Three to the fore

Fourth-gen Mazda 3 gets star billing at LA Show. It’s the grown-up hatch and sedan for those who thought they’d grown out of them


Wrangler’s rough ride

Jeep’ new JL Wrangler has been slapped with a single star safety rating by Euro NCAP. The four-door off-roader scored lowest (32 percent) in safety assist due to a lack of active safety features, but also scored just 50 percent in the adult occupant test, with deformation of both the A-pillar and driver’ footwell. It is unclear if ANCAP will follow Europe’ lead and give the Wrangler a single star locally. Jeep says the JL Wrangler will have AEB as standard in Australia.


AN ALL-NEW generation of Mazda’s evergreen small car is preparing to launch locally in mid2019, handing one of Australia’s most popular vehicles a new lease of life.

Mazda whipped the covers off its fourth-generation Mazda 3 hatchback and sedan at a preview event in Los Angeles on the eve of 2018’s last major motor show.

Heavily restyled sheetmetal for both body shapes introduces an evolved version of the brand’s now ubiquitous Kodo design language. The two models are distinctly different in appearance, sharing only their windscreen and bonnet. The hatchback is now slightly longer, narrower and taller than before, whereas the sedan is significantly longer, having grown by more than 80mm.

Stand-out design elements include extremely low bonnets that lead to oversized grilles and headlight assemblies pared back to the bare essentials. Their side profiles are almost completely devoid of character lines, the 3 instead relying on curves in its panels to add depth.

Mazda’s premium design sensibilities extend to the 3’s overhauled cabin in visual appeal and NVH refinement. The driver is the focus, with every element angled to face the driver’s seat. A long horizontal plane across the dashboard incorporates climate controls for a clean, minimalist appearance. New materials and colours have been added for this generation to widen its appeal.

Five Skyactiv engines are engineered to fit within the fourth-gen Mazda 3 so far, including three conventional Skyactiv-G petrol engines (1.5-, 2.0- and 2.5-litre fourcylinders), a 1.8-litre Skyactiv-D diesel, and a single 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X unit, which introduces compression ignition to a petrolpowered engine for the first time in a production car. Exact outputs and performance data for each powertrain are yet to be released, as is information about what Australia will receive, though it is understood the Skyactiv-X engine will be coming for the rangetopping variants.

Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system is also available in the new 3 for certain markets, working in conjunction with G-Vectoring Plus (GVC Plus) to control torque distribution for more efficient and responsive progress.

Mazda has upped the use of ultra-high-tensile steel in body shell construction from 3 percent to 30 for greater rigidity. This improves passive safety and works towards greater driving comfort and a natural connection that the brand says makes the new 3 feel ‘like a tool you have been using for many years’.

Another major focus of the fourth-gen’s development was cabin calmness for all occupants; something the last car struggled to deliver. New methods of sound absorption and dampening promise ‘high-quality quietness’ without increased vehicle weight.

Packaging improvements have broadened the range of adjustment in the driving position, while the centre console has been raised to place the gear selector and infotainment controls closer to the driver’s hand in both manual and automatic versions.

Our market will receive both the hatch and sedan body styles, though specifics of the local model range are yet to be revealed by Mazda Australia. Further details will begin to roll out closer to its arrival, which is slated for the middle of 2019.


Beaming in

In a potential retrograde step, a torsion beam rear suspension layout has been adopted for all frontwheel- drive variants, rather than the more desirable independent set-up of the outgoing third-gen car. Refinement is the cited reason, though future-proofing the platform with space for a hybrid battery pack is likely to have had an impact. Whether Mazda has managed to maintain the 3’s dynamic capability with a torsion beam remains to be seen, though Peugeot and Renault – amongst others – have demonstrated that a well-tuned torsion beam is no impediment to great handling.