Mazda South Africa has launched the latest iteration of its popular Mazda3 compact car. The new model ushers in a saloon body and a raft of changes that the company hopes will make the car safer, more distinctive and even more involving than its predecessor.By Gareth Dean

The new Mazda3 is available in both 4-door saloon and the 5-door hatchback body styles. The 4-door saloon’s styling encompasses a flowing, coupe-esque silhouette, a high rear deck and distinctive lines that converge to place focus on the car’s centre axis. The new 5-door hatchback’s most notable styling trait is its broad shoulders inherited from the first-generation Mazda3.

The facia ergonomics are centred towards the driver and important information is displayed via a dash-top Multi Information Display system. Other features include automatic lighting controls, the keyless entry and push-button start systems and sporty seats with additional bolstering. The flagship Individual model includes a Sports Appearance Package as standard. This offers revised side skirts, bumper, rear valance and rear spoiler. Also available in top of the range models is a ten-speaker Bose premium surround sound system developed exclusively for the new Mazda3.

The previous car garnered something of a reputation as an entertaining drive, and Mazda has fitted a number of extras to the latest model to try and bolster this trait. According to the company, its electro-hydraulic power steering system meets the balance between light, responsive steering, a feeling of system stiffness, and fuel economy. The suspension system carries over the same basic layout as the previous car, with MacPherson struts in the front and multi-link suspension in the rear, but with strengthened suspension damping to reduce body-roll and aid ride comfort.

Three petrol engines are offered; a 1,6-litre unit that develops 77 kW at 6 000 r/min and 145 N.m of torque at 4 000 r/min, a 2,0-litre unit that produces 110 kW at 6 500 r/min and 187 N.m of torque at 4 000 r/min, and a 2,5-litre engine with 122 kW and 227 N.m of torque on tap. The 1,6-litre unit is mated with the previous car’s 5-speed manual gearbox, while the 2,0- and 2,5-litre models feature a new six-speed transmission.

On the safety front, driver aids include ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, while six airbags, active headrests and seatbelts with a digressive load limiter retractor round out the passive safety features.

The new Mazda3 features a 4-year/120 000 km manufacturer’s warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan as well as three year’s roadside assistance. Service intervals are every 15 000 km.