2014 MAZDA3 AUSTRALIA
New details on the Australian line-up of the new Mazda3 hatch and sedan have surfaced in a 'Forward Order Bulletin' issued to dealers ahead of December production.
Obtained by a TMR reader, the bulletin outlines 'at a glance' Australian features of the hotly anticipated new 3, reviewed by TMR in recent weeks.
Official pricing has not been included with the document, although our reader said that a dealer has suggested drive-away pricing from $24,500. Earlier reports have suggested a starting price of $20,500 before on-road costs.
Our early overseas and Australian road-test reviews of the new 3, combined with its enhanced quality and new features, suggest that the price range described is well justified.
The 2014 range will see some familiar model grades continue, but the range will also welcome a new SP25 GT grade - and mark the return of the Astina badge at the top of the range.
The Astina name last graced Australian Mazda models with the 323, available in varying styles and trims between 1989 and 2003, when it was replaced by the first-generation Mazda3.
News of the Astina badge's local return also puts to rest reports of the Mazda3's Japanese name - Axela - coming to Australia as the top-spec model.
Available in sedan and hatch form across the range, the new Mazda3 will kick off with the familiar Neo and Maxx models, followed by the new Touring grade, then the SP25, SP25 GT, and SP25 Astina.
The Touring and GT (Grand Touring) badges, also new to the Mazda3 range, will be familiar to owners of the CX-5 SUV and the larger Mazda6.
Absent from the 2014 Mazda3 range, however, is the Maxx Sport, replaced in the new model structure.
Engine options in the new Mazda3 range, as revealed officially by Mazda, will include the 114kW/200Nm 2.0 litre SkyActiv petrol engine, and the more powerful 138kW/250Nm 2.5 litre SkyActiv petrol engine.
Both engines will be offered with six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions, although it is unclear which specific trim grades will get each.
The 2014 range will open with the 2.0 litre Neo model, with standard features including 16-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, cruise control, four-speaker audio system and Bluetooth connectivity.
Standard safety equipment will include anti-lock brakes, dynamic stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic brake assist and traction control.
Moving up to the 2.0 Maxx, features include 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, six-speaker audio and Mazda's new MZD Connect infotainment system with satellite navigation and reversing camera.
The 2.0 Touring boosts the already well-specced Maxx's feature set slightly by adding a couple of creature comforts: leather seats and dual-zone climate control.
Features make a greater leap with the 2.5 litre SP25 model, which adds 18-inch alloys, front fog lamps, a rear spoiler (sedan), advanced keyless entry and dual-zone climate control. Like the Maxx however, the SP25 has cloth seats only.
For leather seats in your SP25, you'll move to the 2.5 GT upgrade, which also adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, nine-speaker Bose audio and the new Active Drive In Display (head-up display).
A sunroof can also be optioned with the SP25 GT model.
At the top of the range is the new 2.5 SP25 Astina, which builds on the GT by adding a sunroof and upgraded i-ActiveSense safety equipment, as offered with the Mazda6 range.
An optional safety pack will also be offered with all models below the Astina, adding Blind Spot Monitoring and Smart City Brake Support (both standard with Astina).
More details - and final pricing - will be revealed closer to the new 3's January launch date. But for now, we'll close with Tony O'Kane's verdict from his recent Australian Mazda3 drive.
PREVIEW DRIVE VERDICT
Refinement, ride, handling, electronics - all are vastly improved.
Volkswagen should start sweating, because as good as the MkVII Golf is, the 2014 Mazda3 is more than ready to challenge it to a showroom showdown.
MORE: 2014 Mazda3 Review: Australian Preview Drive
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