Mazda 3 / Axela
The Mazda 3 (known as the Mazda Axela in Japan) is a compact car manufactured in Japan by the Mazda Motor Corporation. It was introduced for the 2004 model year, replacing the Mazda 323 Protegé and Astina (BJ Model). A more performance-oriented version of the Mazda3 is marketed as the Mazda3 MPS in Australia/Europe and as the Mazdaspeed3 in North America.
A second generation Mazda3 for the 2010 model year was unveiled in late 2008, with the sedan premiering at the Los Angeles Auto Show and the hatchback at the Bologna Auto Show.
First Generation - 2004
The Mazda3 has been generally well-received by the automotive press for its performance, handling, styling and interior, with some describing it as feeling like a more expensive sport sedan despite its value-oriented price. Some criticisms have included fuel economy and crash test results (only receiving four out of a maximum five stars from the EURO NCAP Safety Testing Programme) the latter of which was rectified by making six airbags standard. A factory fitted sunroof was optional for the 2004 model in Australia.
The Axela is based on the Ford global C1 platform, shared with the latest European Ford Focus and Volvo S40. Based on the styling of the MX-Sportif concept car, the Axela is available in two body styles, a four-door sedan, and a five-door hatchback, branded the Sport version in Canada, Japan, and the United States.
Front suspension is by MacPherson struts, with coil springs and an anti-roll bar. Rear suspension is a Ford-Designed "E-link" multi-link suspension, with four locating links per wheel and an anti-roll bar, suspended on coil springs that are mounted inboard of the shock absorbers to reduce suspension intrusion into the cargo area.
Disc brakes are standard at all four wheels, with ABS standard. Wheel and tire sizes vary with model, from 15 in on base models to option 17 in wheels on upper-level models.
All 3 models use the inline-4 Mazda MZR engine, with various types, displacements and outputs including the MZ-CD turbodiesel, depending on model and market. Transmissions are a five-speed manual transmission and a four-speed automatic transmission; since the 2006 model year, a five-speed automatic is optional on models with the 2.3 L engine. This transmission has now been made standard on the 2.0 L engine in Japan (FWD models only), as part of a minor facelift in early 2008 which includes different front/rear bumper designs, new wheel designs and body colours, stiffened chassis, and better interior materials. The MPS / Mazdaspeed version is only available with a six-speed manual transmission.
The Mazda3 features the following engines:
Mazda redesigned the front bumper on the SP23 and also introduced the Luxury Pack option for the top model which included a black or red leather interior and a 7 speaker BOSE Audio system. Due to ADR rulings in chassis strength, the option for a sunroof was dropped by Mazda for the 2005 range.
Mazda 3 SP23 Video Review - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miA5bLcF290
For the 2006 model year, Mazda added variable valve timing and variable-length intake runners to the 2.0 L engine resulting in a power increase to 150 bhp (112 kW; 152 PS). The automatic transmission used in Mazda3 with the 2.3 L engine was changed from a four-speed to a five-speed design. The colour palette was also simplified in 2006, with the deletion of Canary Yellow. Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) safety technology is now standard across the range
2006 also saw the introduction of the MPS 3 (Mazdaspeed3)- unveiled at the Geneva motor show, the latest of the Mazda Performance Series. The MPS 3 has been mated with the turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder from the Mazda6 MPS with the smaller body of the Mazda3, liberating 190kW and a stupendous 380Nm of torque and will dash to 100km/h in a mere 6.1 seconds.
Mazda 3 MPS Video Review - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvbO22PzCqY
The 3 received a minor cosmetic facelift for the 2007 model year with minimal exterior, interior and mechanical changes. On base models, the black plastic at the top of the grille became body-coloured. The front fascia and bumper were changed with a floating foglight design and the lower air intake opening was reshaped to better resemble the typical "Mazda five-point face." All Mazda3 sedans and five-doors gained the same "Altezza" clear-lens style rear tail-lights as the SP23 model. Which in 2007 Mazda brought out the Mazda Altezza similar to the Mazda 6 antezza . In addition, the SP23 sedan also featured LED brake lights. The LED brake lights were added to compete with the growing trend of higher-end vehicles using LED tail lamps for more visible light output. The range of alloy wheels were redesigned, featuring a 17 inch alloy wheel for the SP23. The rear fascia was slightly changed adding a notch on the bumper cover of the sedan. Several new exterior colors were added, phantom blue, a copper red metallic (April 2008), Aurora Blue and dark cherry. The Titanium Gray color was replaced with a darker Galaxy Gray color.
