Mazda has gone for a monster tweak, writes PAUL GOVER
JANUARY of 2008 was a monster month for Mazda in Australia. It was the first time the Japanese brand had ranked No.1, when its compact Mazda3 unseated the Holden Commodore as the country’s favourite car.
That victory was the only one so far in the company’s 50 years in Australia, but it showed the incredible popularity of the compact 3. And the job was done with the superseded model, which was already well into run-out.
The new Mazda3 is already developing a strong showroom reputation thanks to the following the car has gained since it arrived in January 2004 as the successor to the 323.
But the new 3 is not the sort of seismic change that came with the original. This is more of a monster facelift than a reinvention.
The old ‘‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’’ line has worked well for a range of makers in recent years. The latest Volkswagen Golf had only a tickle, Nissan kept the mechanicals and redid the body for its new Murano, and even Porsche resorted to the same tactic with its 911.
In the case of the 3, the basics were always right. It was conceived with the right size and equipment, a solid driveline and the sort of styling and quality you expect from a Mazda.
The 2009 rework means a new body, worthwhile cabin improvements and a tickle on the engine, transmission and suspension to make it more efficient without losing driving enjoyment. Mazda says it is the company’s greenest car yet.
The new 3 lineup is what you would expect, from the $21,990 Neo, available as sedan and hatch, to the 2.5-litre SP25 from $30,690.
A new turbocharged MPS pocket rocket is on the way and, in the future, a new diesel car as Japanese makers continue their slow but steady conversion to the alternative fuel.
Basics across the range run from twin airbags and ESP stability control to airconditioning, a new-style trip computer and central locking.
Luxury, safety and convenience increase through the range and the SP25 tops out, if you tick all the boxes, with leather trim, a sunroof, Bluetooth phone connection, a larger display screen including satnav, and six airbags.
But the most important job was getting the basics right, and Mazda did it with everything from the ‘‘giant smile’’ new grille to the suspension settings. It went back to check its original work on the 3 and tweaked and improved everything that needed it.