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Mazda 3 hatchback (2013) at Frankfurt motor show

Thu, 27 Jun 2013

The Mazda 3 is back: lighter, more eco-friendly and supposedly better to drive than ever, promises Mazda. Brought up-to-date with Mazda’s new ‘Kodo’ design style from the 6 saloon and CX-5 crossover, the new Mazda 3 is a handsome hatchback, and boasts a far superior cabin to its predecessor.

Is that enough to shoehorn buyers out of the VW Golf and Ford Focus? Get the full CAR story here.

The Mazda 3 just looks like a hatchback version of the 6!

True (and that rear end has plenty of hints of the Mazda 2 supermini) but that’s no bad thing to our eyes. Under the skin, the new 3 is all change though, benefitting from Mazda’s commitment to reducing emissions, weight and construction complexity, grouped under the ‘SkyActiv Technology’ umbrella.

The 3’s bodyshell is 30% stiffer than the outgoing car, but lighter model-for-model too. Mazda’s also fitted lighter suspension components and opted for a stiffer set-up thanks to the more rigid body. Despite the tauter springs, Mazda 3 project manager Kenichiro Saruwatari told CAR the new 3 rides much better than the old car, whether on the standard-fit 16in or optional 18in alloys. Mazda admits the biggest gripe with owners of the outgoing car was the stiff ride, though the plasticky cabin was also cause for complaint…

So the new Mazda 3 gets a smarter interior too?

Yes – it’s the best Mazda cabin yet. The main structure is clearly related to Mazda’s other ‘Kodo’ cars, but there are detail improvements, like a simplified infotainment control with fewer buttons, a new Mercedes A-class-style floating tablet screen, and revised instruments including a central rev-counter/digital speedometer readout like a McLaren 12C. See, sporty!

The whole cabin is roomier than before, and the boot is up 50 litres to 350l. You can option a bespoke Bose hi-fi system inside, and a plethora of active safety systems, including radar-guided cruise control and automatic city braking. Plus, extra soundproofing should mean it’s the quietest Mazda 3 yet.

What’s under the bonnet?

You’ve a choice of three petrol engines, the most frugal of which is a 1.5-litre unit developing 99bhp and 110lb ft. There’s also a 2.0-litre petrol with two different power levels: 118bhp or 163bhp. Diesel buyers get the take-it-or-leave it choice of one: Mazda’s 2.2-litre TD in 148bhp/258lb ft guise. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on all models, but you can spec a six-speed automatic.

And there’s a Mazda 3 MPS hot hatch on the way?

Not this time. Mazda cites the lack of a suitable engine in its current fleet (and the massive cost of developing a new one) as reasons for offering no go-fast 250bhp+ version of the new 3. Instead, project boss Kenichiro Saruwatari promised CAR that the flagship 163bhp version will still be fun, thanks to less weight and better body control. Should Mazda be offering an MPS model to take on the VW Golf GTI? Click ‘Add your comment’ below to tell us your thoughts.

When does the new Mazda 3 go on sale?

UK sales will begin shortly after the car’s public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2013. Prices will rise from the second-gen’s £15,995-£20,9995 in view of the more generous equipment spec, with Mazda keen to align the car as a VW Golf and BMW 1-series challenger, as well as a competitor to the more mainstream Ford Focus and Peugeot 308.

By Ollie Kew