MAZDA has quickly become the go-to for reliable, fun-to-drive and premium vehicles, much like what BMW was known for at the turn of the century.
The philosophy of ‘Jinba Ittai’, which literally translates to ‘horse and rider’, is deeply baked into each and every one of Mazda’s products from the Mazda2 light hatch, the MX-5 drop-top and even the CX-9 seven-seat SUV.
However, no Mazda model better encapsulates this mantra than the brand’s top-selling Mazda3 hatchback, and an all-new one has just been revealed at last month’s Los Angeles motor show.
At first glance the all-new Mazda3 might not look any different from the current model, but if you pay attention to the front fascia, seamless side profile and bulbous rear quarters you can see the updates to the new small hatchback.
Underneath the surface though, is where most of the changes were made to the fourth-generation Mazda3, which is underpinned by a new version of the brand’s Skyactiv architecture.
The result? Mazda says noise, vibration and harshness levels have all been reduced compared with the current car, while the platform is also more rigid than ever before.
Sadly though, the outgoing Mazda3’s multi-link rear has been replaced by a torsion beam arrangement, which can hopefully preserve the Japanese small hatchback’s playful and compliant nature.
Also on offer is an all-wheel-drive system, which makes the Mazda small car one of the only vehicles in its class to sport all-paw traction, but sadly this option will be locked out of Australian-spec vehicles.
Engine wise though, the usual suspects are all on offer including the 1.5-, 2.0- and 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engines, but exact outputs and fuel consumption figures are still yet to be revealed.
An updated 1.8-litre turbo-diesel is also on the cards for the international vehicles, but Australia will likely miss out on an oil-burner given the 2.2-litre unit was dropped in 2016 due to poor sales.
The headline powertrain however, is surely the new Skyactiv-X compression ignition petrol engine with M Hybrid technology to lower fuel consumption.
Though Mazda has yet to detail the particulars of the ground-breaking new engine, displacement is expected to be 2.0 litres and outputs could be as high as 140kW/230Nm.
Aside from the hatchback body style, the new Mazda3 will also be made available in a sedan shape for those that want a longer boot space.
However, unlike many hatch and sedan siblings, the new Mazda3 twins will sport differing aesthetics to try and appeal to different types of buyers.
While the hatch will skew more towards the tracksuit and runners-type with its sporty visage, the sedan will wear more subtle and understated attire for the more conservative customer.
Expect to see the new Mazda3 in Australian showrooms around the middle of next year, but hot hatch fans maybe gutted to hear that the Japanese car-maker has no plans to resurrect its MPS hot hatch despite the segment currently blossoming with more choices than ever.
Mazda says it is still too small to pour resources and development time into a low-volume, halo variant of the Mazda3 even though it has done so in the past with a 190kW/380Nm pocket rocket.
Nevertheless, the non-performance new-generation Mazda3 should still retain the sharp, driver-focussed dynamics of its predecessors that began in production in 2003.
The first BK-series Mazda3 was in production until 2009, and was praised for its performance, handling and equipment which helped push the brand from its budget perceptions into more premium territory.
Succeeded by the BL-series in from 2009 to 2013, the second-generation Mazda3 refined its predecessors formula with reworked styling and practicality.
Switching to a Skyactiv platform in third-generation BM/BN form, the current Mazda3 wears sharp ‘Kodo’ styling that debuted on the Mazda6 in the 2012, which is now the aesthetic through line of the brand’s entire product portfolio.