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by David Zalstein

An image purporting to be the upcoming third-generation Mazda 3 has appeared in a US bank’s analysis of the car industry.

The image of the supposed next-gen Mazda 3 small car – referenced as being sourced from Mazda North America – was used by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch as part of its annual ‘Car Wars’ industry analysis, with the US bank claiming it only publishes images supplied by manufacturers and not renderings.

Seemingly running counter to this claim, however, is the fact that an identical image was first published by Carscoops in March, credited as being a rendering from the enthusiast website.

Mazda 3 Spied - 1

While the US’s Motor Trend reports that Mazda North America refused to comment on the image, a representative of the Japanese manufacturer told the publication that no images have been released of any vehicles that aren’t currently on sale.

Further to the curiosity of the image, the Mazda 3 at the heart of the controversy shows some similarities to leaked renderings seen last year – which the car maker stressed to CarAdvice at the time were not indicative of the styling of the all-new Mazda 3 expected to go on sale in early 2014 – but differs from the most recent spy images of the car testing in Europe.

Mazda 3 Spied - 3

The camouflaged car has smoother, less aggressive lines across its bonnet and quarter panels, a more heavily raked windscreen and an entirely different fog light assembly.

Debate aside, the new Mazda 3 will sit on a shortened version of the platform underpinning the CX-5 and new Mazda 6, with an engine line-up expected to include 2.0- and 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol units along with a possible diesel powerplant.

Mazda’s Skyactiv chassis and drivetrain technologies and i-Stop engine stop-start and i-Eloop energy recuperation technologies are also expected to feature.