The third Mazda 3 had a curiously short life: six years only. No wonder it only seems like yesterday when it was introduced.
And now a new one is upon us, revealed at the LA Motor Show which is in LA this year. God bless them, Mazda have seen fit to grace the car with a comprehensible engine line-up of 1.5 and 2.0 litres plus a super-efficient diesel for those markets not scared witless by DERV. Mazda, like Honda, do still seem to be interested in engines and so the new diesel “uses multi-hole piezo injectors to smooth performance and reduce noise” (Autoexpress). At last, engine progress I can understand. Mazda are also making a supercharged Spark Plug-Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI) engine available. You can read more of the details at AutoExpress.
Here I will look at the styling which, on paper, looks to be frighteningly elegant and manages to be something new and also carry over character from the outgoing car too.
Here’s a closer look at the side profile.
The dominant impression one gets is of large areas of relatively calm bodywork and a smaller than usual DLO. Unlike quite a lot of recent designs, the panel gaps and graphics are in harmony. One small niggle stands out and I know why it is there, I think.
If you look at the trailing edge of the window chrome you’ll see the rear door shutline meets it with a little visual bump. To make it line up nicely would have involved putting a much smaller radius on the chrome – visually it would be a corner at medium distance – and that would have made for a pointy shape even more disturbing to the eye. Or they could have moved the two apart; rearward as Lexus once did or forward as others did. In both cases you’d be left with odd bits of body-colour or window hanging in space.
The four-set here (above) shows the problem. While making the images I noticed the delicious fluency of the surfaces over which the trailing edge of the door runs. Goodness, that is exquisite.
Here now is a slightly more detailed look at the car:
I have some humble pie to eat here. Some while back I expressed doubts that Mazda’s latest design theme (I don’t say “language” any more, note) would translate into something meaningful when prepared for series production.
Well, if anything, the production 3 is even better than the 2017 concept car, perhaps in part because it also has to made in large numbers. Kant says that aesthetic moments don’t involve such reflections; maybe they do if you are quick enough in thinking about it all.
You’ll notice the yellow curves in my marked up image. These show some effort expended to convey both motion and landing. It’s rather impressive and the graphic and surface development all work towards supporting the same effect. If you look closely you’ll notice a nice management of the shadow as the roof meets the bodyside. Is that a studio effect? Or is there a subtle tangential break there?
The A-pillar line does not shoot through the front axle. Not in side view. I expect that in 3-D this won’t be apparent, working in the same way as on the Opel Astra F.
I have the suspicion that the smaller-than-usual DLO is there partly to offset the rather long front overhang. It makes the car almost seem suggestive of an 1960s GT. The wide and drawn-back lamps help conceal the overhang and, in front view, emphasise the width.
And lo, the front overhang disappears in front-three quarter view. Note the way the lamps slant down and inward and seem to melt into the chrome of the grille. This is looking like some first rate car design. Mazda is, of course, kicking into an open goal. A lot of other marques have been working with elaboration and Mazda have correctly dialled it right back but with a great deal of subtle surface and line activity. The front bumper does without a mess of fog-light and air-intake action. The lower air-intake is hidden discretely in the shadows.
Walking around the back there is quite a lot of visual weight over the rear wheel. So, why does it work? Received wisdom says cut a slice of black on the C-pillar and add some feature lines above the wheel arch. Mazda have simply poured out some smooth surfaces and one bold wheel arch lip. We will doubtless be hypnotised by the lush reflections of light playing on the metal. I can not wait to see this car in street lighting.
There will also be a Mazda3 saloon. From this view notice the crease over the front wheel which falls as it extends rearward. The photo also shows the fine high-lights on the lower door.
And this is the back:
Again, a better-looking and more interesting thing than the 2017 concept coupe. There is a crease over the front wheel that fades by the time it gets to the rear which you can see more clearly; and the chrome trim on the trailing edge of the DLO is thicker. Which leads us to the boot, almost but not quite gone.
Would I be way off the mark if this is what a small Jaguar could look like? That’s a compliment, by the way. Since there is no justice, BMW will not be among those shamed by the clarity of vision and the confidence in old-fashioned values of good surfacing, careful detail and restraint.
I’ll have to eat another slice of humble-pie because Ford have also leaned more towards the kind of values shown in this car than others have. Perhaps I have misjudged the new Focus.
To summarise then, Mazda have unveiled a tour-de-force of contemporary vernacular design. There is much here to satisfy aesthetes but also nothing that I think will scare the average buyer of mid-size cars. I also expect the form will remain fresh for the next six years. I have no idea what they are going to do to follow this…
Following comments on the DLO, here’s a rough sketch of the difference it might make: