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Market 2014: Small-car battle to rage on

Coming soon: More refined than before, the new Mazda3 feels like a worthy Golf rival. Let's wait and see how it's priced...

Mazda and Toyota to continue small-car war into New Year as new models arrive

Mazda logo27 Dec 2013

By RON HAMMERTON

THE dust has not yet settled on the battle for 2013’s top-selling-car crown in Australia, but rivals are already lining up for a return bout in 2014.

As 2013 draws to a close, the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla are locked in a struggle to the wire for the bragging rights as Australian’s favourite car this year, with the Corolla going into December slightly ahead of the Mazda3, 39,794 to 38,060.

If Toyota’s small car prevails, it will end the Mazda3’s two-year reign at the top of the tables since it displaced the long-time leader, Holden’s Commodore, in 2011, signalling the new-found dominance of the small-car class in Australia.

But Mazda is warming up an all-new Mazda3 for launch in January, giving it a massive launch pad into the New Year.

Armed with Mazda’s new SkyActiv powertrain and chassis technology, the Mazda3 should blast out of the blocks, provided sufficient stocks are forthcoming from Hiroshima.

As GoAuto has reported, the third-generation Mazda3 will open with a choice of 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol engines and no fewer than six model specifications, including a new sports variant that will restore the Astina nameplate to the Mazda line-up.

22 center imageLeft: Toyota Corolla sedan.

But Toyota, which launched its latest-generation Corolla hatch in October 2012, will return fire by replacing its aging Corolla sedan in the first half of 2014.

Revealed as the Furia concept at the Detroit motor show in January, the Corolla sedan will get the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine as the hatchback, along with the same continuously variable transmission (CVT) and, possibly, alternative six-speed manual gearbox.

Other manufacturers in the small-car class are also warming up for a 2014 stoush. South Korea’s Hyundai, whose i30/Elantra twins had notched up a combined 36,328 sales to the end of November, will come out swinging with a facelifted Elantra sedan in the New Year.

Up and coming Volkswagen will flesh out its new Golf range with a wagon and two high-performance models – the GTI Performance and Golf R – in the first half of the year.

Other manufacturers to have signalling new-model action in the small car class are Nissan, with its Pulsar SSS sports sedan coming in the third quarter, Peugeot with its new 308 towards the end of the year and Subaru with the latest WRX and STI slated for March and April respectively.

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