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Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

THIS is Aus­tralia’s next No.1 car— the ‘‘ all-new’’ Mazda3.

The Ja­panese con­tender is un­veiled this week with a bul­let and a near-cer­tain spot at the top of the show­room charts next year.

It’s still vis­i­bly a Mazda3 but smoother and more re­fined in­side and out and bristling with new tech­nol­ogy.

It’s far too early for a fi­nal call on pric­ing but the new­comer should hit show­rooms with stick­ers start­ing very close to the $20,490 of to­day’s Neo.

The early lo­cal preview of Mazda’s new baby comes as part of a si­mul­ta­ne­ous un­veil­ing in New York, Lon­don, St Peters­burg and Is­tan­bul. The Aus­tralian ar­rival was orig­i­nally planned as the high­light of the Aus­tralian In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show and went ahead de­spite the can­cel­la­tion of the Melbourne event.

The dif­fer­ence is that the Mazda3 is a much big­ger deal in Aus­tralia than in Bri­tain, the US, Rus­sia or Turkey.

It was Aus­tralia’s favourite car in the past two years, hav­ing de­throned the Holden Com­modore. So far this year and de­spite the cur­rent model’s age— it’s now well into run-out and has been pro­moted through June with a

22,046

32,570

32,432

34,394

33,755 $20,490 drive-away deal— it still runs a solid sec­ond to the Toy­ota Corolla.

‘‘ This car is all-new, from the ground up. It will be on sale early in 2014,’’ Mazda spokesman Steve Maciver con­firms to Cars­guide.

The ar­rival of the new 3 comes as the car cel­e­brates its 10th birth­day and Mazda pre­pares for a fresh burst from the Hofu fac­tory in Ja­pan that has al­ready pro­duced more than 3.5 mil­lion cars.

In line with Mazda’s (sur­pris­ing) open­ness about its plans for the new Mazda3, Maciver con­firms a range of de­tails on the new­comer.

It will con­tinue in five-door hatch­back and four-door sedan vari­ants. The wheel­base has been stretched by 60mm and the body is 40mm wider and 15mm lower.

At launch, there will be 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre SkyAc­tiv petrol en­gines, Maciver says. The trans­mis­sion op­tions will be Mazda’s SkyAc­tiv-NT man­ual and SKYAc­tiv-Drive con­ven­tional au­to­matic.

‘‘ A nor­mal torque con­verter locks up for 60-70 per cent of the time but this one locks up 90 per cent so it’s much more fuel ef­fi­cient and di­rect,’’ he says.

The car’s Aus­tralian preview in­cludes an ap­pear­ance by ex­te­rior de­sign chief Ya­su­take Tsuchida and ad­vanced stu­dio head Ya­sushi Naka­muta.

Typ­i­cally, the talk is about the emo­tion in the car’s de­sign, not about the clear vis­ual con­nec­tion to the out­go­ing car or the more re­fined side sculpt­ing or the new look in the nose, or a cabin that still puts the driver first.

‘‘ We pur­sued a rhyth­mi­cal look for the new Mazda3 de­sign that dis­plays en­er­getic ten­sion,’’ the com­pany says.

‘‘ At the same time, we aimed for a de­sign that will earn the all-new Mazda3 a place in the hearts of cus­tomers as a trusty part­ner, rather than a mere means of con­veyance.’’

Some re­cent Ja­panese ar­rivals have re­flected the cost­down de­vel­op­ment fo­cus dur­ing the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, in­clud­ing the Suzuki Swift and Honda Civic, but Mazda says it put a stronger em­pha­sis on qual­ity for its con­tender.

That in­cludes slim­mer panel gaps in the body­work and new car­bon fi­bre-look ma­te­rial for the in­stru­ment bin­na­cle. In­side, there is also a head-up in­stru­ment dis­play (not con­firmed for the whole range), a new in­fo­tain­ment dis­play atop the dash, not set into the cen­tre stack, and more stor­age nooks in­clud­ing a ded­i­cated slot in the con­sole for mo­bile phones.

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