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Mike Stevens | Jan 12, 2009

Mazda has lifted the covers on its new second-generation Mazda3 at the Detroit Auto Show. And while there is more than a hint of the ‘happy wide-mouthed frog’ in that striking nose, the lines work. More to the point, those fleet, nicely-proportioned curves should muscle-up very tidily when Mazda engineers wring their magic on the SP and MPS versions.

Of course, the new Mazda3 has big boots to fill. The model it replaces is a cracker and has garnered a strong following among keen drivers for its affordable dynamic capabilities and sharp style. For the new ‘3’, Mazda claims improved performance, refinement, and fresh features, while retaining its essential ‘sports car’ soul.

Offering two bodystyles, three trim levels, and four separate power-train options, the new Mazda3 is designed to build on the success of the model it replaces. That would appear to make sense: one out of every three Mazdas sold worldwide is a Mazda3. In the US market, it accounted for 44 percent of Mazda’s total sales volume.

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According to David Matthew, Mazda3’s vehicle line manager, “This product has earned its stripes as a high quality and exciting sport compact. Mazda3’s interior design and execution goes beyond Japanese competitors to rival more expensive European brands,” he said.

Like all of Mazda’s current lineup, the Nagare (“Flow”) design language is clearly present in the styling of the 2009 Mazda3, with sharp lines and sumptuous curves coming together effortlessly inside and out. We’ve reviewed the finer points of the new Mazda3 a number of times in the past few months, so we won’t rehash old news in this post.

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The all-new Mazda3 is available with a choice of engines: a 110kW 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine, and a 2.5 litre four-cylinder petrol engine, upgraded from the previous 2.3-litre capacity and producing 124kW. Combined with the six-speed manual transmission borrowed from the Mazda6, one wonders: could we be looking at a Mazda3 SP25?

While the six-speed is available on the 2.5 litre models, the 2.0 litre makes do with a five speed manual. Both options however offer a five speed auto.

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Other features are:

  • Advanced keyless entry system
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Extended front cushions for improved thigh support
  • Reshaped and extended seatbacks for more lumbar support and shoulder support.
  • Optional eight-way electric driver’s seat with memory
  • Premium five-channel surround sound BOSE ® Centerpoint audio system (with noise cancellation technology)
  • Black instrument panel with pewter-painted accents
  • Multi-Information Display (MID) for trip data, vehicle functions and MP-3 and i-Pod program information
  • Hands-free Bluetooth® capability
  • Electro-hydraulic power steering (with improved steering precision and feel)
  • Power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, EBD and brake assist
  • 16-inch alloys (2.0 litre models),17-inch alloys (2.5 litre models)
  • Recalibrated front struts and rear monotube dampers
  • Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control as standard on most models
  • Adaptive front-lighting containing self-leveling bi-xenon headlamps
  • Reinforced ‘triple-H unibody design’ with six airbags, active head restraints and side-curtain air bags also available
  • Improved drag coefficient (from 0.30 to 0.29); and six-percent reduction in wind noise
  • World’s-first single-nano-particle technology (reducing the amount of precious metals used in catalytic converters).

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Jordan Meadows, Mazda North American Operations’ design manager, said, “The new Mazda3 provided us an opportunity to translate new design cues into the reality of a car which Mazda customers can own, drive, and enjoy.”

With the new 3, Mazda set out to create a purposely youthful and outgoing design. Senior designer Carlos Salaff said, "We always strive to push our exterior, to stretch what is considered normal."

Ok, that’s what they think, but what's your verdict? Has Mazda succeeded with the new 3?

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