Premium push sees tech-heavy new Mazda 3 range become somewhat less volume-driven, according to the local division.
Mazda Australia has justified its decision to push the new-generation 3 hatch and sedan models further upmarket – greatly increasing the price of entry in return for a substantial amount of extra equipment – by suggesting it’s simply following customer trends.
Moreover, the company is happy to concede it will likely see sales of the new Mazda 3 (currently second-in-segment) dip, because it expects many customers put-off by the hikes will simply opt for other Mazda product such as the more affordable CX-3 crossover. A sale is a sale…
As you can read here, the new G20 Pure’s entry price of $24,990 before on-road costs is up $4500 over the outgoing Neo Sport equivalent. In fact, the newly named base grade is also more expensive than the outgoing mid-range Maxx Sport and Touring as well.
Mazda’s approach follows that of fellow top-seller Toyota with its new Corolla, which kicks off at $22,970 but costs around $26k before on-roads for the one people generally buy. It’s what Volkswagen has done with the Golf for years, as well. Ditto the Ford Focus (RRP-wise, anyway).
One thing all these cars have in common (new Corolla included, contrasting with the old one) is a focus on private buyers instead of high-volume but low-margin/resale-hurting fleet deals. The Mazda 3 is actually the top-selling small car once you take these fleet sales out of the picture.
In exchange for this drastic hike, the new base model comes with a longer-than-usual list of features extending to a head-up display, an 8.8-inch centre screen with sat-nav, and a raft of crash-preventing tech such as like AEB, lane assist and blind-spot monitoring.
For the full variant breakdown, head over to our separate 2019 Mazda 3 pricing and spec story.
“We’re re-orienting the vehicle to a more premium position,” claims Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak.
“It’s what our customers have asked for. We’re a private-buyer-focused brand… and in the last five years we’ve seen Mazda 3 buyers move away from the the entry grade. The Neo has been in decline as people increasingly move up the grades looking for a higher spec and safety [pack]."
“Our new naming system reflects this change in behaviour. We’ve dropped the Neo Sport and Maxx Sport entry grades since they simply no longer align with the new standards,” he added.
This is all similar to Toyota, which axed the Corolla Ascent grade entirely because the level of active safety tech required to get a five-star NCAP rating, and growing demand for more tech in all variants, made such a decision obvious.
Interestingly, Mazda Australia’s managing director Vinesh Bhindi is even open about the prospect of the Mazda 3 actually going backwards in sales, which seems incongruous given it was Australia’s overall top-selling vehicle in 2012 – not that long ago…
“Possibly [we might],” he told us. “But our strategy is a bit different. We will sell more SUVs,” he added, saying the CX-5 would likely become its new top-seller (and notably, that car has what we suspect are higher profit margins…).
“Tradition has it that some customers see the Mazda 3 as the entry point, but it isn’t. The [lost] volume will redistribute. Will small car sales be as high in a couple of years? Probably not. We will lead the charge,” he contended.
VFACTS industry figures do indeed track a massive rise in SUV sales, with utes (18.4 per cent share) and Medium SUVs (17.9 per cent) the market’s most popular vehicle types in 2018.
Yet despite declines, Small Cars retained share of 17.3 per cent last year, compared to 23.4 per cent just five years earlier in 2013. Not a small piece of the pie, in other words.
You can read the 2019 Mazda 3's pricing and spec details in full here.
2019 Mazda 3 sedan/hatch pricing (before on-road costs):