A keenly anticipated visual encounter ensues. Your correspondent comes away impressed.
The products of Hiroshima are not without their exponents upon the pages of Driven to Write – we have both editorially and in the submissions from our contributors been rather generous in our praise both of the previous generation 3 model and its shapely new replacement.
On the surface of things, Mazda appears to have taken a noticeable step forward with this car, moving closer to the upmarket German makes, both in aspiration and overall desirability – especially now as the latter move towards an ever more attention-seeking and repellent visual palette. But up to now, the new 3 existed for me only in the occasional fleeting glance and in static two dimensional form.
As we know however, there is no substitute for a three-dimensional viewpoint and yesterday evening, I received my first clear sighting of Mazda’s latest C-segment midliner in natural evening light. Time to carry out a closer inspection.
The 3’s styling has been warmly received in most circles, but it is not without its slightly awkward angles. Nose-on for example, the grille appears a little oversized (hardly an unusual criticism nowadays) an impression, in this spec at least, the gloss-black finished surround serves to heighten. Similarly, from the front three quarters, the overall form can appear a little awkward – its convex bodysides and bulky rear quarters lending the car’s stance a very slight inconsistency.
But as one moves around the car, the designers’ work truly reveals itself, and initial doubts quickly evaporate. Viewed in profile and from the rear three-quarters, it’s a very handsome piece of work indeed. So much so that I found myself spending considerably more time poring over it than was probably either necessary or decorous.
It’s quite clear that Mazda’s design team arrived at a strong theme and subsequently refined it by removing as much information as possible, without distracting from the essential impact of the proportions. As such, the 3 is perhaps the most athletic looking of all the current C-segment offerings, eschewing fussiness for an almost palpable impression of litheness.
The sculpture in the surfacing and in the detail flourishes is truly extraordinary – the transitions from headlamp to grille and around the nose being particularly well-handled, and shows up its rivals for the overwrought, frequently lumpen efforts they (for the most part) are.
Interestingly, while here is more than a hint of the original Alfasud about the 3’s silhouette, one imagines that anyone who has had the experience of reverse parking a ‘Sud with a fogged-up interior (a default position in this author’s experience) would feel right at home in the Mazda’s rather confined-looking rear cabin. A dealbreaker? If you could reverse park a Sud, you can reverse park anything.
Because frankly, were the 3 to sport the fabled Biscione of Milan upon its elegant snout, it would undoubtedly be hailed as a staggering return to form – one perhaps worthy of song. That it hails from a carmaker who despite their best efforts, labour under an undeserved and underwhelming image amongst the general public means the 3 is likely to remain something of an outlier – especially here amid the ultra-conservative Irish Republic carbuyer – (more fool us).
Because on the surface of things it’s the 3’s sense of flamboyance, coupled with a visual restraint that is so impressive. If anything, I find in it a redolence to William Lyons’ better work; in its economy of form, and in the manner in which the car’s lines and surfaces are allowed to communicate their message to the observer.
A message that simply reads – Drive Me. I really wanted to – and there are not many new cars that speak in such clear terms nowadays.