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LA show: Mazda3’s split personality

Mazda aims to stand apart from small SUVs with sporty hatch and conservative sedan

3 Dec 2018

MAZDA says it decided to pursue distinctly different designs for its new-generation Mazda3 hatchback and sedan in an attempt to appeal to a broader buyer base than the outgoing model.
The outgoing third-generation Mazda3 hatch and sedan feature virtually identical designs and the sedan could almost be mistaken for a hatch with a slightly extended boot.
However, the Japanese car-maker elected to pitch the fourth-gen car – revealed at this week’s LA motor show – to the more conservative sedan buyer that prefers a more traditional shape, while the hatchback heads down a more dynamic looking, sporty route.
Speaking to Australian journalists at the LA show this week, Mazda Motor Corporation chief designer for Mazda3 Yasutake Tsuchida said the company adopted the design strategy despite not receiving any feedback from its customers suggesting that that was what they preferred.
“Sedan customer prefers the formality,” he said. “But hatchback customer prefers the freedom or sportiness. So when we talk about the clothes of customers – the sedan customer would prefer the business suit, but hatchback customer is non-suit. 
“Those two customers are different. That’s why different cars for them. It’s a natural idea.”
He added that the decision was internal and suggested that Mazda does not buy into industry trends.
“Actually to tell you the truth, Mazda design doesn’t look at the trends. We don’t care about it. So we are trying to make a vehicle that the customer would like to have.”
Mr Tsuchida said it was a “rather quick discussion” by Mazda’s design and product teams to separate the look of the hatch and sedan for the new model, and he added that it was more expensive than maintaining a near-identical look.
However, Mazda Motor Corporation managing executive officer and head of design and brand style Ikuo Maeda confirmed that the design strategy would not follow to other Mazda models that have two body styles, such as the next-generation versions of the Mazda2 and Mazda6.
“The strategy is actually limited to Mazda3, because we found the customers in this sedan segment, what they want is this more (traditional) three-box styling, that’s what we found,” he said. Actually the hatchback is not that popular among those customers. 
“For the sedan we decided to have this three-box styling from the start. And for the hatchback, we decided to not make (traditional) styling because if we make hatchback in (traditional) styling, it is not so interesting. So we decided on a different approach for the hatchback.”
As reported, the hatch features a bold rear design with a massive C-pillar, sloping roofline, rounded tail and circular tail-light signature that will become more of a brand signature in the future.
The boot on the sedan for the fourth-gen car is far more prominent than the outgoing model and has a more traditional looking C-pillar.
While Mazda is yet to confirm interior dimensions and cargo capacity for the new Mazda3, Mr Tsuchida said the hatch’s new roofline has meant a loss of 2cm of rear headroom and the cargo capacity is also slightly down, while the sedan’s boot space is up.
Mr Tsuchida said the company went for a sporty look for the hatch, knowing that some dimensions might be impacted, in a bid to try and stand apart from the influx of small SUVs that are impacting small hatchback sales globally.
“Even in Europe, the small crossover (sales) volume is more than hatchbacks. The price is the same and packaging is the same. The only difference is the ride height. 
“Since the small crossover is a new trend recently, that’s why we need to have a unique and good weapon as a hatchback as we can’t win over small crossover models.”

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