The interior of the Mazda3 was offered with several new colour choices and an audio jack in the centre console, allowing the use of digital music players.
The 2007 model also includes less visible mechanical changes. The keyless entry system was improved. Reinforcements to the body shell improve overall chassis rigidity. The front dampers of the MacPherson strut suspension have been re-tuned to quicken steering response and reduce understeer. The hydraulic dampers of the multi-link rear suspension were also re-tuned to match the front suspension changes. Mazda engineers and designers addressed concerns regarding cabin noise level by redesigning or changing multiple systems and adding sound-deadening material to the roof lining and hood panel.
In 2008 Mazda Australia launched the Mazda3 Sport range, bringing even more features, improved safety and better value to its best-selling model. The Mazda3 Sport range will be available in Neo Sport, Maxx Sport, Diesel, SP23 and MPS variants, all sporting a host of cosmetic changes. The Mazda3 Sport range offers a choice of two body styles, four transmissions and four specification grades. Vehicles in the range are available in up to 12 colours including four new to the Mazda3 range; Copper Red, Golden Sand, Metropolitan Grey and Stormy Blue.
The Neo Sport has had its 15-inch steel wheels replaced by alloys while power windows and mirrors and an AUX jack for iPod compatibility are now standard. An upgraded black cloth seat and door trim completes the makeover. Other standard features on the Mazda3 Neo Sport include dual front airbags, air-conditioning, a 6-disc CD player, cruise control, remote central locking, driver's seat height adjustment and tilt and a telescopic adjustable steering wheel.
The Mazda3 Maxx Sport gets six airbags (driver, passenger, front-side and front- and rear-curtain), chrome outer door handles and a new design 16-inch alloy wheel. An upgraded cloth interior trim takes inspiration from the SP23, and a sleek centre console in Piano Black gives its interior a luxurious feel. The 2.0-litre engine that powers the Neo Sport and Maxx Sport outputs a healthy 108kW and 182Nm and is available with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-litre manual returns 8.2L/100km on the ADR 81/01 cycle.
The Mazda3 Diesel sedan and hatch enjoys the same improvements and increased specification as the Maxx Sport. The Mazda3's up-to-the-minute diesel boasts a best-in-class 360Nm and 105kW and accelerates from 0-100kmh in 9.5 seconds with a standard six-speed manual gearbox.
The 2.3-litre Mazda3 SP23 (115kW and 203Nm) now offers even more refinement and value across its base and luxury grades. Chrome outer door handles and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control System (TCS), previously packaged into the SP23 Luxury, are now standard features on the SP23. Inside, the SP23 gets a new ultra-quality seat and door trim cloth courtesy of its big brother MPS, and a centre console, instrument panels, steering wheel and power window switch bezels all in Piano Black.
The turbocharged Mazda3 MPS gets similar interior upgrades along with a brand new cloth trim with red highlights. The MPS is equipped with a 2.3-litre engine that belts out 190kw and 380Nm.
Second Generation - 2009
In October 2008 Mazda released pictures and video showing the next generation design of the Mazda3. Mazda has restyled the exterior to reflect its current design language and a dual exhaust. Three engines are offered in the Australian market, the 2.0L petrol engine offered in the previous generation, a new 2.5L inline-4 that is shared with the second-generation Mazda6, and a new 2.2L Turbo Diesel also from the Mazda6.
Mazda unveiled the 2010 Mazda3 sedan at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 19, 2008 and again at the Melbourne International Motor Show on February 27, 2009. The new Mazda3 is marginally wider, longer and lighter than the older Mazda3. The "Neo and Maxx" Models are powered by a 148 horsepower (108 kW) 2.0L engine while the "SP25" Model is powered by a 169 horsepower (125 kW) 2.5L engine adapted from the Mazda6. The hatchback was unveiled a few weeks after the sedan at the Bologna Motor Show.
The next-generation of Australia's favourite new car will have life-saving Dynamic Stability Control fitted as standard equipment to every model in the range. The SP25 model adds dual-zone automatic climate control as standard equipment as well. The Maxx Sport and SP25 Models will take the technology lead in the small car market with standard fitment of in-dash Satellite Navigation and Bluetooth connectivity. The 4.1-inch screen is situated in the dash board above the centre console and is controlled via switches mounted on the steering wheel.
Full details and images of the high-powered Mazda 3 MPS (aka Mazdaspeed3) were debuted in March 2009 at the Melbourne International Motor Show. Like the previous generation, the Mazda3 hatchback variant has been selected as the basis for the 2nd generation Mazda 3 MPS.
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