The Mazda 3 prototype may be wearing patterned camouflage but the overall shape and details of the new hatchback are clearly evident.
It will become the fourth Mazda to adopt the company’s Kodo design language when it appears publicly for the first time later this year before going on sale in Australia in early 2014.
That means a new front end that’s characterised by a bluff nose, prominent black grille and angled headlights to replace the current model’s Mr Happy look.
The profile of the hatch, set to be unveiled officially before the sedan version, is close to Mazda ‘customer clinic’ renderings leaked in late 2012.
Our spy photographer’s shot of the new 3’s interior reveals most, however.
The image shows the Mazda will have a related but notably different cabin design to the CX-5 and Mazda 6.
While the SUV and medium car share closely aligned dashboards with an integrated colour display, the Mazda 3 will follow the likes of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class with an Apple iPad-inspired screen protruding from the top of the dash.
The instrument cluster also skips the triple-circular-dials design of those other models for a singular round dial that’s flanked by smaller, squarer instrument displays.
On the centre console, the bin lid adopts an L-shape design and the 3 borrows the rotary menu controller from the 6 – though the hatch also includes a mysterious smaller dial.
Parts that appear to be carried over from the CX-5 and 6 include the heating and ventilation dials, central air vents and the steering wheel.
The leather-wrapped wheel, handbrake and automatic gearshift lever, along with the well-bolstered seats, point to this spied model being a higher-specified Mazda 3, such as a Maxx Sport.
The new Mazda 3 sits on a shortened version of the platform underpinning the CX-5 and Mazda 6.
It's expected to utilise the same engines that include 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre four-cylinders, though the 2.2-litre turbo diesel from those Mazda models may make way for a smaller unit for the 3.
The 2.0-litre petrol has been criticised for lacking sufficient power for the CX-5 but should prove to be more effective in the smaller, lighter 3.
The Mazda 3 will feature lighter and stronger construction as the third vehicle to be built from the ground up using Mazda’s Skyactiv chassis and drivetrain technologies.
Mazda’s i-Stop engine stop-start and i-Eloop energy recuperation technologies can also be expected to feature to help make the new 3 one of the most economical cars in its class.
A hybrid version of the Mazda 3, borrowing Toyota’s system from the Prius range, is also anticipated though unlikely to make it to Australia in the foreseeable future.
The current Mazda 3 has been the country’s best-selling car since 2011, though the impending new version could hurt its hopes of a sales hat-trick towards the end of the year.