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Mazda3 to be fast-tracked for Oz

Price point: Despite currency pressure, Mazda hopes to match the current model range pricing in Australia.

Mazda Australia pushes for early introduction of its vital new small car

24 Nov 2008

THE new Mazda3 will be released in Australia by mid-2009, with an expected on-sale date in June or earlier if Mazda Australia gets its way.

To be available in both four-door sedan (as launched in the US last week) and five-door hatchback bodystyles from launch, the new range will again comprise three 2.0-litre specification levels and one 2.5-litre variant.

Mazda will reveal the hatchback variant on November 26, ahead of its global public debut at the Bologna motor show on December 3.

The 2.0-litre line-up will echo the current model’s original variant range by comprising the entry-level Neo, which currently comprises about half of all Mazda3 sales in Australia, Maxx and Maxx Sport, while the 2.5-litre-powered SP25 will complete the launch range.

Expect a replacement for the current Mazda3 diesel, which offers an equipment level equivalent to the Maxx Sport and is priced at $29,500, to appear here about four to six weeks later.

Depending on final specifications and currency exchange rates, Mazda hopes to maintain its current pricing regime in the super-competitive small-car category, which should see an opening pricetag of at least $20,990 and extend to about $30,000 for the SP25 and diesel variants.

A redesigned version of the five-door Mazda3 MPS hatch should appear at the Geneva motor show in March and is expected on sale by September, also priced in the vicinity of its forebear’s $38,750 sticker price.

Mazda insiders told GoAuto they considered employing all-wheel drive hardware underneath their smallest MPS model, but decided against it in the interests of retaining a sub-$40,000 price positioning in the face of renewed market pressure from Mitsubishi’s Lancer Ralliart hatch ($42,490).

22 center imageLeft: Current model Mazda3 diesel.

Therefore expect the new flagship to emerge with a lightly retuned version of the current model’s 190kW/380Nm 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and a modified differential – not the automatically torque-biasing limited-slip Quaife diff seen in Ford’s new and closely-related Focus RS.

The new Mazda3 MPS was allegedly benchmarked against the Lotus Elise and Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evo.

Sales of the new Mazda3 are again expected to be split evenly between the sedan and hatch before becoming weighted more toward the four-door, as is the case with the outgoing model.

Mazda’s global small car will continue to be built exclusively for global consumption at the company’s Ujina plant in Japan.

Expect the new Mazda3 to offer at least as much standard safety equipment as the current model, which means all models will offer at least twin front airbags and an anti-lock braking system (ABS), plus active front head restraints.

Electronic stability control is currently a circa-$400 option at base level (and remains unavailable on Toyota’s segment-leading Corolla), but could become standard across the new range.

Mazda says all of the equipment available for its successor is likely to be offered in Australia, either as standard on upstream variants or as part of an options pack, including larger-car features such as front side and side curtain airbags, adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, satellite-navigation, keyless entry/starting, powered front seats with three memory positions, heated seats and wing mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a 10-speaker premium Bose surround sound system and dual-zone climate control.

However, Mazda says model complexity and Australia’s unleaded petrol “characteristics” (read: high sulphur levels) prevent it from making the new Three’s idle-stop engine technology, which will be available in other markets exclusively with a new direct-injection petrol engine, available in Australia.

Read more:

First drive: Mazda improves its Three breed

LA show: Mazda's three-box debut

Sydney show: Mazda3 makes global debut

Rotary won’t die but current Mazda3 a hard act to follow

New Mazda3 stands aside

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