The new Mazda 3 has had a ground-up redesign on an all-new platform. This is a marginally shorter, lower hatchback than the one it replaces, but a better-packaged one in terms of interior space, says Mazda. A slightly heavier car too, for reasons that will become apparent – although a stronger and stiffer one, with the proportion of ultra-high-strength steel used in its construction jumping from 3% in the last generation to 30%.
The car continues in a broadly class-conventional vein in terms of mechanical layout, with an all-steel monocoque underbody; engines mounting transversely up front and driving the front axle only; and MacPherson strut type front suspension with a torsion beam at the rear. Get into the technical detail of the car’s design and configuration, however, and you quickly unearth evidence of alternative thinking typical of Mazda. The car’s chassis, for example, has been reinforced with ring-shaped structures intended not only to add strength but also to more quickly transmit vertical loads from the car’s suspension mountings to the base of the driver’s seat.
The suspension has been redesigned to achieve similar ends, and (for the first time in recent Mazda history) works through tyres with softer sidewalls than those of the car they directly replace. Handling is aided by an electronic torque-vectoring system called G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses brake and throttle interventions to imperceptibly but proactively balance the car’s weight between its axles during cornering and, says Mazda, to “smooth the transitions between pitch, roll and yaw”.
The seat frames have been stiffened significantly and the seats themselves reshaped, too. All of this, together with the specific body-stiffening measures, is aimed at taking better advantage of the same biomechanical human reflexes that allow you to keep your head steady while walking, and giving the Mazda 3 what should seem like a more intuitively comfortable ride. It’s an interesting approach you won’t find many other car manufacturers following.
For now, the company is offering a choice of only two petrol engines, both with 24V mild-hybrid assistance, while an all-new diesel option is likely to follow in 2020.