Mazda3 The Mazda 3 hatch is not the obvious car to drape with a Union Jack, but its exterior design is a strongly British affair.

Two Brits - Jonathon Frear and Nigel Ratcliffe - have their marker prints all over the new 3’s handsome exterior style.

Manchester-born Frear can take the credit for the exterior, according to his boss, Brit Peter Birtwhistle, who runs Mazda’s European studio where the design was created.

Frear’s model won Mazda’s internal design competition, while Ratcliffe got it into production in Japan.

Ratcliffe has another interesting motoring connection, his car-loving dad made sure his middle name - Villeneuve - left little doubt abut his likely future interests in life. Ratcliffe was also instrumental in the look of the current MX-5.

In total Mazda has five senior Brits in design. The others include Joe Reeves, creator of one of its recent concepts and Paul Munzia working in Mazda’s West Coast design studio in California.

Mazda2This British and European influence has made sure the new 3 develops into a much more polished design, losing its drooping boot look and crisp edges in favour of more subtle body surfacing.

But the new 3 highlights one of the problems that every car maker faces - how to deal with new car launches when world car markets are tanking.

With budget already allocated to one of its best-sellers, Mazda carried through it plans and revealed the 3 at a sneak preview before the Bologna show.

The atmospheric 12th Century castle, complete with medieval fire-eaters and jugglers, seemed a little at odds with today’s straitened times, but the reality is that the final marketing phase of a new car is a fraction of the hundreds of millions dollars already committed to design, development and production.

A sign of the times, though: Mazda design chief Laurens van den Acker flew in from Japan on economy.