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Mazda’s SkyActiv revolution to continue apace

Road map: The Minagi concept originally previewed the CX-5, but could also point to a possible CX-3.

Range-wide revamp will see five new-generation Mazdas by 2016


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15 Jul 2013


MAZDA will release five all-new models between now and the end of 2015, as the Japanese brand keeps its range overhaul in overdrive.

The flurry of fresh metal will encompass not only the re-generation of several key existing model lines, but is odds-on to also include the introduction of a brand new small SUV, likely called the CX-3.

Models in line for imminent makeover include, in order, the Mazda2 light-car, MX-5 roadster - the platform for which will be licensed to Alfa Romeo for a re-born Spider - and the CX-9 seven-seat soft-roader.

All will ride on variations of Mazda’s SkyActiv scalable architecture, which also underpins the wildly popular CX-5 compact SUV, as well as the latest Mazda6, and the all-new Mazda3.

The new model overhaul completes the previous technology tie-up with Ford (Ranger/BT50 pick-up twins notwithstanding), and will see Mazda through to the next decade.

It also represents the completion of the first stage of Mazda’s multi-billion dollar investment in the lighter, modular SkyActiv underpinnings.

The new high-riding CX-3 - likely sharing much under the skin with the next-generation Mazda2 light-car - will battle an impending tidal wave of tiddler SUVs poised for Australia such as the Nissan Juke, Holden Trax, Opel Mokka, Ford EcoSport, Peugeot 2008, and Renault Captur.

Its exact arrival date is still a secret, but Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders has already confirmed his desire to offer an SUV below the hot-selling CX-5.

“We want one,” he told GoAuto at the Mazda3 prototype drive in Los Angeles last week.

“I’ve said in the past that my ideal range for Australia would consist of a fleet of B, C and D segment passenger cars, with a fleet of SUVs to match.

“With a heap of similarly sized vehicles coming, why wouldn’t I.”

But before the conjectured CX-3 arrives, we are likely to see the brand new, second-generation Mazda2 light-car touch down.

While the new ‘3’ sedan and hatch has been described as the most important model in Mazda’s history, it will be this new DF Series Mazda2 that will be charged with snagging buyers in key European and Asian regions when it appears by mid-2014.

One company insider revealed this next iteration will wear a slimmed-down version of the corporate Kodo design language’s ‘Signature Wing’ grille treatment, to give it a much bolder face than the six-year old model it will usurp.

But don’t expect a radical departure from the side and rear angles, since the styling is said to be evolutionary. Instead, the revolution will be saved for inside and underneath the car, with a new platform and completely overhauled cabin to help it reel in the standard-setting Volkswagen Polo.

To that end, there will also be the requisite huge leap in interior functionality and media connectivity, while uplifts in material quality should see the newcomer move away from the existing car’s cheerful but cheap austerity.

Just as importantly, a slightly longer wheelbase and wider tracks will tackle tight space issues inside the little tiddler, benefitting both the back seat and cargo areas.

The front-end crash structure will be shared with its larger SkyActiv siblings, but lighter (and mostly non-interchangeable) components will cut upwards of 50kg compared to the existing car.

Unlike its pricier and larger siblings, the next Mazda2 will retain the B-segment staple (and cheaper, less conplex) MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension systems (rather than the others’ multi-link designs).

Whether the freer-flowing 4-2-1 exhaust system and other full-fat SkyActiv technologies filter down is not yet known, but the net result should keep kerb weights in the 950kg region – down from 1000kg-plus.

Overseas engine choices will include a development of the 1.3-litre SkyActiv-G four-cylinder petrol engine launched in the outgoing DE series elsewhere during 2011, but Australian-bound 2s will upgrade to the 1.5-litre SkyActiv-G powerplant version debuting in Euro-spec 3s, delivering up to 80kW via six-speed transmission choices.

Fuel and emissions cuts are said to be in the 15 per cent region, suggesting that average petrol economy will be in sub-5.5 litre per 100km territory. Toyota, by the way, will receive a slightly restyled version of the DF for North American consumption, to be built alongside the Mazda2 in a new facility in Mexico. Mazda has announced tie-ins with several major manufacturers in recent times, with the company having suffered well-known financial woes in recent years.

At the other end of the size scale, the second-gen CX-9 is coming in 2015, although not a great deal is known about it other than it will most likely use a stretched Mazda6 chassis.

Designed at Mazda’s North American headquarters in Irvine, California, the seven-seater crossover will be significantly lighter than the 2000kg-plus current model that first rolled out in 2007, and which was facelifted in 2011 (the world debut of this facelift was held at the Sydney motor show of that year, reflecting the importance of the Australian market to Mazda and this model line in particular).

Will Mazda invest in developing a SkyActiv-G direct-injection V6? Is the 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D turbo-diesel in the plan? Will a turbo version of the 2.5-litre four-pot petrol powerplant manage instead? Or perhaps an outside partner like Toyota or Ford – which still owns a three per cent stake in the Hiroshima firm – might provide a suitable engine. Stay tuned.

Still on SUVs, Mazda won’t say whether it will offer a seven-seater wagon version of the Ford Australia-developed T6 Ranger-based Everest/Endeavour Prado competitor. Watch this space as well.

Finally, the hotly anticipated ND-series MX-5 is inching closer to reality, in both Mazda and (soon after) Alfa Romeo formats – with the latter espousing a completely different body and interior despite coming down the same Japanese production line.

One Mazda designer hinted that some of the styling elements seen in the 2011 MX-5 Miata Spyder SEMA concept “may make it” on the newcomer.

Other Mazda models are mooted globally before 2016 too – such as the next-generation 5/Premacy MPV and myriad Japanese-market Kei car contenders shared with other makers – but none are earmarked for Australian consumption.

And what’s coming in the second half of this decade?According to Mr Benders, Mazda needs every one of its core pillar models mentioned above to fire internationally big time before it can even contemplate expanding to the niches that we suspect are well down the development track up in Japan.

The include the MX-5-based rotary coupe, and the on-again/off-again Mazda1 sub-2 city car, which has been rumoured to be the subject of talks with the Fiat group to cover the future 500/Panda and Lancia Ypsilon replacements.

What's coming from Mazda
BM 3Early 2014
DF 22014
ND MX-52014
CX-9 replacement2015

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1st of January 1970

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