it trails the Toyota Corolla as the second best-selling passenger car Down Under.

The Mazda3 is on 26,438 units to the end of October – a 3.6 per cent year-on-year dip, while the CX-5 has found 22,185 homes, a 3.9 per cent increase.

Mr Doak said Mazda was not concerned with what model was its best seller and that the company would focus on where there is customer demand.

“Ultimately the customer will decide and we can fulfil the demand. When we launched CX-3, we said, we are not precious about this model or that model being number one in our line-up.

“It is really about maximising the opportunity and if it means that people want to buy model ‘x’ or model ‘y’, that is fine by us. Let’s wait and see.”

The hatchback will launch mid-2019 and GoAuto understands that the sedan will follow a month or two after.

Mazda’s new high-tech compression-ignition and mild hybrid-equipped Skyactiv-X petrol engine is also expected to follow a few months after as part of a staggered launch.

Mazda is expected to offer the Skyactiv-X along with the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol engines but will bypass the 1.8-litre diesel and 1.5-litre petrol units offered in other markets.  The all-wheel-drive system is also unlikely to make it Down Under.

The line-up is expected to continue with four model grades, with Mr Doak explaining that Mazda is about offering its buyers choice.

He said that the new hatchback, with its bold new design, would attract new buyers to the Mazda3.

“Imagine that Polymetal (new exterior colour) hatch with that red interior – we haven’t really played in that space with that car before. That looks very sporty but also a very premium looking vehicle. Let’s see what happens. (It could) bring some new people to Mazda3.”

The fourth-gen Mazda3 marks a shift in positioning for the two body styles. Whole the hatch clearly has a sporty look, the sedan features a more staid design and is much more different to the hatch than the current-generation model.

Mr Doak said the greater separation of the sedan and the hatch could produce an interesting result, but added that Mazda Australia was supportive of the strategy.

“I think the hatch and sedan split is currently 60/40 to hatch. I don’t think that will get any stronger. In some ways I think maybe the sedan has more opportunity because there is a very clear differentiation between the two cars.

“With the current gen, that isn’t as strong as it will be with the new one. So that’s a good thing. But again, if people want to buy more sedans than hatches, that’s ok by us. We will supply to the demand. It will be an interesting one to watch.

“Way back when first discussions around giving them two different characters, we were fully supportive of that.”


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