The all-new Mazda 3 was launched last weekend at 1Utama Shopping Complex in Petaling Jaya, and it has created quite a lot of buzz among car enthusiasts, some of whom are complaining about the price increase compared to the outgoing version, and the fact that the rear suspension now is a torsion beam compared to the multi-link arrangement in the outgoing model.
The new Mazda 3 is available in two body shapes, the LiftBack, and the Sedan. Within the LiftBack, there are two variants, a 1.5 Liftback (Mid spec), and a High Plus 2.0 litre. The Sedan gets three variants, starting with a 1.5 Sedan (Mid spec) a 2.0 Sedan High and 2.0 Sedan High Plus. The 1.5 litre Liftback and Sedan variants are both priced at RM139,620, while the 2.0 Sedan High is priced at RM 150,059. Both the LiftBack and Sedan High Plus are priced at RM160,059. All prices stated are OTR without insurance for Pen. Malaysia, and for private registration.
The 1.5 litre engine develops 118 hp at 6,000 rpm and 153 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm, while the 2.0 litre engine develops 163 hp and 213 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Fuel consumption is rated at 5.8 litres per 100 km for the 1.5 litre Sedan and 5.9 litres per 100 km for the 1.5 litre Liftback. Meanwhile, the 2.0 litre sedan’s fuel consumption is claimed at 6.2 litres per 100 km, while the 2.0 litre Liftback is claimed at 6.3 litres per 100 km. Both the engines are DOHC, direct injection and naturally aspirated.
In terms of size, the Mazda 3 moves up and beyond the norm in terms of a lengthened wheelbase that is now 2,725 mm compared to the current norm of 2,700 mm amongst Japanese makes. Overall length is 4,460mm for the Liftback while the Sedan is 4,660 mm. Overall width for all variants is 1,795mm while overall height is 1,440 mm for the sedan while the Liftback stands a little lower at 1,435 mm. The 1.5 litre variants get 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/60 R 16 tyres while the 2.0 litre variants get 18 inch alloys and 215/45 R 18 tyres. The spare is a space saver.
Both the 1.5 litre and 2.0 litre variants are equipped with 6-speed SKYACTIV automatic transmissions, with drive to the front wheels, but the 1.5 litre variants have slightly different gear ratios and a lowered final drive to provide more get-up-and-go.
The Mazda 3 is available only as CBU (Completely Built-Up) and imported as complete cars whereas the previous model was assembled under contract at the Inokom plant in Kulim. CBU cars attract higher excise duties than locally assembled cars, and that will account for part of the price increase.
Meanwhile, Mazda has announced that the brand aims to re-position itself as the ‘premium brand’ amongst Japanese cars, and bring itself closer to its European rivals. This entails raising the bar for build quality, connectivity and features, which in essence will cost more, and they are starting this ‘New Era’ with the Mazda 3. Later on, the other models will follow a similar nomenclature, and shall be upgraded too. Since the Mazda 3 is the first to receive this new era upgrade, the price structure stands out as an irregularity, but in time as the new models roll out, the prices will be re-adjusted accordingly.
The new features include a host of safety features that include seven airbags, including a knee bag, and front and rear curtain airbags. Dynamic stability Control and Traction Control, Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) Emergency Stop Signal, Hill Launch Assist, and Auto Hold Function is standard equipment across the entire range. All variants feature keyless entry, keyless start, idle stop, and heads-up display. The High and high Plus versions get paddle shifters.
There are improvements in the sound-proofing, and the new car is noticeably quieter on the road. Mazda also put a lot of effort into its Human Machine Interface (HMI), refining its ‘Jinba Ittai’ approach of ‘horse and rider as one’, even looking into where the cupholders and instrument controla are to be placed.
In terms of Infotainment, the entire range gets Mazda Connect Infotainment System with Voice Command, Apple Car Play and Android Auto function, a full-colour 8.8 inch display and multi-function Commander Control. All variants get an 8-speaker system.
The High plus range also gets i-ACTIVSENSE Advanced Safety features, namely. Adaptive Front Lighting System, High Beam Control, which turns off some of the LEDs so as not to blind oncoming traffic, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Smart Brake Support for front and rear, plus Mazda Radar Cruise Control.
New and unique to the Mazda 3 range is GVC Plus. All the existing models have GVC, (Geo Vectoring Control, a system that automatically retards the engine as the car takes a turn, but the GVC Plus also applies braking to the inner wheels during a corner to transfer drive to the outer wheels during cornering. The result is improved turn-in, and better overall stability. An added bonus is increased passenger comfort during turns, this reducing fatigue on long hauls.
Also unique to the Mazda 3, at least for the time being is a re-designed rear suspension set up, which does away with the multi-link arrangement, and instead replaces it with a torsion beam arrangement. Amidst protests from Mazda loyalists who maintain that this is a downgrade, Mazda claims that the car handling is even better.
The second protest comes from other loyalists who are fearful that the 1.5 litre engine would not be powerful enough to pull the car along, which is tantamount to Mazda reneging on its promise to provide the ‘Zoom Zoom’ feel to all its cars.
Bermaz, of course pre-empting the situation, arranged for a track session at the Sepang International Circuit, ad few days after the launch, to dispel all fears. We attended the test drive and drove both the 1.5 litre and 2.0 litre versions back to back – so did the Mazda 3 live up to its promise, or did it fail miserably? Watch the videos below.