The Mazda 3 has been one of Australia's highest-selling cars since the nameplate emerged in 2004, and was the country's number one vehicle in 2011 and 2012.
The new Mazda 3 is the third model – after the CX-5 SUV and Mazda 6 medium car – to be created under the Japanese brand’s Skyactiv umbrella, which encompasses everything from platforms to engines and gearboxes.
Here’s CarAdvice’s 10-step guide to Mazda’s new-generation small car.
Pricing and body styles
The Mazda 3 starts slightly higher than its predecessor, though models are priced lower than their equivalent predecessors and there’s generally more equipment offered overall. The biggest change sees the 2.5-litre-powered SP25 start significantly lower: where it’s previously cost more than $30,000, models now start from $25,890. You can read our more detailed article on pricing and trim grades here. Sedan and hatchback bodies are again offered. Despite its all-new platform and exterior design, length of four-door (4.58m) and five-door (4.46m) variants remain unchanged. Other dimensions change identically for both, however. Width expands by 40mm, height lowers by 15mm and the distance between the front and rear axles (wheelbase) stretches by 60mm. Proportions are also helped by a reduction in overhangs – by 35mm at the front and 25mm at the rear (longer, of course, on the sedan). Weight is also reduced by between 20kg and 50kg across the range.
The new 3 debuts Mazda’s new connectivity system with voice control that goes beyond Bluetooth and audio streaming to offer satellite navigation with traffic updates, and integration of internet radio via your smartphone and apps such as Pandora, Stitcher and Aha. All is displayed on a smart, colour seven-inch touchscreen. The touch system disengages when on the move for safety reasons, and instead the driver (or front passenger) operates the infotainment system via an intuitive combination of buttons and rotary dial/joystick on the centre console – which can be twisted, rotated and pressed. MZD is not available on the base Mazda 3, the Neo.
Engines and Gearboxes
Mazda, at least for now, has decided against diesel power for the new Mazda 3, and Mazda Australia doesn’t believe there’s a business case for bringing the Hybrid variant here. So Australians have a simple choice between two four-cylinder petrol engines – in 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre capacity. Neo, Maxx and Touring trim grades are powered by the smaller engine; three SP25 models (SP25, SP25 GT and SP25 Astina) run the bigger unit. The 2.0-litre is a slight variation of what was the first Skyactiv engine to appear in a Mazda – the SP20 of 2011. It produces 114kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4000rpm. The 2.5-litre is the same as the one found in both the CX-5 and Mazda 6, with outputs of 138kW (at 5700rpm) and 250Nm (at 3250rpm). A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, though 75 per cent of buyers are predicted to pay the $2000 premium for the six-speed automatic transmission.
More power, less fuel
While neither a diesel nor hybrid Mazda 3 is being made available, the two petrol engines should do an impressive job of limiting trips to petrol stations. The 2.0L’s official fuel consumption figures range from 5.7 litres per 100km to 5.9L/100km depending on body style and transmission, improving slightly on the old SP20 auto’s 6.1L/100km but making a bigger efficiency gain over the regular former 2.0L (7.9L/100 manual; 8.2L/100km auto). Power and torque also increase – by just 1kW and 6Nm versus the SP20 Skyactiv and by 6kW and 18Nm over the normal 2.0L. The SP25 models also make notable gains. Power and torque are up 16kW and 23Nm, while fuel consumption drops from 8.6L/100km to as low as 6.0L/100km for the sedan auto. The manual sedan is marginally higher at 6.1L/100km, the hatchback thirstier at 6.5L/100km regardless of transmission.
Astina badge returns
The flagship Mazda 3 adopts the Astina badge that hasn’t been seen here since the 323 of 2003. It will be hard to pick it on the road, however. Mazda has in recent years adopted an approach of decluttering the exteriors of its cars and restricting badges simply to the nameplate but not trim grades.
Another Mazda debut on the 3 is an ‘Active Driver Display’ – a digital head-up display available on SP25 GT and SP25 Astina models, which provides read-outs for speedo, radar cruise control distance setting and sat-nav when in use.
Mazda 3 follows the CX-5 and Mazda 6 in making a series of safety technology feature available. They include blind spot monitoring, Rear Traffic Alert that can warn of approaching objects when reversing out of a perpendicular parking spot, lane departure warning, and Smart City Brake that can automatically halt the car between speeds of 4km/h and 30km/h if sensors detect an imminent collision and an insufficient response from the driver. The features are inclusive on the range-topping Astina and a $1500 option on Neo, Maxx, Touring and SP25 models. The cost drops to $1300 for the SP25 GT that already includes an auto-dimming rear-view mirror that’s also part of the Safety Pack.
Mazda was slow to follow a manufacturer trend for a transparent servicing costs set-up but has introduced it for the Mazda 3 from February 1, with other vehicles to follow. Where most CPS programs have a limited lifespan, Mazda is applying its new Service Select to the full life of a vehicle. Mazda believes the 3 will now be one of the most affordable small cars to run. Service costs for the Mazda 3 will typically range between $286 and $317, with additional scheduled maintenance procedures, including oil changes, and filter and spark plug replacements, to cost up to $276 when required on top of the standard service prices.
Sales and model mix
The Mazda 3 accounts for about 40 per cent of Mazda Australia’s total sales, with that percentage at 35 globally. It has high hopes for the third-generation model, and a new plant in Mexico will help boost production for the key US market. Here, Mazda will be expecting at least 45,000 annual sales. Once the car has settled into its lifecycle, the company expects 55 per cent of buyers to choose the base Neo. The second most popular (15 per cent) is tipped to be the second most expensive model, the SP25 GT, with the mid-spec 2.0L model, the Maxx, and entry-level SP25 both at 10 per cent. The top-spec 2.0L, the Touring, is forecast to account for seven per cent of volume, with just three per cent of 3 buyers opting for the flagship Astina.
Where’s the Mazda 3 MPS?
A bit of patience required here. There’s still no official confirmation from Mazda that it will produce another version of its hot-hatch, but there are enough positive noises coming from various company personnel that we can be confident it’s going to happen. Mazda’s new global boss even suggested at the 2013 Tokyo motor show that a new MPS could use turbo-diesel power. While that’s great for torque, it’s still likely – and indeed hopeful from an enthusiast’s perspective – that Mazda will opt for a higher-revving turbocharged petrol engine. However, in the interim there is a way to make your 3 at least look sportier – with an optional Kuroi Sports Pack.