When the KODO – Soul of Motion design language was first conceived by Mazda not too long ago, it was a clear departure from its previous Nagare concept. The latter talks about the fluid flow of wind and water, while the former epitomized the power and beauty of instantaneous movement of animals or humans. The Nagare concept was reportedly set aside midway because it was difficult to translate that fluid language into tangible designs for automobiles, but for the reviewer, the culmination of the previous Mazda 3 and 6 were perfect examples of that fluid watery language, albeit in watered down form (pun intended) for mass production. When the first concept car borne out of the Kodo design came about, the Shinari, it got me excited as to how Mazda’s production variants were going to look like. Then along came the Takeri, a slightly tamer version of that language, which looked more plausible as a road going vehicle rather than a computer rendering. the writer was in love with Takeri, and was hoping that they’d keep as much of Takeri as possible for the new 6, but alas, that was not to be. Still, the new Mazda6 bore many resemblances to the Takeri concept car, though not as flashy and extravagant. So when the news came about on the imminent launch of the new 3, I was skeptical about how much of Kodo would survive in the 3. Luckily, early news reports and leaked pictures showed a very “Mazda 6-like” car, which some quarters labeled too Mazda6-like for their taste, while others lauded the close affinity of the Mazda3 to its older sibling as being a good thing. The writer belonged to the latter camp, and felt that the design on the 3 made for a much tauter and tighter car with just enough of overhangs fore and aft to give it that sleek side profile. While the Mazda6 looked more like a cruiser, the Mazda3 was meant for spirited driving along narrow twisties and congested traffic; where the Mazda6 excelled as an elegant executive sedan, the 3 looked promising and a worthy successor to the ol’ Smiley bad boy of old.
All-new Mazda3: Overview of the next best-selling Mazda variant
As this is an overview of the new Mazda 3, the writer had pointed out the hard facts and figures, keeping the report on ride and handling for a possible full-on test drive in the near future. In the looks department, at a glance one is hard pressed to tell the difference between the two, so it looks like Mazda is sticking with its tried and tested formula of one look, two segments just like how the previous generation was, without close scrutiny. From the front, you’d be really hard pressed to tell them apart, such is the strong genetic bearing on both versions. All the way up until the A-pillar, you’d have to have a real keen eye for detail to discern one from the other, with the biggest tell-tale sign being the more pronounced and aggressive 5-point front grille of the Mazda3 extending down towards the lower air dam while the Mazda6 had a smaller, more elegant design. Elsewhere, the amber blinkers on the Mazda3 reside right on top of the foglamp housing while on the Mazda6 they sit within the headlamp cluster. But, that’s about it. Unless you were to line both cars side by side, there’s not much else that separates the two apart from the Mazda6’s larger overall dimensions when viewed directly from the front.
Even from its side profile right up to the start of the C-pillars you’d swear you were seeing double. The wing mirrors look very similar, right down to the design of the door handles and shoulder accents. The Mazda6 is appreciably longer overall, but as mentioned, you’d need to line both cars up to see the difference. It is after the C-pillar that things become clearer, with the Mazda3 sporting a tauter and shorter rear overhang, with shorter taillights that do not reach as deep into the shoulder line when compared to the Mazda6. Right after the sloping roofline, the boot line of the Mazda3 gets truncated to give it an almost shooting brake-like side profile while the Mazda6 has an elongated boot that complements its overall long side profile. It is at the sides that one begins to appreciate and recognize the Mazda3 for its shorter wheelbase and sporty dimensions. Round the back, the Mazda3 loses the chrome lining of the Mazda6 on the trunklid, while its rearlight clusters feature a more sloping design, kind of like a more aggressive facade.
All-new Mazda3: All Things SKYACTIV
At the heart of the matter is a 2.0-liter inline-4, DOHC 16-valve SkyActiv-G powerplant that is tuned with a high 14:1 compression to deliver 162hp@6,000rpm and a healthy 210Nm of twist @4,000rpm, mated to a 6-speed SKYACTIV-Drive auto tranny to move 1,266kg of metal held together by a lightweight SKYACTIV-Body and SKYACTIV-Chassis which promises top notch rigidity and lighter weight without sacrificing safety and crashworthiness. The highly rigid chassis is sprung with MacPherson struts up front and Multi-links in the rear, while stopping power is entrusted to a pair of ventilated discs up front and solid discs at the back. The brakes were perfectly capable of stopping the car during testing, even while shod with massive Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 215/45 R18 all around.
A longish 2700mm wheelbase meant that straight line stability would not be compromised, while an overall length of 4,580mm (4,460mm for the hatch) signals happy times negotiating tight bends compared to its larger sibling the Mazda6 which at 4,745mm (4,770mm hatch). The Mazda6 would have a bit more to achieve to match its more compact sibling around tight bends or corners. As for electronic safety control, the usual array of ABS, EBD, BA, DSC and TCS harmoniously keep you on track all day long under all kinds of weather be it rain or shine. Just don’t try to be a smart ass and turn these off to impress your friends, unless you’re a regular at gymkhanas or track days. In the unlikely event that you manage to drive the Mazda3 off the grid and into a tree, 6 airbags act as your last line of defense to prevent the tree from remodeling your face and your future.
What’s the point of a car that handles really well, with decent performance to boot and looks that would make your neighbor jealous, but doesn’t come with a host of electronic gadgetry to show off with? Bi-Xenon headlights with adaptive motion (Adaptive Front-Lighting System or AFS) head the list of niceties on offer here. They are also self-leveling, for those times that you need to ferry a load of heavy set passengers or carry a trunk full of sand bags. Fast-acting LED headlights decorate the tail light clusters for a modern and functional look. Snazzy daytime running lights (DRL) adorn the face of the Mazda3, adding a touch of bling to the car that can be seen from afar. The perennial snob appeal feature that is most sought after by citizens of a tropical climate with daytime temperatures rising beyond 38° is the good old sunroof, which remains closed for the most part except for the first few weeks of ownership. It’s a highly impractical feature, but ranks up there amongst the most sought after pseudo-essential features on car buyers’ lists.
Hyper-milers will be happy to note that this car comes with i-Stop (Idling Start-Stop) that stalls the engine hence cutting off the air-conditioning compressor at crucial times during a hot sunny day in a typical downtown traffic jam situation, and i-ELOOP regenerative braking system that charges up an array of capacitors to operate the car’s electronics during i-Stop. Non-hyper-milers will be happy to note that this system can be switched off if so desired. All is not lost though, as even with i-Stop deactivated the writer was still able to achieve a very commendable consumption average, thanks to every other non-punitive system in the SKYACTIV portfolio working hard to squeeze every ounce of combustive energy out of each drop of subsidized fuel. That means RON95 petrol, in case you were wondering.
All you can expect from an all-new Mazda3
At RM138,935 OTR with insurance, the new KODO-inspired Mazda 3 teases you with a choice of 4 colors; Soul Red Metallic (hero color), Snowflake White Pearl Mica (snowflake, hmm…), Titanium Flash Mica and Meteor Gray Mica. Here, the writer translates the colors in JPJ lingo: Merah, Putih, Kelabu and Kelabu. Notably, with such an asking price the value factor is a little lacking, but at least you’ll be assured of top notch quality and reliability of a fully made in Japan vehicle with 3 years/100,000km warranty and 3 years/60,000km free maintenance. Who’s to know how soon the CKD program will takeoff? Bermaz will need to settle the huge backlog of CX-5 orders before dedicating a production line for the new Mazda3. How soon will that happen is anybody’s guess at the moment, so if you can’t wait to change up, now is a good time to drop by your nearest Mazda Malaysia dealership to test one out for yourself…