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by Tim Beissmann

Mazda has revealed the first official images of the facelifted 2012 Mazda3 ahead of its debut at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto tonight and its expected launch in Australia before the end of this year.

Mazda Australia’s Steve Maciver said he could not confirm the exact timing of the release of the new Mazda3 in Australia. The only official announcement from Mazda Australia is that the SKYACTIV-G petrol engine and SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic transmission will be implemented into the Australian Mazda line-up before the end of the year.

Globally, Mazda has announced the top-selling Mazda3 will become the first production vehicle on sale with the new SKYACTIV engine and transmission technology, with sales to begin later in the year. Putting two and two together, expect the 2012 Mazda3 SKYACTIV in Australia in the second half of the year.

The teaser images of the 2012 Mazda3 reveal mild revisions to the exterior styling, with some of the BL Series 1 design aspects softened for a more widespread appeal.

The front and rear bumpers, front grille, headlamps and fog light surrounds have all been redesigned. A range of new 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels also will be introduced with the 2012 model.

But it is under the bonnet where the most significant updates will take place.

Mazda is yet to reveal the full details of the SKYACTIV-G engine underpinning the 2012 Mazda3, although teamed with the SKYACTIV-Drive transmission Mazda is promising higher torque at low- and mid-engine speeds leading to better drivability and reduced fuel consumption in everyday driving.

Mazda’s well-publicised goal is to improve company fuel efficiency by 30 percent from 2008 to 2015. Mr Maciver said so far Mazda had achieved only “incremental improvements” in efficiency, but said the upcoming widespread introduction of SKYACTIV technologies was the key to meeting its targets.

He said the SKYACTIV-G petrol and SKYACTIV-D diesel engines would lead to between 15 percent and 20 percent of the improvements. A further four percent to seven percent efficiency gain would be achieved through the use of the SKYACTIV-Drive transmission, and the remaining cuts would be made through the use of lightweight materials and enhanced vehicle aerodynamics.




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