What is it?
If you were a salesperson tasked to shift the new Mazda 3, what would your elevator pitch be to prospective customers? It’s a question that the bosses at Mazda have attempted to answer with the fourth-generation model.
For years a car that was on the sidelines, like the shy child hiding at the back of the class, Mazda’s family hatchback has to come out of its skin and make itself noticed if it’s to make a positive contribution to the company’s success.
It arrives at a time when competition moves on at a relentless pace. The Volkswagen Golf is the hatchback for all seasons with an upmarket vibe and these days as good as sells itself on the strength of its reputation. The Ford Focus offers a class-leading driving experience at the sort of competitive cost that any household or company car driver will find difficult to ignore.
Since the 3, and the 323 before it, has been around, the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have also muscled in on its patch, bringing the allure of posh showrooms, robust residual values and the opportunity to drop brand names at the dinner table. And let’s not get started on the rise of the SUV…
So, what’s new? What’s going to help the 3 be relevant? Kota Beppu, the engineer who lead the development of the 3, says the new model will appeal to 'free spirits'. It isn’t hard to imagine such people saving up for an MX-5 or, once upon a time, an RX-7, but whether individuals have a burning desire to express themselves with their choice of hatchback is debatable. Just ask Alfa Romeo, which struggled to achieve much the same objective with its Giulietta.
There’s a new platform with the option of four-wheel drive, the new Skyactiv-X petrol motor, which uses compression ignition, and a design that stands out of the crowd. In other words, this isn’t a makeover.