It's been a long road, and, along the way, we've had any number of enthusiast concepts to keep us all guessing. At the Sydney Motor Show this year we were teased with official photos of the car, but now the 2009 Mazda3 sedan has finally been unveiled in the flesh - so to speak - at the Los Angeles Motor Show.
Mazda has well-and-truly embraced its bold Nagare styling language and applied it with vigour to the new 3, the end result being pretty sensational. Rep-mobiles never looked this good. Some may criticize it for looking too similar to the Mazda6, but since when was that a bad thing? Besides, with its much larger cheek intakes, smaller proportions and almost Joker-like visage, the new 3 is clearly identifiable as the more nimble and slightly-less-sensible member of Mazda's range.
It's not all about looks though, for under the 3's new clothes lies a body that's stiffer, stronger and safer than before. Mazda developed a new shell based upon the Mazda6's architecture that improves suspension response through greater stiffness while also cutting down on road noise. The increased strength of the passenger cell also helps protect occupants in the event of a crash. Mazda spent much time in the wind tunnel fine-tuning the 3's aerodynamic performance, the result being a super-slick coefficient of drag of just 0.29 - slightly less than a Nissan 370Z.
The interior is also a dramatic improvement over the current model, with swoopier styling, better ergonomics and improved support and comfort from redesigned seats. Material quality has also improved, with soft-touch plastics replacing the harder stuff found in the current 3. Touch-reactive illuminated buttons introduce an extra dimension to the 3's interior while a push-button starter and key-recognising seat position memory on cars with power seats add to the 3's list of techno-bling. A 10-speaker Bose premium sound system, Bluetooth and dual-zone climate control are optional, as are heated seats, leather upholstery, heated wing mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. Bi-Xenon headlamps are standard on Grand Touring models
US-market cars will come with either a 110kW 2.0 litre inline four with 183Nm of torque, or a 125kW 2.5 litre four-pot with 228Nm. Three gearboxes are on offer, one a five-speed manual, the other a six-speed manual and the last a five-speed Sport-AT automatic. When equipped with the manual transmission, the 2.0 litre motor burns through just 9.4 litres of petrol per 100km, while highway use sees it returning figures of around 7.1L/100km. The 2.5 litre chews slightly more fuel, however average consumption doesn't break 11.7L/100km - not even during city driving.
A release date has yet to be announced, but rest assured that we'll let you know as soon as the information comes to hand. Now, where's the hatchback?