Preview: 2019 Mazda3

The cover is officially off the fourth-generation, 2019 Mazda3 in Los Angeles, and as expected, it takes significant design cues from the Vision Coupe concept and, more aptly, the Kai concept that previewed tonight’s release when it was unveiled at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show.

On first glance, it doesn’t appear to be a jarring departure from the version on sale today. An examination of the finer details, though, shows that it could be considered an artful evolution, depending on how one chooses to look at it.

Skin aside, there’s some new technology here beneath the surface, including a new engine, updated all-wheel drive system, and Mazda-first applications of the latest safety technologies.

A Toned-down Kai

The Kai concept was based around a hatchback version of the Mazda3 – the one we currently call Mazda3 Sport here in Canada – and it was presented a year ago with a sharply forward-leaning grille, elongated headlamps, and shoulder lines that are rounded and raised significantly.

The emphatic grille didn’t make it onto the production version, but the other elements did. On the updated hatchback – which comes with an exclusive new colour, Polymetal Gray – that translates into a dramatic side profile with heavily angled rear windows that join at a higher point with an emphatic C-pillar. Oddly, although the rear overhang is longer, the overall length of the hatch is reduced by 11 mm.

On the sedan, this difference isn’t nearly as dramatic. In fact, if anything, the rear windows take up a touch more space on the new version than the outgoing one, which grows longer by 82 mm. Depending on how this translates into light and visibility in the second row of each, it could seriously influence some buying decisions.

Interior updates bring the Mazda3 in line with other recently updated Mazda products by introducing clean, flowing lines while keeping the layout focussed on ergonomics with an additional 10 mm of telescoping range on the steering wheel, a new seatback design to more closely follow the natural contour of the spine, and an adjustable front lower seat cushion is included as standard equipment. The shifter and infotainment controller have been moved forward, the cupholders are now in front of the shift lever, and the centre armrest has been lengthened. The hatchback is available in a new burgundy interior motif, while the fabric interior now comes in a colour scheme that’s been dubbed Greige, a combination of cool grey and warm beige.

Extensive Powertrain Offerings

The new Mazda3 will be offered with a 1.5-litre gas-powered engine and a diesel in other markets, but at launch in Canada we’ll be getting the 2.0-litre, and 2.5-litre versions of Mazda’s SkyActiv-G engine family and the new 2.0-litre SkyActiv-X engine, in its first production application. This new engine ignites a small, dense amount of the fuel-air mix in the cylinder, which raises the temperature and pressure to cause that the remaining fuel-air mix to ignite in a similar manner to a diesel engine, which causes it to burn faster and more completely than in conventional engines. In its production state, it’s going to be assisted by Mazda’s new hybrid system.

Specifications for the 2.0-litre have not yet been released, but the 2.5-litre is rated at 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque that’s fully available at 4,000 rpm. The SkyActiv-X engine is expected to rate at 178 hp and 164 lb-ft of torque. Canadian five-cycle fuel consumption figures will be released closer to launch, but Mazda says that the SkyActiv-X is expected to use 20 to 30 percent less fuel than the current equivalent displacement SkyActiv-G engine.

Transmission options are unchanged with both a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmission available.

An updated version of Mazda’s all-wheel drive system is also on board that adds vertical load detection on all four wheels as an additional calculation factor for the G-vectoring control. The latest system reduces mechanical loss by up to 60 percent.

Better Ride, Lower NVH

The new Mazda3’s suspension will feature MacPherson struts in the front and a newly developed torsion beam setup in the rear for improved handling.

In the interior, Mazda has applied a two-wall insulation structure for the first time that leaves space between the body and the floor to reduce road noise transfer. Sound-absorbing materials has also been added to the headliner and floor mats.

Driver Monitoring

Fancy being monitored? Mazda’s new driver monitoring system is available here for the first time, which uses an infrared camera and LED to keep an eye on how open the driver’s eyelids are, how often they blink, and the angle of the mouth and face, all in the name of watching for fatigue. It also tracks the driver’s eye movements and line of sight to determine if they’re being inattentive. When triggered, the system sounds an alert and also shortens the amount of time that needs to pass before the forward brake warning will sound.

Other available safety features include front cross-traffic alert and the new cruising and traffic support system that assists with accelerator, brake, and steering operation to reduce driver fatigue in highway traffic.

Other Features

Standard wheels are 16-inch with 18-inch wheels available. As with all newer Mazda products, the latest Mazda3 will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Whether this will be standard is not yet confirmed, though it is included as standard on the other Mazda vehicles where it’s featured.

An eight-speaker audio system is standard, and a 12-speaker Bose sound system is optional.

Availability

Though it’s not yet been announced which engines and transmission options will be available in which combinations, or which will be available with all-wheel drive, this information is bound to become clear once the SkyActiv-G versions begin arriving in dealerships in early 2019. Front-wheel-drive units will be released first, followed by all-wheel drive, and SkyActiv-X availability will follow late next year.

Car as art. 11/27/2018 10:45:00 PM