These are the first pictures of the new Mazda 3 saloon, which will be unveiled at the LA motor show this November. The 3 is a vital model for the company, having sold well in all the major world markets since its launch.

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Although based on the existing car, the new 3 is marked out by distinctive ‘ridges’ and scalloped surfaces that hint at the surface treatment of the BMW 1-series. The new 3 also gets styling influences from the RX-8 coupé with more pronounced front wings and an RX-8-style nose design.The interior has been redesigned and features a sweeping new design language with a very distinctive centre console and bold, modern switchgear. Mazda has applied weight-saving measures to the revamped model, though a serious breakthrough in weight reduction is expected in a few years’ time, when the all-new Mazda 3 arrives.Although no details have yet emerged on the extent of the changes to the chassis, the car is in line for some impressive under-bonnet technology. Mazda engineers have developed an all-new 2.0-litre direct injection petrol engine – thought to be good for 150bhp – as well as a new 2.2-litre turbodiesel unit that could be used in the next-generation 3 MPS instead of today’s turbocharged petrol engine.Company sources say the 2.2 diesel, which is expected to produce 185bhp, has the economy of a 2.0-litre diesel, but with considerably better power and torque. This diesel engine will also be fitted to the CX-7 SUV and Mazda’s Mondeo-rivalling 6 range later next year.The new SISS stop-start system will also be available on the new Mazda 3. SISS stops the engine when the car is travelling below 2mph and in neutral, ensuring that the pistons stop in the optimum position to be restarted by an injection of fuel directly into the cylinder. Mazda says the restart time of 0.35sec is half that of rival systems. Overall fuel economy should improve by up to 10 per cent.The new 3 cannot come soon enough for Mazda in the US. After a strong sales start to the year, the Japanese car maker was hit by the global economic turbulence, with the Mazda 3 being particularly hard hit.However, Mazda in the UK is still performing strongly, with sales in September down just over 1.5 per cent and down less than one per cent for the first nine months of the year.

Hilton Holloway