By Manny N. de los Reyes

BERMAZ AUTO PHILIPPINES (BAP), the official distributor of Mazda vehicles in the country, unveiled last week five variants of the much-anticipated all-new Mazda3.

The Elite range of the 4-door Sedan and 5-door Sportback variants of the Mazda3 will come with the highly fuel-efficient 1.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine while the Premium models will feature the more powerful 2.0-liter engine along with additional safety and comfort features. Both engines are mated to highly efficient Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed automatic transmissions. The all-new Mazda3 pioneers the new era of Mazda Premium by elevating the brand’s renowned driving experience with even higher levels of design, craftsmanship, engineering and safety.

To this end, Mazda applied its human-centric philosophy for dramatic improvements in design, driving performance, NVH, environmental performance, and quality feel.

“We are proud to finally introduce the all-new Mazda3 to the Philippine market,” shares BAP President and CEO Steven Tan. “Mazda has raised the standards of quality, craftsmanship and safety to never-before experienced levels in this class. Through exquisite design, superior finish, refined quietness and engaging vehicle dynamics, owners of the all-new Mazda3 will surely experience class-above driving pleasure.”

Tan adds, “This is a bold new step for Mazda as we deliver on our promise to give our loyal customers the true premium driving experience they deserve.” More than 19,000 Mazda3 units have been sold in the Philippines since its 2004 introduction into the country. This makes the Mazda3 the most successful Mazda model in the country. Worldwide, the model has sold more than 6 million units since its 2003 launch.

The Mazda3 is the first model from the Hiroshima-based company to feature the more mature “Evolved KODO design language” first introduced in the RX-Vision concept car at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. The theme of development for the all-new Mazda3 was to make it “An object of universal desire” — a feat they have spectacularly achieved, judging from the universally positive response to the new car.

For the new Mazda3, a new definition of beauty showcases the “less is more” Japanese minimalist aesthetic. Without the usual character lines that defined traditional car designs, a cleaner more sophisticated presence was achieved.

To achieve a look that best embodies minimalism, Mazda designers took an unprecedented approach to design that eliminates all character lines to achieve a form that is determined by the interplay of light, shadow and reflections of the surrounding environment. With its beautifully curved body panels, the all-new Mazda3 Sportback is a realization of the “Beauty in Subtraction” in design.

For the sedan, the traditional three-box proportions were further heightened to produce a sleek, elegant, and graceful form. With its lower hood line and increased overall length versus the previous generation model, the Mazda3 Sedan was made to appeal even more to those who respect tradition, conventional wisdom and rules while radiating beauty.

Consistent with the exterior design direction, the goal for the interiors of the Mazda3 was simplicity throughout based on the aesthetics of “less is more.” By removing visual noise, a cleaner cabin was realized without the loss of functionality.

For a sophisticated design feel, master craftsmen or Takumi, were tasked to achieve a new level of Mazda premium feel in the Mazda3. Quality can be felt through sensory inputs when looking at, touching and operating the various cabin appointments in this highly refined interior.

Ergonomic changes were adopted to make driving as natural and effortless as possible. Cupholders have been moved forward of the drive selection lever while a large center armrest with a “Karakuri” console lid mechanism has been adopted to make opening and closing the compartment lid more in tune with the natural movements of one’s arms.

Soft-touch surfaces abound with Mazda’s own grain designed to express the richness and warmth of genuine leather. And exclusive in the 2.0-liter Sportback is the elegant, new vivid Burgundy interior color.

Employing lessons learned over the years in realizing Jinba Ittai — the state of oneness between car and driver — Mazda engineers sought to further understand how humans achieved balance in their everyday activities. Achieving the ideal driving position is a key design and engineering consideration in every Mazda vehicle. From the correct pedal placement and design that aligns where one’s right foot naturally falls, to a steering wheel that allows up to 70mm of telescopic adjustment, to an adjustable seat that supports the pelvis and promotes a natural S-shaped curve with the driver’s spine, the Mazda3 achieves a relaxed posture that takes the effort out of driving and allows one to focus on the road.

A 7-inch TFT LCD multimeter display has been adopted in the Mazda3 to show a simplified layout of vehicle status information. Similar to the display found in the Mazda6 and Mazda CX-9, the new layout can be toggled to reveal essential information such as coolant temperature, fuel level and efficiency, as well as trip and odometer readings. The use of a common font in all displays and labels inside the cockpit likewise eases readability and lessens confusion when looking at different sources of information.

Even the Mazda Connect infotainment system has been redesigned from the ground up. A wider 8.8-inch display has been adopted with a simplified graphic user interface layout and refined operability. It is positioned higher and further away from the driver so comfort and convenience information such as media, maps and warning and alert details are a mere glance away. By also consolidating the operation of the system into the more ergonomic and intuitive Command and Controller knob and switch layout, eliminating the distracting touchscreen interface, and improving the hardware speed and performance of the system, Mazda is able to help the driver focus on the most important task of driving — resulting in a safe and stress-free driving experience.

MacPherson struts in the front are now complemented by a new rear torsion beam layout which not only saves weight and opens additional space in the rear but also transmits force to the body smoothly. This setup results in a significant increase in ride comfort compared to the multi-link configuration found in the previous Mazda3.

To reduce the amount of wind and road noise as well as improve sound insulation inside the all-new Mazda3, 49 new key design and engineering improvements were put in place. Ranging from the addition of engine insulation material, to the use of new seals around the door, the introduction of acoustic glass for the front windshield, and the redesign of key suspension and chassis components, the effort to reduce NVH in the all-new Mazda3 has been extensive and all-encompassing.

With cabin noise greatly reduced, Mazda also invested in enhancing the quality of music inside the cabin. The standard 8-speaker Mazda Harmonic Acoustics sound system concentrates on elevating the sound-listening experience at whatever volume the driver and passengers prefer.

Improvements in speaker placement were implemented as the low frequency woofers were relocated from the front door to the cowl underneath the dashboard. This not only reduced the amount of vibrations coming from the door but also provided a fuller more powerful bass sound. Mid- and high-frequency speaker locations have also been optimized to direct sound to the listeners instead of bouncing them off interior surfaces.

A 12-speaker Bose Audio Premium Sound System available in Premium variants further enhances listening pleasure with the addition of a center speaker, sub-woofer and satellite speakers. It also features custom tuning to provide more powerful bass and higher audio quality.

Seven air bags (on all variants), advanced i-Activsense technologies in the Premium line, as well as a full suite of Driver Assist Technologies (DAT), make the Mazda3 one of the safest cars in its class. DATs include Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC), Driver Monitoring System (monitors driver fatigue), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Cruising and Traffic Support (CTS), Front and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Smart Brake Support (SBS) Rear, which applies the brakes when the driver is reversing and fails to see an object behind.

The all-new Mazda3 will come in five distinct trims and prices, starting with the 1.5-liter Elite Sedan at P1,295,000, the 1.5-liter Elite Sportback at P1,320,000, the 2.0-liter Premium Sedan at P1,495,000, the 2.0-liter Premium Sportback at P1,510,000, and the 2.0-liter Mazda3Speed Sportback at P1,590,000.