The new Mazda 3 - Seconds out for the next round
The eternal class struggle continues: the compact class as the bread-and-butter format of the mainstream automotive manufacturers is probably the toughest arena of all.
Joining top dog Golf and main challenger Renault Megane in the ring is a revamped Mazda 3. Essentially, however, Mazda are aiming to take on the Megane. In other words, they are wooing that section of the market that doesn't see itself as inextricably wed to the VW badge. So the competition for the Mazda 3 is rather to be found in France, Italy and, of course, in Mazda's own backyard.
Just like the notchback spin-off recently presented and primarily aimed at the American market, the new Mazda 3 will bear the latest family features. The design already incorporated into the series production model of the Mazda 6 has proved popular with the buying public - at least, that's what the sales figures for this mid-range saloon model would suggest. Pronounced front wings and a rising waistline plus sharply styled headlights and huge grille set the tone.
The red-and-blue instrument panel, already familiar from the Mazda 6, makes a classy impression. Broadly speaking, the standard of materials and workmanship is every bit as good as that of the Mazda 6.
In general, the whole package comes across as typically Japanese without ever creating a perfunctory or bargain basement impression. The days are long gone when a car had to hide its Japanese origins. There's more to quality than a few chrome-trimmed controls or sensuous-to-the-touch aluminium mouldings in the interior.