High-tech Mazda3 packs new engines, fresh styling, safety features

November 28, 2018 04:45 CET

Mazda is betting that a technically advanced upscale version of the compact Mazda3 can defy a market shift to crossovers.

The latest Mazda3, rebuilt from the wheels up and introduced at the Los Angeles auto show on Tuesday, offers a wide variety of engines, a new take on the company’s Kodo design language that features more fluid curves and fewer sharp creases and angles, and a revamped interior that stresses refinement and simplicity.

The Mazda3 pushes into premium territory with an optional 1.8-liter diesel engine and a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-X engine that uses spark-controlled compression ignition, which means that it combines gasoline and diesel combustion traits.

The three other engines are a 1.5-liter, a 2.0-liter and a 2.5-liter, all marketed under the Skyactiv-G name. Mazda plans to offer the car with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Mazda3’s underpinnings include a redesigned chassis that contains more high-strength steel with frame rails that absorb crash energy. The car comes with four-wheel power disc brakes and front McPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension.

Occupant and pedestrian safety have been given priority by Mazda engineers. The hood has an energy-absorbing inner structure designed to lessen head injuries of pedestrians. On the options list is a new driver-monitoring system called i-Activesense

that includes an infrared camera and an infrared LED that observes the driver’s condition, Mazda says. The system monitors the driver’s eyelids, counts the number of blinks and views the mouth and face angle to detect drowsiness or fatigue. The driver will hear an alert if the system detects drowsiness.

Mazda3 will face stiff competition from Toyota’s redesigned Corolla, which injects that formerly staid compact with sporty styling, more power and more premium materials for the interior.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com.

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