The next generation Mazda 3 is ready to go into production and will be launched before the end of the year, company insiders in Japan have revealed.

Mazda says it has created a more stylish family hatchback (as previewed by our rendered image) and plans to build on the global success of the outgoing car.

Its designers have chosen an imposing, aggressive design for the front end of the 3. The new car also gets more pronounced wheel arches – now a Mazda family trait already noticeable on the 6 and the 2. At the rear, funky tail lamps echo those found on the new Mazda 6.

It all means this hatch should have a more distinctive road presence than its predecessor.

A four-door saloon version of the new 3 will make its debut at the Los Angeles motor show in November, while the five-door hatchback 3 launches at the Bologna Show in Italy in December.

The 3’s current range of 1.4 to 2.0-litre petrol engines will be carried over to the new car. But diesel engines will be strong sellers, particularly in Europe, and upgraded versions of the existing 1.6 and 2.0-litre oil burners should offer a more economical, refined drive.

European customers can expect the next-generation 3 to arrive in showrooms during the early months of 2009.

Peter Nunn