The Mazda3 has been generating solid sales for the Japanese automaker ever since it was introduced in 2003, but it was the third-generation model, launched in 2013, that established the nameplate as a strong competitor in the compact market. Selling more units than ever, the third-gen car received a mild update in 2016, but Mazda is already working on the next-generation model. Not much is known about the fourth-generation version, but Mazda’s North American design director, Julien Montousse, has recently unveiled that its design will borrow styling cues from the gorgeous Mazda RX-Vision concept.
Believed to preview the next-generation Mazda RX-7, the RX-Vision concept is also expected to inspire several vehicles in the company’s lineup in the future. The Mazda3 will become the first model to make use of the concept’s sporty lines and we just created a rendering of how the hatchback model may look like. The new Mazda3 won’t see the light of day until at least 2018, but having seen the company’s evolution in recent years, it’s not too difficult to predict what the next compact will bring to the table. As a result, we also put together a speculative review to go with our new rendering.
Keep reading for all the info and make sure you stay tuned for updates. We’ll be back to update this piece as soon as the first test cars hit public roads.
Mazda RX-VISION Concept
The RX-Vision concept is arguably the sportiest design Mazda has created thus far, but don’t expect all those aggressive features to find their way on the Mazda3. As seen in the rendering above, we expect the hatchback to get a similar grille and thinner headlamps that run all the way into the chrome frame. However, the grille will have a toned-down design with horizontal slats instead of the honeycomb mesh, while the headlamps won’t have the thin LED strips carved into the front fenders. Down below, look for wide and sleek side intakes and a slender opening underneath the V-shaped grille.
We expect the hatchback to get a similar grille and thinner headlamps that run all the way into the chrome frame
Onto the sides, we expect to see a new fender vent similar to the one on the RX-Vision, a slightly revised roof line, and new wheel designs. I don’t see the concept’s taillights making it on the Mazda 3, but the rear end should also get slimmer light units to go with the sportier design. The compact could also get the blacked-out trim, but most likely on its more expensive models.
Styling-aside, the Mazda3 should retain the current-generation’s proportions. If anything, it will be a couple of inches longer and about an inch wider. Although we rendered the five-door hatchback, the fourth-generation Mazda3 will also become available as a four-door sedan.
Mazda RX-VISION Concept
Along with a redesigned exterior will also come a brand-new interior. The clean and simple layout of the current cabin will be kept, but several features will be redesigned for a more modern look. Notable changes should include a revised control layout of the center stack, a larger infotainment screen, most likely integrated into the dashboard rather than placed atop, a new center console with more storage room, a new steering wheel, and a redesigned instrument cluster. The latter will likely feature larger displays on each side of the rev counter, while the steering wheel will gain a sportier appearance.
Several features will be redesigned for a more modern look
Redesigned seats in the front and rear will improve comfort for all passengers, as will enhanced legroom, shoulder, and head room. With the current Mazda3 being closer to the premium segment in terms of features, it’s only natural to assume that the next-gen model will up the ante in this department. Look for better materials, excellent fit and finish, more leather in the less expensive models, more aluminum trim, and two-tone leather upholstery in the range-topping versions. On the technology front, the Mazda3 will receive the company’s latest. Expect improved navigation, more connectivity features, and an enhanced audio system. Given the current trends, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Mazda3 will also get semi-autonomous drive.
It’s difficult to predict what will motivate the next-generation Mazda3, but it’s safe to assume that the Japanese company will continue to offer small-displacement, four-cylinder engines. I expect Mazda to launch heavily revised version of its current drivetrains, but the gasoline lineup should still include 1.5-, 2.0-, and 2.5-liter powerplants. The smaller 1.5-liter will most likely continue to be offered in Europe and Asia, while the 2.0- and 2.5-liter units will cross the pond to the U.S. On the diesel front, expect a redesigned version of the current 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine. Until then, Mazda might actually decide to bring its diesel to the United States as well. New transmissions are also on the table. While the next manual could also have six cogs, the six-speed automatic should be replaced by a seven-speed dual-clutch unit. If Mazda takes the plunge and launches a hybrid drivetrain, the Mazda3 could be offered as a gasoline-electric vehicle.
It’s obviously way too early to talk about prices at this point, but it’s safe to assume that the next-generation Mazda 3 will be more expensive than the current model. For reference, the four-door sedan starts from $17,845, while the five-door hatchback retails from $18,545 for the 2017 model year.
As the segment’s best-selling model (and the world’s most successful nameplate for that matter), the Toyota Corolla is the Mazda3’s most important rival. Launched about the same time as the third-gen Mazda, the current Corolla will also get a redesign toward the end of the decade. Meanwhile, the U.S. spec model is available with two 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines rated at 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet and 140 horsepower and 126 pound-feet, respectively. Starting 2017, the Corolla is also available as a hatchback following Scion’s absorbtion by Toyota. The hatchback model is known as the Corolla iM (previously the Scion iM). Pricing starts from $18,500 for the sedan and $18,750 for the five-door model.
Also available on sedan and hatchback body styles, the Focus is yet another popular choice in both the United States and Europe. On the market since 2010, the Focus is the oldest vehicle in this comparison and the first in line for a redesign. The engine lineup also comprises small-displacement engines, but unlike the Mazda3 and Corolla, the Focus is also available with a turbocharged, 1.0-liter, three-cylinder unit. Another thing that sets it apart is that Ford also offers a couple of performance-oriented models. There’s an ST model rated at 252 horsepower and an RS model with 350 horses. The latter is powered by a beefed-up version of the 2.3-liter EcoBoost in the Ford Mustang and uses an all-wheel-drive system. Pricing starts from $17,225 for the sedan and from $19,015 for the five-door hatchback.
Although I wouldn’t venture to draw a conclusion until some preliminary details become available, I would dare say that the next-generation Mazda3 will be a big step forward for Mazda and will take the Japanese automaker one step closer to popular competitors such as the Toyota Corolla , Honda Civic, and Ford Focus sales-wise. Mazda is slowly but surely moving toward the premium market and the current generations of the 3, 6 and CX-badged crossovers are just small signs of things to come.
- RX-Vision-inspired design
- More premium features
- Next-generation engines and technology
- Likely more expensive than its competitors
- Will still lag behind the Corolla and Focus sales-wise
- Not much is known about it right now