Mazda has swept the wraps off its new fourth-generation Mazda 3 in Thailand, which comes here in both sedan and hatchback format. The Japanese carmaker has high hopes that its latest C-segment entry will continue its avowed push towards the premium end of the market.
The launch, which took place at the BCC Hall on the fifth floor of the Central Plaza Ladprao mall in Bangkok saw the new Mazda 3 range introduced to the media, dealers and guests by Chanchai Trakarnudomsuk, the President of Mazda Sales Thailand.
It becomes the latest incarnation of a Thai success story for Mazda. The first generation Mazda 3 was launched in 2003, replacing the Familia. It swiftly zoomed its way onto the radar in Thailand as Mazda decided to start assembling it locally at the Auto Alliance factory in Rayong, which it jointly owns with Ford. It launched in Thailand in November 2004 with 1.6 and 2.0 litre engine optioms and immediately broke records with 1,000 orders placed during the launch with that tally climbing to 3,000 within a week.
To date 6 million have been sold worldwide with 100,000 of those going to Thai customers. So, it’s certainly a crucial model for Mazda not just in Thailand but everywhere.
Now it’s the turn of the fourth-generation model to enter the picture. The sedan and hatchback share the ‘Mazda 3’ name and the same underpinnings but in terms of their finish and the customers they are targeting they’re very differing concepts. Creating a sense of refinement and elegance is the aim of the 3-box sedan version while the highly distinctive hatchback is imbued with a sportier feel.
A great deal of effort has gone into differentiating the two – and it shows. Mazda’s strongest selling point these days is certainly its designs and desirable styling is the key driver of the brand’s steady push towards attaining a more premium marketplace position and the higher margins that come with it. The new ‘3’ is another step forward in the master plan.
Mazda calls its unique design language ‘Kodo’, which it translates as ‘Soul in Motion’. It describes it as: “The power and elegance of a wild animal in the instant when it pounces on its prey.” The brand adding: “We want a car to be more than metal; something that exudes the vitality of a living being. Cars which evoke the tension that presages movement, imbued with the warmth of a creature with a beating heart and blood in its veins. That's the inspiration behind the ‘Soul of Motion’ design.”
During the launch, details and the thinking behind the new car were explained by Mazda Motor Corporation program manager, Koichiro Yamaguchi, and the Mazda 3’s Chief Designer, Yasutake Tsuchida.
Cutting through a lot of blurb and really in the case of the new Mazda 3 the buzzwords from the designer is ‘Less is More’. Tsuchida said they aimed to eliminate sharp lines and creases to give the two variants a simple and clean feel.
That also means the designs will age well. Over styling and fussy detailing is rampant these days as carmakers vie with each other to catch the attention of buyers in crowded market segments – but the knock on from the jostling between the designers and marketing teams is that cars age very quickly and don’t join the ranks of classic designs.
The story of the styling new Mazda 3 though actually rewinds two years to the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017 when the “Kai” concept car was unveiled. It gave a good look at the direction of the new model, and in particular the model’s signature ‘fastback’ feature.
That advance peek at where the brand was headed with the styling of the new Mazda 3 then rocked into Thailand back in March as the Kai concept was displayed at the Bangkok International Motor Show. It was a little bit tucked away on the stage but drew a lot of admiring glances.
Essentially, from the reception that Kai received, Mazda’s designers were able to lock in the overall proportions, just chopping out the usual ‘show car’ detailing – albeit in this case Kai had some beautiful details that were sadly jettisoned as the cost savings of mass production reality bit in.
The Kai’s signature was its curved three-quarter styling and Mazda has carried that over to the hatchback option which it has slapped the ‘Fastback’ name on as it buys further into this theme.
The term ‘fastback’ was originally applied to cars that featured a single slope from the roofline to the rear bumper and it first became popular in the 1930s. Early fastback-style cars included Porsche’s 356 and Tatra’s 87 – both of which have passed into legend. Although the term has been liberally applied over the years, and indeed Ford used it as a full marketing name on the Mustang to differentiate a version from that of the coupé, the new Mazda 3 could well be argued as honourably harking back to that historic tradition.
The sedan, meanwhile, has a bigger-car feel to it thanks to some careful thinking by the designers. The flanks in particular give a more ‘executive’ car appearance and in the smooth flowing and clean shape there is some of the form of the recent “Vision Coupe” concept.
The engine option for the Thai market remain the same, the Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre petrol. However, it’s been upgraded in four key areas: knock resistance improvement through the use of edge-cut pistons, mechanical resistance reduction by incorporating lower resistance pistons and rings, improved thermal management thanks to a new water flow value that controls the temperature of the combustion chamber walls and better fuel spray due to higher fuel pressure, a new nozzle for the high dispersement injector that’s now also more precisely controlled.
The power unit has claimed 162hp at 6,000rpm and 213Nm at 4,000rpm.
However, it’s probably the weakest link of the new Mazda 3’s impressive armour as there is no sign yet of Skyactiv-X or any e-technologies. Earlier this month Toyota launched the new Altis (Corolla), one of the new Mazda 3’s key rivals, which now joins the rest of the C-segment segment best sellers in offering a hybrid option.
Elsewhere, there’s a new material used for the A-pillars which Mazda says will improve structural rigidity in the event of a crash while the windscreen wipers have been redesigned to improve the sweep and effectiveness. Lots of thought and care has gone into the design.
There are seven body colours for buyers to choose with one, “Polymetal Grey”, being new. It’s an interesting, almost blue-ish hue, but is only available on the Fastback.
The new Mazda 3 comes in three specification levels: 2.0 C, 2.0 S and 2.0 SP. The entry level 2.0 C is priced at 969,000 baht (or SGD$43,590 accurate as of 25yh September 2019) and includes amongst its features LED projector headlights, 16-inch wheels, electric parking brake with auto hold, cruise control, leather seats, 10-way power assist seats, 7-inch LCD screen, 8 speakers and Apple CarPlay.
The 2.0 S at 1,069 million baht (or SGD$48,078,275) adds daytime running lights, dual zone air-con, rear parking sensors, rear camera and 18-inch wheels. The top spec 2.0 SP at 1,198 million baht (or SGD$53,888,436) includes a host of further safety features as well as 360-degree monitor, front parking sensors, paddle shifters and a Bose sound system with 12 speakers.
All three models include insurance as well as a five year additional warrantee and labour costs during the launch promotion period which runs until the end of December.
The pricing represents a small premium over the outgoing model – but the car is a big jump in most areas even if the design is evolutionary. It’s an accepted big no-no for carmakers to bring previous generation versions to new model launches, however much loved they were, as it diverts focus and crucial social media buzz is lost – especially so in this case as Mazda brought the three previous generations of Mazda 3 to the launch and plonked them in the foyer where everyone was milling about waiting to go in to the venue and primed to post their first photos from the launch. However, it did all serve to show that the new Mazda 3 is a big leap over the previous generations.
The Mazda 3 is the third best seller in the Thai compact segment behind the Civic and Altis, but category is coming under pressure as buyers increasingly look towards fashionable crossover and SUV models. Indeed, C-segment here has slipped this year and Mazda’s overall sales are also down so it will be looking for a significant boost from the new Mazda 3.
Mazda has cut its total sales forecasts for this year by ten thousand units and it also sees the overall market shrinking slightly. However, it’s looking to sell around 7,000 units of the new Mazda 3 over the first year and that will be a very handy number towards its totals. Judging by the new model it’s a target they should reach.