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Future models - Mazda - MX Sportif

First look: Mazda3 breaks cover

Thin disguise: The MX Sportif gives a very good idea of the Mazda3 hatchback's looks.

The Mazda revival continues with the first pic of its 323 replacement

Mazda logo20 Feb 2003

MAZDA will preview its forthcoming replacement for the Mazda 323 small car at the Geneva motor show next month.

Called the Mazda MX Sportif, it is in fact a thinly disguised five-door hatchback version of the Mazda3 which will be launched in production form at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

To be offered as a sedan as well as hatchback, the 3 will go on sale in Australia about January 2004.

The 3 will complete the transformation of Mazda's mainstream model lineup. First into Australia last August was the highly regarded Mazda6 replacement for the 626, while the Mazda2 replacement for the 121 went on-sale in December.

Both have been big hits for Mazda, reviving the brand's dormant reputation for building exciting, involving mainstream cars. Company insiders expect the 3 to deliver more of the same.

However, they are not willing to talk about the 3's local specification including engines. But they have previously confirmed that pricing will rise, which is hardly a surprise considering the 323's bargain basement $19,990 entry price which includes air-conditioning.

Before the 3 gets here, Mazda will launch the rotary four-door RX-8 in Australia July 1, providing a further image boost as well as adding to a sales impetus which saw it fifth outright and first importer in January.

The concept MX Sportif showcases the same styling themes as established by the 6 and 2, with the now distinctive Mazda five-point grille. Mazda say its wants the exterior design to project a sense of "movement, solidity and dynamic stability".

Noticeable immediately from the single photograph issued by Mazda is the long cabin, short overhangs, pronounced shoulders and unusual reverse angle C-pillar.

Inside the instrument panel is finished in a high-gloss piano black with metallic highlights. The overall theme of the interior is said to be sporty and simple with an emphasis on space and functionality.

The front-wheel drive MX Sportif is powered by an MZR 2.0-litre, inline four-cylinder engine, one of Mazda's new-generation engines.

The engine features a reversed intake-exhaust layout (with the exhaust system fitted at the rear), a variable intake system (VIS), a tumble swirl control valve (TSCV) and a high-flow port head.

It also meet the PZEV (partial zero emission vehicle) standard in the United States, the European Commission's Euro 4 standard and the ULEV (ultra-low emissions vehicle) standard in Japan.

The engine is mated to a close-ratio, short-throw five-speed manual transmission. The MX Sportif also features Mazda's Dynamic Stability Control.

"The five-door, hatchback MX Sportif, as with all new-generation Mazda products, has been developed to blur the lines of traditional vehicle segmentation, offering customers far more in terms of exterior styling, overall vehicle roominess and enjoyable driving dynamics," Mazda said in its PR blurb issued with picture.

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