The UK car market continues to buck the European trend by recording increased new car sales despite the slow economic conditions.
Yet this alone cannot explain the raft of new car launches that are happening right now – a trend that signifies a new approach by manufacturers to build many more ‘vehicle solutions’ for customers seeking niche appeal, to boost sales rather than relying on a few mass-market models.
The latest of these launches is firmly a mass-market product from Mazda as it tries to turn about a torrid time with sales, since the economic slow-down, largely owing to its limited product offering.
So, to grab the headlines, an all-new Mazda3 was simultaneously unveiled in New York, Melbourne, Cologne, Istanbul, St Petersburg and London. This is the latest incarnation of Mazda’s Kodo design concept – an unashamedly Japanese design language to reflect the life movement of an animal.
And it works, this C-sector car, offered in hatchback and saloon forms, is guaranteed to stand out among the usual German dominated corporate car residents. Sharp, aggressive and sporty are the sort of words you would use to describe the new car on first sight.
Yet Mazda’s main drive has been towards quality of build to match the Bavarian chart
toppers and this is most clearly evident in the new car’s interior which boasts quality materials, chunky instruments, steering wheel and switchgear with much attention spent on cocooning both driver and front passenger in their own individual spaces. That said, the interior is a little conservative compared to the car’s racier exterior and the non-touch screen information console does look a bit like after market add-on.
The Japanese factory’s other main focus has been on achieving class-leading performance and economy statistics and for this it has further developed its SKYACTIV technology that is a building-block approach to optimising chassis, weights and engine performance.
Highlights of the new car include executive- level technology with radar-controlled cruise control, accident mitigation early braking systems, Cloud technology mobile connectivity through its Bose infotainment package and the fastest operating start/stop engine system on the market.
The car will hit UK forecourts early next year with engine options including the entry level petrol-sipping G1.5-litre with 98 brake horsepower, a G2.0-litre with up to 162 brake horsepower and a turbo-diesel D2.2- litre boasting 148 brake horsepower with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.
SI managed to road test a couple of the preproduction models during a ‘sneak peek workshop’ held by Mazda in Frankfurt earlier this month and the design is not let down by the drive.
However, Mazda made great play of their engineering decision to pitch the G2.0 mid- power 118 brake horsepower engine against the rival manufacturers’ smaller turbo- charged 1.4, 1.2 and even 1.0 petrol offerings. They argued that, in most normal use, the larger litre similarly powered 2.0-litre is more efficient – it will be tough sale against a down-scaling trend that is gathering pace among fleet and personal buyers alike in the UK.
The long wheelbase, too, makes for a solid, even conservative, handling characteristic although our test run was through torrential rain and we’d have to wait to test the car on a dry road before making a definitive decision. While Mazda are confident the mid- powered G2.0 will be the best seller, we believe UK buyers will opt for the more powerful D2.2 as a relaxed and punchy performer suited to its sporty looks.
The new Mazda3 makes a welcome change from the usual German corporate cars and we certainly look forward to seeing this statement motor on our roads in good numbers.
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Engine: 2.2D turbo-diesel
Top Speed: 132mph
Economy: 72mpg (claimed)